Motherhood is one continual learning curve that doesn't have an end point, even when your kids are grown. The older I get, the more I appreciate those things I knew about motherhood at 30 that I wish I'd known at 25 because, while a lot of that knowledge comes with living through specific experiences, the lessons probably saved me a lot of headaches and mistakes with my second child.
When I got pregnant at 24, I'd already been divorced once and my current partner and I had been together for over a year. Pregnancy wasn't something we'd planned on and took all the precautions but, even still, it happened and I'm so glad it did. Becoming a mother just a few months before turning 25 meant not knowing what I was doing (most of the time) and learning on the fly. At the time, I hoped I could do a good job and not accidentally traumatize my daughter in anyway but, honestly, there was just so much I didn't yet know.
Once I had my son, just before my 30th birthday, I'd already learned and grown so much. It was evident both children would get a different version of me but, in the end, I think that's OK. Now that I've turned *cough* 35 *cough*, it's crystal clear I've taken in more over the last five years since having my second child. It's not that I didn't try to learn at 25; with a brain still changing and evolving, I just wasn't always capable. Now that I'm right in the middle of my 30s, I'm a better mother than ever (however still fallible) because I know what's worked and what hasn't.
It's Not Always Easy
Before motherhood, I only pictured the highlight reel: the snuggles, baby clothes, first everythings, and more. I somehow blocked out the important all-consuming things (which I think is part of the new mother brain). I wish I'd known it's more than the good parts — it's work and it's hard.
(But so totally worth it.)
I Might Channel My Mom
I used to cringe at the thought of becoming — gasp! — my mother. Low and behold, as the years flew by there were parts of me tapping into some of her ways. I wish I'd known not to fight it, because it would only end up as wasted energy.
Doubt Is Part Of The Process
Because of a turbulent childhood, there wasn't a single day that passed in which I felt confident in my ability to raise another human being. Looking back, I wasn't only doing an OK job but a fantastic job. I wish I'd trusted in myself more, instead of worrying every last moment into dust.
Try To Find The Humor
I get that sometimes, when sleep deprived and cranky, it's hard to laugh about whatever is going on. At the time, I sank further into doubt and depression rather than looking for things I was doing well or right. Now, my first instinct is to laugh first, stress second. It works most of the time.
Ignore All The Voices
Everyone has an opinion about how to raise your children once you announce you're pregnant. I didn't know not to listen to all of it so, instead, I'd stress myself out doing all these things to make everyone else happy while making myself, my partner, and our baby miserable.
At 30, I ditched those opinions and did my own thing. I got this.
Protect Your Sleep
I laughed when mothers would tell me how little sleep I'd get after baby. That is, of course, until I had said baby. It's life-altering to go from all the sleep to none and remain functional. Back then I really didn't know to leave the housework, laundry, and other chores when the baby napped so that I could nap to. Instead, I'd exhaust myself even more in trying to do it all and be everything to everyone.
By the time I had my son at 30, I wasn't about to do a damn thing when he slept (which wasn't much, by the way) because sleep was way more important for my state of mind.
Your Relationship Will Change
My partner and I had a wonderful relationship before my pregnancy (except for lingering communication issues, but I digress). Things changed, as they tend to do once there's a baby in the mix, but in ways I hadn't prepared for. My expectations remained too high to remain realistic. At 25, I assumed we'd get on like nothing changed: our romantic life would be somewhat altered (but mostly the same), we'd still hang out like we always had, and we'd make dates priority. Ha!
At 30, I know it's not always possible to have date night when you have children, hanging out is typically the whole family, and our romantic life, while important, has changed and rightfully so. We're not just lovers anymore: we're parents. Our relationship is definitely a priority but in order to be happy with where we are in life, it was far easier to go into the birth of my son knowing things would change from sex to cuddling sometimes and from hot dinners out to intimate conversation at home. Eventually, this all became our new normal and it's all good.
Remember The Good Days
At 25, everything overwhelmed me as a first-time mother. It was easy to get caught up in the negatives and bad days. Five years later, I was vigilant about savoring those good times knowing the bad would pass. That's life.
Mistakes Are OK
When you've never been a parent before, it's only natural to not want to fail at it and, most likely, you're doing everything you can to avoid it. Those times I did something remotely wrong or felt like I'd made a mistake, I took it hard. I didn't want to fail my daughter.
With my son, I now know it's going to happen because I'm imperfect. All I can promise is that I'll always try my best and learn from any mistakes made. I think that's what parenting is.
Savor The Little Things
The thing about motherhood is, it goes fast. I know you hear it a million times and brush it off but, seriously, it's going, going, going. At 25, I couldn't have possibly known all those little bedtime tuck-ins and dance parties would soon evolve into different things. I wish I'd appreciated the moments with my young daughter more, before we had her brother.
At 30, I was determined not to let the fleeting minutes pass without etching them on my heart because I didn't want to forget another small thing — the smell of his hair, his laugh, the way he looks at me — again.
It Really Does Get Better
The hard days sometimes won't feel anything but hard. I've tried to salvage some of them only to end up feeling worse. What I've learned is, sometimes the bad days can be just that. Accept it, go to bed with a clear head, and wake up ready to conquer the new day. Life is in motion. If it's bad one day, rest assured, the next will bring some peace.
You Can Do This
When I had my daughter at 25, I wasn't sure how good I'd be at it. Self-conscious and fearful of doing anything wrong, it was difficult to see my worth as her mother. She's 10 now and amazing. All those times I thought I failed? I didn't and, the thing is, she doesn't remember most of what I carry around with regret. That time she fell off the bed and cut her forehead open? She has no memory of it. I did a great job back then, I just didn't give myself any credit, and while there's still time for me to mess up (!), I wish I knew I was on the right track.
Becoming a mother at 25, then again at 30, means I've learned a lot of different lessons. I've grown, matured, and hopefully adapted to the changing ways of bother kids. I only wish now, I could travel back in time to tell my younger self this: No matter what you're going through or feeling right now, you're going to be OK and your kids will love every last piece of you. Every. Last. Piece.