5 things I’d do Over Again as a Mom – I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but this far along, what my children seem to remember most is the love. Here are five things I did that I think got us here.
When you are a new mom (and that means “new” at every stage), everything seems to matter. And it seems to matter a lot. In fact, the mattering seems to start even before you have the child who will make you a mom in the first place. It matters what doctor or midwife you choose. Then it matters what detergent you buy to prewash your baby clothes. Then it matters where you give birth and how you give birth and what baby-wearing device you have and, eventually, if you should send your child to preschool and, if you should, which preschool, and on it goes.
I know, because I worried about these things, too. And the following is a short list of my mistakes as a mom just with my first (a.k.a., “learner”) child.
- High-pressure potty training.
- Starting her in kindergarten and ballet and church kids’ club all in the same week.
- That accidental half sumo wrestler/half alien hula girl birthday cake.
- Letting her sign on for a killer academic and extracurricular load her sophomore year in high school just because we knew she’d be able to handle it.
- Not having her take a math class the semester before she took the SAT.
- All the yelling. (Mine.)
- All the meltdowns. (Also mine.)
But the blessing of being a mom with some mileage on her is that you have the keen perspective of hindsight. The older your children get, the more you’re able to see how the story you’ve been writing turns out.
With a bunch of years behind me and my genuinely delightful teenage children in front of me, here are five things that seem to have mattered most…things that, unlike that hula girl cake, I’d do again…
If I Had It To Do Over, I’d Still Do These 5 Things As a Mom
1. I’d still do the time.
By which I do not mean that motherhood is some kind of prison sentence. (Well, except maybe during the fifth round of Candyland.) I mean that the classic line really is right: kids spell love “t-i-m-e.” I don’t think I’m the only mom who wishes this wasn’t quite so true. Sometimes, we wish we could press the express-wash button on motherhood and condense things so that they still have their full effect but don’t take so long.
We are busy. We have other things we need to do and want to do. Good things. Necessary things. Important things. We want quantity to equal quality, but I have found the reality is that quantity often leads to quality.
By all appearances, my teenage daughters love to spend time with me. I am beyond grateful for this. But I don’t think we got to this point last week or last month. I think we got to it in a hundred little moments when they were toddlers and elementary students and pre-teenagers. Day in and day out, in ordinary moments, I think we laid the foundation for something that feels pretty extraordinary.
My older children want to spend time with me, ask to spend time with me, seek out time with me, and tell me how much they love time with me. This is an enormous privilege I dare not take for granted. If you’re a mom of littles and you’re wondering if all the time you spend with your children really makes a difference in the long run, I’m here to tell you it does.
2. I’d still let my children be who they are and feel what they feel.
One of our family’s guiding principles is “we welcome weird.” I was never interested in forcing my children into some sort of societal “acceptable personality” mold. Do I want my children to be happy and act happy? Of course! Would I be concerned if moody and sullen and withdrawn were the main characteristics I saw in them? Of course! But we were created intentionally with a full range of emotions and diverse possible personalities. To expect my children to be cheerful, optimistic, easy-going extroverts would have been unrealistic and unfair.
My girls tell me they feel they can come to me with anything that’s on their minds and hearts, and one reason I think this is true is because they know I am not going to try to talk them out of how they feel or instruct them to react to something in a way that dishonors their personalities. Of course, I want to teach them to manage their emotions in a healthy ways. I want to teach them that they cannot only act and react according to what they feel like based on their default settings.
There is growth and maturity and self-sacrifice, and these are good things, too. But my husband and I have always wanted our house to be a safe zone where sorrows can be shared and divided and joys can be shared and multiplied. Besides, I want my girls to love and cherish and accept me in all my mom messiness, so how can I offer them any less?
3. I’d still speak my kids’ love languages.
I’m not talking about tween/teen slang here, although my high school freshman did inform me the other day, “Mom, you can still say ‘hashtag whatever,’ but you’ll be the only one.” (Noted.) I want to speak love to my girls, but I need to try to do it in their dialects as much as possible. Words of encouragement are huge to my older daughter, while quality time–especially if I’m using that time to tell her the “stories” from my childhood she loves to hear–is what sounds like love to my younger daughter.
4. I’d still schedule selectively.
By most measuring sticks, my girls did not rack up very impressive resumes of extracurricular and social activities. Their lives–especially in middle school and beyond–primarily consisted of family, church, school, band, dance, and friends, in that general order. We’ve said “no” to things that a lot of other families say “yes” to–not because there’s anything inherently wrong with those things but just because they weren’t right for our family.
We weren’t denying our girls their future happiness; we were preserving their present happiness. Our little family prioritizes time at home together–which is hard to accomplish if no one is ever home or together. Both my teenagers have commented recently how much they love it when we’re all hanging around the house and eating meals as a family, which tells me we made the right call for us.
5. I’d still recognize the big value of little things.
Motherhood is a great, grand calling to shape eternal souls and mold the minds and hearts of people who are given to us as gifts. But what that great, grand calling looks like on your average Tuesday is made up of a thousand small decisions and acts that give love a voice and hands and feet. Again and again, I have seen how much these little things matter.
Awhile back, I tucked a sticky note into my daughter’s lunch: I’d taped a couple Rolo chocolate-caramel candies to it and written “I Rolo-y love you” on it. A few hours later, my daughter texted me: “Thank you for my Rolo-y note! It made my day.” Little thing…big impact.
I know there are no guarantees in motherhood. I know anything could still happen. But this far in, what my children seem to remember most is not the mistakes but the love.
And that tells me that for all I got wrong, I somehow got more that mattered right.
If you liked this post you might also enjoy…
- It’s What I Don’t Do that Makes me the Best Mom I Can Be
- What if all I Want for my Kids is an Ordinary Life?
- How to Stop Letting Perfectionism Ruin Your Motherhood