There’s no such thing as a perfect mother, but I do believe that there is such thing as a mother who is perfect for that specific child. She may be biological, or she may not be. But she is the mother or mother figure whom God carefully chose to nurture and raise a child carrying a purpose into the world. Becoming pregnant with Noah at 19, I remember telling a close friend that because I’m carrying him, I never feel alone. Yes, I was insecure of what others thought. But I had peace of mind because I trusted that God allowed me to be Noah’s mother for good reason. Now Noah is 2 and I’m about to turn 22 this month of April. I felt a tug on my heart to share what I’ve learned so far in these past 2 years of motherhood. I still have so much more to learn, considering I have 1 child and he is only a toddler. But here’s a list of what I have discovered by far (in no particular order), and I’m sure many mamas out there may relate to a few!
- Be confident in my role as a mother and in what I am doing.
Many people will offer their unsolicited advice and I had to remind myself that they are only doing it out of love and concern. I was once a people-pleaser (still progressing out of that) and would try to take their advice and accommodate to it when Noah was still an infant. It hardly worked. I learned that if I believe in myself and who I am as a mother, I will be confident in what I do as a mother and how I mother. In my opinion – whether if it’s how you put your little one to sleep, or if you decide to go to school or work while being a mother, if your method has proven to work and be the best for your family and yourself, then there’s no need to be apologetic.
- Being okay with not getting to have a normal 20 y/o something lifestyle.
Since I had Noah at 19, I did not get to live out my 20s as many others might-going out, having a college life, or traveling. But because I chose joy, knew my place, and was focused on being a mother to Noah, I did not envy my friends. Instead, I sometimes lived vicariously through them . I didn’t throw myself a pity party. You guys, comparison is the thief of joy. And honestly, on the rare nights I did go out with friends or my sister, I was ready to be back home with Noah the moment I stepped out. Hehe.
- Holdingmyself more accountable to be in tune with God in order to deliver my best to Noah and my family.
My relationship with Jesus needs to be strong and alive for my relationship with my child and husband to be strong and healthy. My mom in law was a single mom of 2 and she drew her strength from God each day to love and provide for her children the way she did. And she rocked at it.
“So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.”
- To simply PUT MY PHONE DOWN.
I don’t want my son to think that mommy’s phone is more important than him. There have been times that he caught me on my phone while we are playing in his room. He will say, “put down phone. Put down phone! Put downnn…,” until I put my phone away. It makes me feel guilty. Like I just got caught red-handed stealing a cookie. These days are fleeting and I don’t want to miss out on important moments because I was too busy texting or on Instagram or Snapchat.
- Be confident in how I look without makeup.
We used to live with my mom in law, and unless she was as available to watch Noah while I put my makeup on, there was no time for it. Foundation, bronzer, highlight, mascara, and brows? Lol, think again honey. I learned to step out of the house with either no makeup on or just with my eyebrows filled in (if I came to church without them filled in, my pastor’s daughter would say, “where are your eyebrows?!” ) and be okay with it. Now that Noah is more independent, I can put a full face of makeup on if I wanted to. Lately he likes to grab a makeup brush or the “egg” (beauty blender) and insist on “helping” me…haha. But otherwise, I’ve learned to work with that I’ve got, not mind being mistaken for 16, and believe that people see me and not my acne scars.
- Be selfless.
Or in other words, to be considerate towards Noah and put his needs and overall wellness first. Before baby, I would spend as much time as needed to get ready in the bathroom. But child services might be called if I did that now. Before we moved to San Diego, I was in the middle of nursing school. I didn’t pass a class (made an 80, passing is 86+) and had to be put on a waiting list to in order to repeat the class. But I made the decision not to continue because at that point in my life, I wasn’t giving anything my all-not school, not Noah, not my family. I remember my professor saying with good intention, “I’m sure you’ve neglected your little one long enough.” And that’s when I realized that this wasn’t fair to Noah. I was spending 12 hours taking care of patients at clinical and when I’d get home, I could only give an eager Noah the remnants of my energy. I had to put my dreams aside so that I could be truly present for him, and today I realize I made the right choice. Other circumstances were also involved and it simply wasn’t my time to be in school. Mama can go back to school when Noah is ready for preschool. It was definitely tough being in as well as letting go. Shout out to the working mothers out there or the mothers still in school and caring for their little one(s)!
- Dressing modestly.
This is strictly my opinion, but I think that if you’re a mother, you need to respect yourself and hold yourself to an even higher standard and keep it classy. No, I’m not referring to the “I’m a mom” starter pack of cliche straight leg jeans paired with Skechers. I’m referring to exchanging my crop tops for shirts that I can tuck into my high waisted jeans (I love tucking my tops in!) and not wearing dresses that are too short or reveal too much cleavage. Especially as a young mother, it was obvious that I wasn’t of age and if I wanted to be respected for my role as a mother instead of seen as the girl too young to have a baby, I wasn’t going to wear what I wore when I used to work at Hollister. Ya know? Plus, I learned that comfort is key when caring for a baby or an active toddler. I love to feel pretty in what I’m wearing, yet you can still keep it classy and be cute. Classy is timeless and modest is hottest.
- Not neglecting the self-care I need.
Okay, so I’m still learning this and I’ve improved in this department but, I’m referring to taking showers and grooming myself. When Noah was still a few months old, the longest I didn’t shower was probably 4 days (I know, I know…gross). I stopped brushing my hair and stopped putting much effort into how I looked because I was so focused on caring for Noah and accommodating to his needs as an infant. Those days were really about finding a balance. But now I’ve gained back my passion for dressing myself up, I take better care of my skin, and yes, I definitely shower more often!
- Eating better and prioritizing my health.
This means eating 3 square meals a day that includes protein and veggies and snacks in between. I used to skip meals before I became pregnant, but I quickly learned that Noah’s well-being reflects my well-being. I needed to be energized and healthy to breastfeed and it’s still the same today in order to keep up with my toddler!
- Happy Mom = Happy Noah = Happy Mom.
He may not understand how I feel, but he can sense it (energy and vibes~). If I am anxious and overwhelmed, he might be extra cranky and become easily upset. If I am relaxed and content, he is more easygoing. This isn’t always the case today because Noah is developing more into an individual, but this held true before he turned 2. Our emotions reciprocate.
- Packing light for myself when we travel.
I went back to LA for Summer 2013 with some family and of course, over packed. I vividly remember my aunt who’s a mother of 3 saying that one day we will have children of our own and learn to pack less for ourselves and more for our children because to you, their needs become more important than your own. It didn’t mean a lot to me then, but I find myself repeating her statement in my head each time I’m packing for Noah and myself because it’s true.
- We are never ready, we become ready.
No matter what age you become a mother, whether if it’s 16 or 30, I don’t think that the majority are ever 100% emotionally and mentally prepared. Motherhood is a lot of work, perseverance, and dedication. We are never prepared to experience how fulfilling it turns out to be and the full-time privilege/resilience it needs.
- That almost everything needs to accommodate to Noah.
This is by choice. And I say almost because Noah’s dad is my equal and our marriage is important, too (for example, I think parent date nights/quality time without baby are necessary for a thriving marriage). Anyways, if the restaurant we are thinking of going to or get invited to doesn’t have “Kid friendly” checked off on Yelp, then we won’t be going there. Not only is this for the sake of Noah’s comfort and our own, it’s for the sake of everyone else’s as well. If I have a list of errands to run, they get done on Noah’s time and not mine. They need to happen in the morning right after breakfast or after his nap. This helps decrease the chance of tantrums resulting from being tired and cranky – I really don’t like being the mother with the screaming toddler in the checkout line. It really makes my pits sweat. Everything usually rotates around his schedule. It taught us to be flexible and it works for us.
- Be wise with finances.
Back then, if I was able to buy a dress I really liked, then sold. But as parents, Jarrod and I learned to sacrifice spending on extravagant gifts, clothing, and shoes (fun fact: he has more shoes, pants, and outerwear than I do). We would rather save that money, use it to make our home more comfortable, use it towards Noah, or use it to enjoy a meal out that we can all enjoy as a family. Trust me, we are still working on this!
- Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
I’m definitely still practicing this one. Of course, if Noah is about to jump off the couch and onto the hardwood floor, I will shout, “stop!” But, there are times when Noah is simply frustrated and whiny because he cannot find the words to communicate what he wants or needs. And this doesn’t call for me to yell at him and get upset with him for “having an attitude”. Instead, I practice getting down to his level, actively listen to what he is trying to say, and help him find his words/figure out what he needs. I want to be an approachable mama, not a scary mama. Plus, the feeling of guilt for making your little one cry in horror after losing your patience is pretty bad.
- Practice what I preach.
We have been trying to teach Noah manners. I’ve caught myself asking Jarrod for a favor and not saying please, or forgetting to thank him. Even though I asked kindly, if my child doesn’t hear “please,” how will he know to say it? It can be deeper than this, but this is a simple example.
- Accept constructive criticism with grace and an open mind.
Who loves unsolicited advice? I do!…not. Although it is important to believe in myself as a mother and truly do what works for my child and I, it does not hurt to listen and consider what someone might be suggesting. I went from trying everyone’s advice to becoming stubborn and advice would go in one ear and out the other. I would nod and smile then walk away rolling my eyes. This is called pride. Of course, it is important to discern which advice to take and which to not. What I learned is that it does not hurt to think and consider what that piece of advice is before deciding to keep it or toss it.
“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”
- Recognizing that not all mothers are the same and still giving them respect.
Every mother won’t discipline their child the same way. Breast or bottle, homecooked or store-bought, organic or nonorganic, going out or staying in with child. Whatever it may be, it is not my place to decide how one ought to be a mother. Unless one’s child is being harmed, nothing should be negatively noted. I am no better than the next, so my place is to respect each mother as she is. I wouldn’t want her to judge how I mother Noah, so I should hold judgement against her as well. We are all women who need to hold each other up.
- More appreciation for my mother, other mothers, and single mothers.
Because it’s not a walk in the park. Some say that it’s a blessing and a curse-ha! I have found myself doing something for Noah and flashbacking to how my mom did specific things with so much care. She mothered with such grace and attentiveness. A home-cooked meal waiting for me once I got home from school because she knew my large appetite, and being a good listener even up to this day, just to name a few. Basically, being a mother comes with a lot of pressure as well as reward. For the single mothers out there, you are the heroes of this planet. It’s like survival mode for me is bliss/second nature for them.
- It’s aglimpse of how much God loves us and sees us.
A friend once asked me if being a parent helped me better understand the love God has for us. The answer was somewhere between yes and no. Yes, because I still love Noah even if he embarrasses me by throwing a fit in public or if he throws the food I carefully prepared for him. And I will still love him if he becomes the teenager who doesn’t want anything to do with his mother or the man who doesn’t meet my hopes and expectations. God still loves you and I even when we push Him away, say we don’t need Him, and when we make mistakes. But at the same time no, because to be honest, it’s hard to grasp that God can love us THAT much after seeing all of our uglies and knowing our deepest, darkest thoughts or secrets – that must be the purpose of grace.
Now the way God sees us. He recognizes that we are helpless and needy. We are impatient and impulsive. Sound familiar? Yeah, sounds like a baby or a child right? When Noah is whining in the car because he cannot watch YouTube Kids on mommy’s phone, because in his mind he NEEDS to watch that episode of Blippi, little does he realize that we are almost at the playground he has been asking to go to. Now he can have real fun. Likewise, when we are discouraged because we didn’t get the job we interviewed for, or upset because a relationship we put so much hope into ended, it’s because God has something or someone better and we just need to trust and wait. It’s because it’s not time yet because He knows we aren’t ready and wants to protect us. It’s because He knows what’s best and likewise as a parent, we believe to know what’s best for our children.
- Strengthen my prayer life.
I learned from my mom in law to not only pray when the day begins, but to pray throughout it and to pray for my children. It truly has worked for me by giving me the peace I need to keep myself from worrying. It also reminds me that I can and should rely on God. God does not require us to pray with fancy words or go into a quiet place each time. Sometimes it’s a simple, “God, please keep Noah occupied in the car so he can be quiet while I’m driving.” Or a whisper of praise, “thank You for surrounding us with the right people.” Often times, it’s asking Him to give me the strength and resilience I need as a mother and moments of rededicating Noah to Him.
- A child loves and treasures their parent(s), a lot.
I cannot underestimate the love and appreciation Noah has for me. I remember when Jarrod and I took Noah to the San Diego Zoo for the first time. We were at the elephant exhibit and to our surprise, Noah took a moment to hug each of us. It was like his way of saying thank you and I appreciate you bringing me here. Or one time, I got upset with Noah but afterwards, Noah still wanted to express his love and snuggled beside me. Gosh, it’s so sweet.
So there’s what I have learned and continue to learn. I definitely don’t have all of these mastered and I’m still working on applying each of them. They serve as guidelines I refer to. At the end of each good or bad day, I’m grateful to be a mother and wouldn’t change that.
Any mamas out there, what are some things you’ve learned as a mother? I’d love to hear it! I love a good insight or story time.