At my college graduation, I was 21 years old and three months pregnant.
Looking back, I was totally naïve about what it meant to be a mother and was honestly as unprepared as any woman could be! I was moving back in with my parents, I was always up and down with my child's father. I had no job, no understanding of real responsibility, and I had never possessed the kind of selfless spirit being a good mother requires.
But my daughter's innocence and pure love for me inspired me every day to be and pursue better. These are just a few gems I picked up along the way:
Be Real With Your Kids
I know I'm not the only one who grew up with parents who were NEVER wrong, no matter how wrong they were. "Do as I say, not as I do," was always the motto and don't you dare question it!
We can laugh about it now, but if we're really trying to raise daughters and sons that receive correction, we have to show them the way. I don't think my daughter wants a perfect mother who got everything right, I think she wants to know she can come to me when she gets things wrong because she's seen me mess up and correct my mistakes.
How do I expect her to know how to apologize when she's wrong if I don't? How can I expect her to be open to new ways of thinking if I'm not? How can she learn to be self-reflective and evolving if I don't practice that myself? We try to paint this image to our kids that we are without fault as if it will make them respect us more, but I've learned to let her see me fail so she can witness how I grow from it and see that I'm better because of that failure.
I don't believe anyone goes into motherhood completely prepared. No matter how many books you've read or baby classes you attend, there are just some things you don't learn or adjust to until you're actually on the job. And that's fine. You're going to get some things wrong the first time and, honestly, any mother that's keeping it real will tell you that 50% of taking care of children's physical and emotional needs is trial and error!
What food combos do they like? Trial and error. What hair products are getting us through? Trial and error. I wonder if this laundry detergent is what's making Grace itch so bad? Trial and error. Children are resilient, and as long as you're actively seeking to be better in all things, you can't go wrong. So, don't beat yourself up about what you don't know or may be getting wrong, instead take joy in mastering the small things that will be big things later.
My Daughter Is A Mirror That Reflects Everything I Am
Parenting is a MAJOR responsibility. Children come into the world pure and untainted, knowing absolutely nothing. So how scary is it that everything they know about being men or women is picked up from those raising them?
My biggest fear as a mother is for my daughter to waste time as an adult unlearning habits she picked up from me. I learned very early on that my daughter is a sponge that soaks up my energy. My peace, shapes her peace; my response to pain and conflict shapes how she responds; my kindness and goodness shapes hers.
As she gets older, I won't be her only influence, but I will always be her first example and that is something I take seriously.
Obviously, as she learns and is exposed to more things on her own, she will develop qualities (good or bad) without my input, but it is up to me to be spiritually and emotionally secure so she can have a point of reference.
Create Your Own Normal
Every family is different and considers the factors that are important to their life when raising their children. That means every child may not have both parents in the home or go to private schools; not every child eats all organic homemade snacks or maybe they do. Some children have the opportunity to travel and be taught at home, other parents may enjoy and thrive when there is more routine and less spontaneity—there is no wrong way!
The only right way is to hear the needs of your children and meet them as best as you can. I've learned to talk to Grace and really hear her when she tells me how she's feeling or what she likes and doesn't. Although she's five, she's more than capable of articulating what's important to her and as her mom, I've learned how to balance her desires with what she actually needs. More importantly, I've learned how to be open to adjusting the plan as we go rather than sticking to some unwritten rules of how things are supposed to be.
Treat Yourself Well
Being a mother is selfless and exhausting work. There are so many highs and rewarding joys about motherhood but pouring from an empty cup can make you feel extremely low and imbalanced. Your happiness is something only you can control and protect – your kids, your partner, your job will let you down, but only you know what you need to feel good about you. I didn't always know what made me feel good or what made me happiest, but I did the work to find out and that was the best thing I could have ever done for my daughter!
Mom, if no one else tells you please know that you're amazing, you're doing great, and you got this!
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