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Things I’ve Learned From Being a Mother

May 8, 2011

NOTE: This week’s post was written in honour of Mother’s Day, and mothers everywhere.  It is also the first in a new series of monthly blog posts: “Things I’ve Learned From …” that will highlight some of the invaluable ‘life lessons’ I’ve picked up from various people, places, and things over the past 55+ years.  Happy Mother’s Day!

My Very First BookWhen I was around ten years old, my mother gave me “My Very First Book – The Story of My First Five Years”, which was designed to be ‘compiled by Mother and Father’ so that ‘When it is finished, there will be no other book like it in the whole wide world.’ The book itself had been a ‘baby gift’ to my parents from close friends, and my mother had dutifully filled out several of the pages (My Family Tree, How Fast I’m Growing, My Vaccinations, My First Christmas, My First Birthday, My Pets, and so on).  However, a significant number of the ‘blanks’ that were supposed to have been filled in over the years were still – well – blank!  So I set about adding what information I could, including the very last section, which read: ‘There are so many different wonderful things I can do when I grow up but I think I shall be a …’ I wrote in ‘mommy’

My First BornI never had any doubt growing up that someday I would, indeed, become a ‘mommy’.  And I did – twice.  The experience has been – and continues to be – thrilling, mind-numbing, exciting, tiresome, invigorating, exhausting, peaceful, irritating, joyful, maddening, delightful, frightening, enjoyable, disappointing … and everything in between.  But I wouldn’t trade or change one moment of it (well, maybe one or two of the really scary bits …).  Being a mother is everything I hoped it would be, and more. 

Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

My Second BornFirst – no matter how many ‘well-meaning’ people (including your own mother) give you advice, you learn about being a mother by just BEING a mother.  Every day brings new thrills, new challenges, new problems. And you figure most of it out on your own, in your own way, and at your own speed.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to advice (or read any number of how-to-parent type books) but put everything you hear or read or see into perspective and ‘go with your gut’.  You know what’s best for you and your own child. Trust yourself.  You WILL make mistakes – that’s how you learn.  With luck, none of them will be serious and you and your child will both be better for having gone through the experience together.  No one is ‘perfect’ – but if you do the very best you can in every circumstance, you will be the ‘perfect mother’ to your child(ren).

Son One At OneSecond – every child is born unique and will remain his/her own person no matter what you say or do to try to change them.  Just as children develop fingers and toes and eyelashes and ears and all the other necessary ‘parts’ during those first nine months, they also develop unique personalities.  They are individuals when they are born – with their own character traits and eccentricities – and that persona pretty much stays with them throughout their life. It can be influenced – and likely will be – by family norms, culture, friends, the education system, the media, and society in general – but their underlying distinctiveness will always remain. This means that – from birth – you should be able to recognize patterns in your child’s behaviour (are they the laid-back, easy-going type, or the full-speed-ahead-and-damn-the-consequences kind?) and track it through to adulthood (if you do this early, you’ll save yourself a whole heck of a lot of grief – not to mention wrinkles and grey hair – later on trying to change their basic make up). 

Son Two at OneThird – your children will challenge you, frustrate you, anger you, and disappoint you.  But you’ll love them anyway, and offer up your life for them, if you were asked to.  I hate to say this (because a lot of people don’t want to hear it), but children are SUPPOSED to challenge their parents.  We wouldn’t have evolved as a species (nor, I imagine, would any other species) if each generation followed exactly in the footsteps of the previous one.  Where would we be if we had believed the same things, followed the same rules, wore the same clothes, worked at the same jobs, etc. as our parents and our grandparents (and theirs, and theirs, and theirs)?  We’d still be living in the Stone Age, for heaven’s sake.  I know I made my mother crazy with my mini-skirts and bell-bottom blue jeans, Beatles music, and my ‘long haired hippie weirdo’ friends (just as my much older brother and sister made her crazy with their black leather jackets, poodle skirts, hot rods, drive-in movies, and Elvis Presley).  Over the years, my kids went through various fads as well – some I never did understand.  But change is inevitable and (generally) a good thing.  Get it, don’t get it – it doesn’t matter.  It’s inevitable.  And you’ll live through it.

Son One at FiveFourth – your children are NOT your friends and you are NOT their friend. You are the parent (and thus, deserving of respect and some admiration), they are the child (and therefore should show consideration for the things you provide for them, and be willing to learn from you).  You should never want to ‘be’ in your child’s life too deeply (no matter their age – children need to find their own friends, experience their own bumps and bruises, heartaches and mistakes, find their own careers, live their own lives). Your life will never be as important to them as theirs is to you. They likely won’t understand (or, perhaps, even care) what you actually do for a living, what kind of music you enjoy, who your favourite actor (or TV show/movie) is, or how thrilled you are by your latest career milestone. (Don’t believe me? How much did you know/care about YOUR parents’ life when you were growing up?)  Oh, and most children (no matter their age) actually believe in immaculate conception – they don’t want to even think that you have a sex life, never mind know the details! 

Son Two at FiveFifth – too many children grow up with an exaggerated sense of entitlement – and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT!  It IS possible to give a child too many ‘things’ (toys, cars, vacations, money, a place to live, etc.); it is NOT possible to give them too much love (and if that includes ‘tough love’ by insisting that they stand on their own two feet and take responsibility for themselves in various ways at various times of their life, then so be it).  Don’t ‘do’ too much for your children – you’ll only handicap them later in life (this I learned not only from being a mother who occasionally gave her children too much, but also from being a college teacher for many years – it is truly shocking how many ‘young people’ today think that someone, someplace, somehow is going to ‘save them’ from their own problems).  Don’t hinder your own child’s chances of success by stepping in when they should be solving their own problems!  

Mother's Day CardFinally (or at least, the last thing I’m going to write today) – no matter how old your children are, or how many of them you have, or where you and/or they end up in life, you never, ever stop worrying about them, loving them, and wanting the best for them.  You are, after all, a mother for the rest of your life! And, hopefully, they’ll appreciate everything you’ve done for them (and if not, well at least you did the very best you could!)

Children are a gift – sometimes anticipated and planned for, sometimes an unexpected surprise.  You don’t generally get to pick the features you’d like – boy or girl, blonde, brunette or redhead, blue, green or brown eyes – but you’re usually pretty pleased with the package you get.  Loving them is easy. Raising them is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.  But it’s worth it. Every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year that I have spent being a mother is precious to me, and my boys are the best things I ever did in this life.  I know I’ve made some mistakes over the past thirty years, but I can honestly say that I did the very best I could and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  I only wish I could have slowed it down – just a little – and, perhaps, realized – as it was whizzing by – that the old adage ‘the days are long but the years are short’ was true.  Because here I am – already – on … the other side of 55.


My Boys Turned Out Okay

For all the 'mistakes' I made, my boys turned out okay!

  1. May 15, 2011 11:03 am

    Yes, you said it perfectly. Like you, I had two sons, but I am going to pass this along to both my daughters-in-law. I think they will enjoy and appreciate it.

    • May 15, 2011 1:17 pm

      Hopefully, they’ll understand the challenges and the joys! I’m glad you liked it enough to pass it along.


  2. May 11, 2011 10:08 pm

    My mother in her 80’s says, parenting never stops. She had four of us. Great post. I think I will send this link to my daughter…or does that fall under #1? Still going to send the link.

    • May 12, 2011 8:19 am

      Oh, you should ALWAYS give your own children advice (who knows, they might actually follow it!)! Ha ha ha ha ha! My mother is 93; I asked her once (about 10 years ago) when she’d stopped worrying about her (5) kids. She said to me, “Your brother is 60; I haven’t stopped worrying about him yet!”


  3. May 10, 2011 6:37 am

    I don’t remember how I came across your blog, but I’m glad I did. I enjoyed this post both for its insight and its good humor.

    • May 10, 2011 8:38 am

      I’m glad you found my blog, too – and that you enjoy my work. Thanks for commenting on it.


  4. May 8, 2011 7:07 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Have a great day 🙂

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