March 12, 2013

11 things I’ve learned in my first year of motherhood

I could go on and on about the minutiae, the tiny details of everyday living, but some things are more important (and worth repeating) than others. In short, I am stunned by my own previous naivety, understandable as it may be. I am humbled by the work of what I do every day and am even more humbled by the work that parents of bigger families do every day (especially stay at home moms and dads). So here are 11 things I’ve learned in my first year of motherhood:

  1. My capacity for love has grown exponentially and expanded in directions I never thought possible. Of course that’s love for my son, but also for my husband as I have watched him become a father.
  2. Parenting is hard. Even on the good days – and there are plenty of good days when I force myself to take in the day as a whole instead of nitpicking the hard moments like crying that I can’t resolve and exploding diapers that change my idea of cleanliness. I suspect that it doesn't get easier, but instead the dynamics constantly change. So I get used to doing things one way and he grows out of the need for it. Never a dull day!
  3. I am forced, continually, to live in the moment. I’m surrounded by a never-ending list of wish-I-could-do’s, chores, meal planning, bill paying, and other comparatively meaningless stuff. But when my son is hungry and it’s time to feed him, or he’s tired and it’s time for the bedtime ritual, or he’s playing with his foam letters in the bathtub, or he’s getting into something I’d rather he didn’t (which, right now, is about every 45 seconds), I can’t think about all that stuff. I have to be right there with him, giving him what he needs and what he doesn't know he needs such as my lavish love and affection, gentle guiding discipline, and words he can memorize to help him communicate.
  4. I am strong. Stronger than I thought I’d ever be on the inside, stronger than I was a year ago, and stronger on the outside since my son weighs about 26 pounds and I’m picking him up about 345 times a day. 
  5. I am tired. Oh, I get up on time and do my best to keep the world spinning as much as it depends on me. But right now, my son’s an active crawler and I’m usually managing him in one way or another so that, by his bedtime, I’m exhausted and all I want is to cuddle up with my husband, my wine, and my couch. Thank God for early bedtimes that allow me to live with margins.
  6. Patience isn't just a virtue. It is a life-saving discipline for maintaining sanity and cool-headedness.
  7. Schedules are wonderful. Schedules are terrible. At the end of the day, though, the schedule is made for us – not the other way around. So I've come to think of a schedule as a set of parameters that is subject to change depending on the moment.
  8. Most of what I've known as “me” has been put in a box and tucked into the back of a closet. Eventually, piece by piece, I will unpack this again. But by the time I have unpacked these pieces, I will find that some of them are no longer needed and others emerged from outside the box.
  9. Parenthood can be incredibly lonely. Not only am I ridiculously busy with the day-to-day, but because I’m so tired by evening I usually don’t plan to do things with other people or our schedules don’t match up very well – so it’s hard to keep up relationships. It takes real work to stay in touch and find ways to connect, but connect I must. Isolation makes it depressing on top of exhausting, and that’s a bad space to be in. I constantly fail at this, but I keep trying.
  10. The world is beautiful and full of wonder, especially when viewed through the eyes of a child who has never seen it before with pure, clear innocence. Everything is amazing.
  11. Nothing is guaranteed and life is constantly changing, so perspective is everything, and as long as I focus on God and allow Him to direct my steps, I can do this.