7 things I've learned as a mom of 2 kids
My daughter's birthday was a few days ago. She is 1!
(In fact, I meant to post this on her actual birthday, but if you caught my instagram post, you know why that didn't happen...)
Which means I have now been a mom of two kids for an entire year.
And I have found that it's true what everyone says. You can't imagine loving another child as much as your first. But somehow you do. It's different. At least for me it has been. I haven't had the same time-stopping fascination with her as I did with my son, when every move, look and sound he made was a reason to throw a parade.
With my daughter, I am much more interested in witnessing who she is becoming. My son is the mile-marker. I have an idea of what to expect as she grows. So I love watching her shed her little baby layers (with a touch of nostalgia, of course) as she becomes the person she will be.
I've been reflecting on how our lives have changed over the past year. Things look very different. We had our daughter, moved across the country, left jobs, went all-in on a new business, settled into a new home, made new friends. There have been a lot of significant life changes that have forced us to learn to grow amidst change. I wrote down a few of the biggest lessons that I have learned (and continue to learn).
These lessons aren't new news. You've probably heard some version of them before from other people. But I think you have to live them to really know them. So even if it's only for myself, I'm writing them down here. And hopefully, you might find them useful, too.
So here they are:
1. Above all else, you must take care of yourself. Before your kids. Before your partner. Before your parents or friends. This year has shown me beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I don't feel taken care of, I have less to give. I have less energy. Less patience. Less focus. My work remains in not believing the thought "I'm selfish" when I take time for myself. Everyone benefits when mom is on top of her game.
2. It's OK if things feel hard. We are raised to believe that it's bad when things feel hard. Which is ridiculous. This belief makes us pile shame on top of already feeling bad. It's OK if things feel hard. Things WILL feel hard. Especially in transition (with kids, work, etc). Resisting negative emotion makes it harder. It's like trying to ignore the 800 lb elephant in the room. Letting ourselves feel the hard feelings is a form of compassion. And it actually softens us to them and ironically, makes them easier to bear.
3. There are seasons to life. Learn to embrace them. We know that change is the only constant. Yet we hold on so tightly because we fear what's new and different. I was petrified to move. And even after we moved, I had layers and layers of resistance to this new season of my life that I had to learn to process. I have learned over and over over that resistance makes it harder. Resistance makes it harder. Resistance makes it harder.
4. Literally every challenge is the opportunity for us to get stronger. One mindset shift that has helped me approach new challenges is this: "I will be stronger on the other side of this." This past year has served up a lot of challenges. A new baby, a big move, new home, jobs, friends, etc, is a winning combination to create some serious f'in mind drama. But the above thought helped me dissipate some of the natural worry and anxiety that comes when things get hard. Now, when I notice the nervous feeling in my chest when I try something new, I try to lean into it, instead of recoil from it. I ask myself, "How will I be a smarter, kinder, wiser person after this?" What's more, I actually visualize myself growing an extra layer of thick skin, like armor.
5. Releasing attachment. The yogis have a sutra about effort and non-attachment. In short, put effort into everything that you do, but release the attachment to the outcome. Things will not be better when you get to wherever it is you are trying to go. If you bring the same mentality that you have now, things will always stay the same. Control what you can control. Release the attachment to everything else. I can create the conditions for a perfect day. But if my kid pukes at school and gets sent home early and my schedule is blown to bits, then I need to release the attachment to what I thought that day would look like and move forward in a different way.
6. Nothing will go as planned. Nothing. It will also most likely happen under the most annoying, most pressing circumstances (i.e. lots of commitments + sick child = scheduling hell). Learn to expect it. Learn to breathe through it. Learn to look for the upsides. Learn to release attachment to what you thought things would or should look like.
7. Pay attention. As so many parents who have come before us have said, my favorite moments are the little, in between ones. The way my son says funny things in his 3 year old way ("Where are them?" or, "I want the dark to come down!"). How my daughter will see me looking at her and then scrunch up her face and smile. They way they play together nicely for 30 seconds before the full-contact wrestling begins again. Life can make us believe we are busy. So busy. Stop.being.busy. Slow down. Get out of your mind.
Those are all the thoughts I can get out of this brain, for now. I finally finished this in a rare 30 minutes where both kids are napping at the same time. But I hear my daughter waking up. My sweet, funny 1 year old. I am so glad that she is mine and I am hers.