This is my second summer with my baby girl, who is now a curiosity-charged, energetic toddler. Watching her run around, explore, and test boundaries — and seeing her joy as she learns new things — has me thinking about how much she has grown, and how much I have grown with her. A few nights ago, after she fell asleep, I started to write down some of the experiences I have had with her since she was born and how they have impacted my new life as a mama. Then, based on what I wrote, I chose my top three words that keep me inspired through motherhood. And some days, we all need that extra inspiration to keep us sane, don’t we?
What stood out for me from my writing spree were these words: presence, practice, and resilience.
I remember rocking my then 4-month-old to sleep when my mind began to race. “I hope she falls asleep quickly, so I can catch up on the latest episodes of ‘Sense8.’ Or I could do some online shopping — I really need a new nursing bra. And I need to make the grocery list and plan a weekly menu. I really didn’t like takeout last night. I need to wash the dishes in the sink. My goodness, I am so stressed, I could really use some help. Oh, and I need to do the laundry and plan a date night. Is she sleeping yet?!”
I looked down, and my baby girl was looking up at me. As soon as she saw my eyes, she smiled. I melted and I cried. Did any of what I was thinking truly matter at that moment? I took a deep breath, I hugged her closer to me, she cozied up on my chest, and, within minutes, she fell asleep. I rocked her for a little while longer while she slept; my mind quieted and my heart was bursting with gratitude for that moment of clarity and love. I realized that being present with her at that moment was all that really mattered. The rest was irrelevant. Being present is the greatest gift I can give to myself, to my daughter, to my husband, and to anybody in my life.
Am I always present? Oh no. It’s a practice. I am not perfect. Nobody is. When my daughter was born, I practiced diaper changing, I practiced breastfeeding, I tried and practiced different ways of soothing her. I had no idea what I was doing, but with practice I learned how to change her and feed her, and I transformed into a mama.
At times, I still have no idea what in the world I am doing. Every day I practice something new and learn something new about her. My old ideas and hopes of being the perfect, all-knowing mom with perfect pictures with a perfect house and zero food stains on my shirts is beyond unrealistic — it is pure insanity. Everything takes practice, and no one knows how to mother your child better than you.
It is also very important to practice love and compassion for ourselves, for our little humans who are trying to figure out life, and for our fellow mamas and daddies. And since I went there, one of the biggest practices needed by all of us women is withholding judgment and expanding our minds and our hearts — all of us are practicing, learning, and doing the best we can toward the common goal of raising our little ones to be happy, healthy, and strong.
Oh, that sweet limit we reach every once in a while during motherhood: I need a break. I need silence. I need chocolate. I need to feel like myself again. I need a girls’ night. Not every day is easy — some days are completely bonkers! But what drives us to go back and do it all over again? What keeps us going and teaches us resilience? My answer is love. Love keeps me resilient, it keeps me practicing, and it reminds me to stay present. As we implement what we practice and what we learn with our families, we grow as a unit. We mamas don’t quit when the going gets tough. We keep ourselves present, we show up to practice, and we are as resilient as they come.
As we keep ourselves present and learn and practice and persevere, not only do we grow as women, partners, moms, and friends, we lead by example so our little ones know the importance of these actions — essential skills for them to develop.
I hope my writing spree will also help you see what an amazing woman you are. Get yourself some chocolate or wine, fill up the tub and infuse it with your favorite essences, or go get a mani pedi and give yourself some thanks for all that you do — then share with us.