What I’ve Learned

This weekend I had the opportunity to start conversations with two wonderful ladies about motherhood. One is expecting her first child later this spring, the other isn’t pregnant yet, but is very hopeful. They asked me a lot of the same questions I had when I started down this road. What kind of stuff do you need? Are you able to do all the things you used to do? How does work fit in? How does enough time with your husband fit in?


I don’t pretend to be an expert on any of these things. Everyone is going to have a different experience. But three years into motherhood thing (I count pregnancy as part of motherhood)—three years into blogging, this Sunday!—there are a few basic thoughts I plan to share with them. And I thought I might as well share them with you, too.


There are only a few things you really need with a newborn: diapers (disposable or cloth—honestly, I don’t know what else goes along with cloth), wipes (we’ve been using Viva paper towels, moistened with water for Henry), clothes (simple onesies and pull-on pants do the job; the hospital will give you a hat), and blankets big enough to swaddle. If you’re formula feeding, you need formula and bottles, of course (again, I don’t know what goes along with this).


All the other stuff—rockers, swings, baby carriers, toys, etc.—are helpful, but in the first couple weeks, at least, not total necessities. I think it’s important to keep in mind that some of these things will make life easier, but what a baby really needs is love. Arms to hold him, a chest to sleep on, lips to talk to him and give him kisses.


It doesn’t make a great registry, but in my mind, these six things: diapers, wipes, clothes, blankets, food, and parents are what really matter.


Did my life change when I had kids? Absolutely. In every way. Am I the same person now that I was before? No. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is who I need to be right now. This is what I need to do. Sometimes other things feel really important. Sometimes they are. But my family has to be number one, if I’m going to teach my kids what I intend to teach them. (Number one does not mean that I don’t make time for other relationships, projects, etc. That’s part of what they need to learn, too.)


My kids make me want to be a better version of myself. They teach me patience; they show me how to love. They force me to get my priorities in order and keep them there.


Parenthood is challenging, in large part because of all the other influences out in the world that, someday, our children will have to face on their own. The good news is that our kids don’t have to take it all on at once. If I take each moment of each day and try to be the best mom I can in that moment; if I can admit where I’ve failed, apologize, and learn from it; if I can commit myself to the difficulties now in building character for later, then I will have done all I could to give my kids what they need to handle whatever comes their way. What they do with that will be theirs to decide.


Some days, parenting is so challenging, I wonder what in the world I’ve gotten into and why we intend to have more kids. This is usually after big allergic reactions, bad news in the world, or a particularly trying tantrum. I wish things could be easier, safer, happier. But every one of these moments is an opportunity to get stronger, to show my kids how to be stronger. Parenting has shown me my weaknesses in a way I can’t deny, and it has given me the hope to improve on them.


Motherhood is not an easy thing. But that’s not why you do it. You do it for love, and love is a messy, challenging, complicated thing. It’s also what makes it all—every bit of it—worthwhile.


I know the women I talked to this weekend have that kind of love in them. I am so excited to watching their journeys unfold. Thanks, readers, for being a part of mine.

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