“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
A Mother is one who loves you like no one in your life ever will. Before you even opened your eyes for the very first time, she loved you. You may have left her womb but for her, it’s as though you never left at all.
We love being mommies. But the truth is, our job can be difficult. There are many days we find ourselves exhausted with nothing else to give. I remember these times well. So I wanted to give mommies out there some good, old-fashioned, motherly advice to help you put things into perspective and hopefully, help you to enjoy the best job on the planet!
Here are 10 things I wish my mother had told me: “The Mommy Business”
- Be the first one up. It almost sounds counter-productive… get up early? But you say, “I’ve been up all night with a crying baby but you want me to get up early? ARE YOU KIDDING?” I know what you’re thinking….“I’d rather wear spandex without spanks, Lady.” But here’s the low-down on the premise of getting up early: You now have the advantage of having a calm & harmonious “ground game” in place before the little monkey’s wake up wanting pancakes for breakfast. You’ve had a cup of coffee… you’re alert. Those school papers that need to be signed? Done. Lunches packed? Don’t even give it a second thought. Teeth brushed? Your husband gets a minty fresh kiss goodbye instead of … well, you know. Getting up early is purely mental exercise. However, this one change in our day that allows for our psychological wits to be in front of the eight ball without feeling rushed, disoriented or dare I say, hysterical. Remember, our job is 50% management. If the top brass goes haywire, the little monkey’s can easily take over. So make sure while they are rubbing the sleep out of their tiny sweet eyes, you are properly caffeinated, ready, willing and able to begin the day. Harmony is heavenly and it all begins with us. You won’t regret this move. Promise.
- Never compete with other moms. Sooo… this is easier said than done, right? I mean, don’t we all compete with other moms, just a tinsy, winsy little bit? Probably. But let’s face it, there are some mommies we will never be able to compete with. Like the mommy who ridiculously claims that little Sarah was “potty-trained at 3 weeks old.” Or how “Little Johnny just read “War & Peace” for the second time this week.” Seriously?? The truth is, all little monkey’s develop at a different pace. Some will walk early, talk early, read early and potty-train early (although never believe any mom who says their monkey went poo-poo in the potty before 18 months old…nope, not buyin it). But in the end, most monkey’s are all caught up with one another by the first or second grade. They’re ALL walking, talking, out of diapers and reading flash cards. So try your best not to get in the game of competition with other mommies who choose to be braggadocios. You don’t have to play that game. Afterall, your little monkey is the cutest monkey in the group. And that’s not being bragatocious. That’s just a fact.
- When your little monkey’s are the crankiest, get on the floor with them. I so remember “those days” when it seemed everyone in my house had lost their ever-loving minds. For some cosmic-unknown phenomenon, from the moment the little monkey’s woke up, it was nothing but fighting, hair-pulling, toy-taking, crying and tantrums galore. On these days, no one was happy. Most especially… me. I wanted to put myself in time-out and stay there! I finally realized the the best way to regain harmony was to stop what I was doing and get on the floor and play with them. Sometimes, just like us, our little monkey’s wake up on the wrong side of the bed. But we mommies have the power to change the trajectory of what may have started out to be a “I Can’t Believe I Survived” day and turn it into a “A Revived, Amazing Day!” When we get down on the floor with our monkey’s we are signaling to them that right now, it’s all about them. Tickle them. Build lego-lands with them. Create sidewalk chalk murals with them. Color with them. Read to them. You will see a remarkable difference in your little monkey’s when you give them all of your attention. Most of all, you’ll be glad you had that special time with them too.
- You will cry yourself to sleep with irrational worries over your little monkey’s. All mother’s cry when it comes to worrying about their little monkey’s. Whether legitimate health issues, development concerns, or that little Johnny needs to be held back in the first grade to catch up with the other monkey’s…there will be one or two crisis (or hundreds over their lifetime-Just keeping it real) that may arise, and whether in our heads or not, it will feel like a hot knife plunging straight through your heart. We mommies want our little monkeys to be happy, healthy, successful, smart, friendly, well-behaved and overly adorable from the moment of conception on. But the reality is, sometimes…they struggle to meet these unrealistic expectations. Sometimes, they are little brats and knock other kids off the slide so that they can go first. Sometimes, they don’t make the soccer team, even though you’ve watched them doing drills everyday for hours in the back yard preparing tryouts. It’s killer. And sometimes, they are introverted and no matter how hard we try, they just don’t play well with others. These struggles can become an emotionally charged, cataclysmic event for us mommies because we so want them to be everything and have everything easily because we love them so much. But it doesn’t always work out that way. The truth is, they will struggle. Every monkey is different. They will fall. They will scrape their knees, not make the team, get their hearts broken and not make straight A’s. It is in times like these we mommies must force ourselves to put on our “game face” and be big-picture people. Cry and mourn for what you wished could’ve been for them privately and then put on your best smile (armor up) and show them how to move on with the hand they were dealt. Even though it hurts us way more than it ever will them… it’s up to us to show them how to handle disappointments in life. Once that’s done, we can cry ourselves to sleep later. Such is the life of a mommy….
- There will be days you don’t necessarily like your monkey. So, this sounds harsh, right? I mean, surely we would never admit to such a thing, right? Well, I’m here to tell you the truth and the truth is, sometimes, our angelic monkey’s just ain’t that likable. To be clear, this statement has nothing to do with our love for them. We always love them. It’s just that sometimes, there are “those days” we just don’t like them. Such as that time they flushed your diamond, anniversary watch down the toilet. Or the time you had to get a ladder to clean the bathroom CEILING because Johnny was trying to kill a bug with his pee pee. Or the time little Anna told the other mom at play group (in front of everyone) that her mommy said she was a b****. Yeah. Times like that. But when these moments arise, breathe deeply, accept it, embrace it and move on. Believe me, you’ll love them again tomorrow morning so just go with the flow. It will pass. Because just when you contemplate running away for good, they will pick a wildflower from the backyard and tell you you’re pretty and they want to marry you. And all will be well with your world once again.
- The “grey areas” are for reals. When we gave birth to our monkey’s, the feelings of love were overwhelming, almost surreal, right? How could anyone love anything more? From the moment they put these tiny, pink balls of flesh into our arms, we changed. Life wasn’t about us anymore. They became our world. We read books on how to be the best mommies ever. It all sounded reasonable, right? Feed them, bathe them, burp them, change their diapers. Easy peasy. We said to ourselves, “We can do this!” But then they began to grow up… like, into real, live people! They started talking, walking, even arguing and testing our patience. What the hell just happened? It was supposed to be so easy! So cut and dry! But now we have this little 4 year old “person” with a crown on top of her head and their hand on their hip saying, “you’re not the boss of me!” WHAT? Or 6 month old babies who want to breast-feed night and day, but you have other monkey’s to take care of and your milk isn’t coming in correctly and you feel like you’re letting the ladies at La Leche down by deciding to give up….WHAT? Or your best friend believes in spanking but you read once that spanking can ruin them if not done physiologically correct. You even tried it once by popping johnny on the backside for running into the street and he cried for three hours and now you feel like he’s damaged for life because of you…WHAT? Parenting was supposed to be EASY. WHAT HAPPENED??? So… welcome to the “grey areas” of parenting. These mommy dilemma’s can happen up to 10,000 times on any given day, giving way to the most malignant doubts a mommy will ever feel with her ability to parent successfully. Here’s the solution to grey areas: Do you research over the subject, educate yourself. Think about it within a reasonable amount of time. Make a decision. Implement such decision. DON’T LOOK BACK. The truth is, parenting is not ever going to be mistake-free. You will make mistakes. But what’s even more true, you’ll be successful a heck of a lot more than the mistakes you make. You can’t beat yourself up by what didn’t work out and you can’t sit on the fence, undecided about what you should do about a situation forever either. Mommies cannot be wishy-washy! So do what you can, get opinions from those who have been there and then make the best decision for you and your family and move on. You love your family. Trust yourself. You’ve got this.
- If your well runs dry, everyone else will go thirsty. There’s an old saying “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s true. Whether we realize it or not, we are the brains of the operation, the very bloodline in which all limbs of our family tree is nourished. We know when it’s pajama day, when flu shots need to be scheduled, the solar system project is due and how to make your husbands’ boss’ favorite lasagna recipe. We handle all birthday parties, family drama and know instinctively when someone’s had a bad day and just needs to talk. We live our lives making sure that everyone around us within a 50 mile radius is happy, healthy and well cared for. But what happens when we give it all away? When we don’t take care of ourselves because we’re too busy doing for everyone else? Just as a well needs spring water to rejuvenate it’s supply, so do we. You can’t give away something you don’t have so it’s important to remember to care for yourself, to fill your well. Schedule girl time to go have coffee with your friends. Get a babysitter and book a date night with your husband. Join a gym and work out while your monkey’s play with the other monkey’s a couple of times a week. Whatever it takes to rejuvenate your spring water within, make it happen. Your family and everyone else within your 50 mile radius will thank you!
- Understand the true purpose of your job as a mommy. Mother Nature has a strong pull on the hearts of mommies. It’s as if we have this innate, inner voice constantly whispering to us, “hold them close and never let them go.” And there are times, mistakenly, we follow that deep-down voice inside because it seems the most natural thing to do for our little monkey’s. After all, shouldn’t our main focus be to protect them and hold them close? And isn’t the only way we can truly protect them, to hold them close and never let them go? Well… yes and no. Hence, another “grey area”. Our job is most definitely to protect our little monkey’s. But ironically, as natural as it feels to “never let them go” this is the exact opposite of what is in our mommy job descriptions. After protection, the number one job of any parent is to make your monkey’s independent from you. Our job begins when they are infants and we teach them to hold their own bottles. Then potty-train, dressing themselves, sleep by themselves, feed themselves, go to school, ride bikes, brush their teeth, comb their hair and on and on. As powerful as our natural, underlying instinct may be to hold on to them forever, our primary job is to make them independent from us and to prepare them with the outside world. Sometimes that seems like a no-fair deal. We just get all the bugs worked out and prop them up into functioning, amazing adults just in time for them to leave us. WHAT?
- Your husband… low man on the totem pole. So it’s the end of a typical day. You’ve just finished scrubbing peanut butter and jelly off of your living room walls, bathed the monkey’s, fed them a dinner with each of the five necessary food groups (and watched them only eat the bread) and convinced (you think) one monkey that it’s way better to poo poo in the big boy potty than in his toy box. All the little monkey’s are watching the movie, “Captain Underpants” for the one trillionth time. They’re quiet. And you reach for a glass of chardonnay and hold on to it for dear life. Suddenly, the door opens… it’s DADDY! Everyone is fired up again! But you smile because they’re so happy to see him. He winks at you and you take notice of how handsome he is. Once the monkey’s are settled back in front of the movie he comes over and whispers, “I’ve been thinking about you… all day long.” WHAT? Your mind races. You know what this means. It means that 8pm date with the back of your eyelids might not be in your near future. You panic. You’ve been thinking and planning this 8pm “lights out” date with yourself all day. You even bathed the little monkey’s early just to jumpstart the bedtime ritual earlier. Now, it appears you’ve got one more human who needs you. You’re exhausted. You feel like you can’t move another muscle in your body. It’s like making it across the finish line and being told you have a few miles left to go…How will you ever rally? Here’s the truth about these couples moments. Your husband was there first. More than likely he’s the one who graciously takes the back seat in the family order of things and never says a word. He knows he’s low man on the totem pole. But he needs you too. And truth be told? You need him as well. So as tired as you may be in these moments when the finish line moves down a bit… take a deep breath and remember that connecting with your best friend is important. And sometimes, the last lap can be surprisingly wonderful.
- Cherish every phase with your little monkey’s… they grow up way faster than you think. Time waits for no one. That includes mommies. In the blink of an eye, your little monkey’s will be waving goodbye to you as they head off to college. Not kidding. A blink of an eye. All of those days you stood in your kitchen and screamed, “WILL EVERYBODY JUST PLEASE, GROW UP!!” Welp, they do. Quickly. One minute you can hear your sweet toddler singing nursery rhymes from his crib and the next, you’re watching your six foot teenager behind the wheel of a car backing out of the driveway, on their own-without you-for the first time. And then, just like that… it’s back to just you and your best friend and all the little monkey’s are off living their own lives. That said, here’s what I truly hope for you: I hope you will stop what you’re doing every once in a while and just look at them. Study their little faces. Really take a mental note of how darling they sound with the lisp that was created by losing their two front teeth. Save their notes they wrote to you when they told you that when they grow up, they are going to buy the house next door and marry you. And when they hug you at the end of day, after you’ve bathed them and they smell like baby shampoo…promise yourself you’ll never forget what thats like for as long as you live. And when they’re teenagers and they’re trying to separate from you to learn how to be independent and it’s awkward for them, hug them anyway and tell them they’ll always be your little monkey. Every phase of raising them is a gift. Savor it all. The good days… and the bad. Mostly because the bad days usually make the best stories later on.
I am envious of all of you! My little monkey’s are now grown and living in different cities and yes… they’re independent of their mama. I say this with great pride because I guess it means, I did my job.
But if I’m honest, maybe I did my job a little too well… maybe I could have made them a tad more needy? Selfish? Perhaps. Such is the life of motherhood. And this dilemma mommies? Is the last, and final “grey area” of mommy hood.
Happy Mothering & God Bless!
Enjoy your little monkey’s! 🙂
Love & Hugs,
Michele E. Mathews
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