Oh, to be a Mom…

Motherhood Manifesto (the early years 0-6)

The word “manifesto” has its roots in Italian, from manifestare, to manifest. Here is my attempt to capture not only what I wish I knew from the start but what Motherhood means to me and how I’d ideally like it to manifest in my life each day:

  1. Motherhood means giving birth to some of your greatest teachers.
  2. Motherhood is a commitment. It is a genuine, raw, no-turning-back kind of devotion encompassing so many bits, parts & pieces, exploding in seemingly infinite directions.
  3. Motherhood means exponentially expanding your capacity to love and surrendering to an overflowing heart.
  4. Motherhood is a canvas where you get to paint with your own colors and make it beautiful in your own way.
  5. Motherhood means loving yourself first, just as you are. Because how can you expect your kids to love themselves if you don’t truly love yourself?  It’s also okay if this is a work in progress.
  6. Motherhood means hearing “Mommy, I love you” can leave you breathless.
  7. Motherhood gives you a chance to see the magic in the world through your little one’s eyes.
  8. Motherhood ignites a fiercely protective energy that might surprise you at times with its intensity.
  9. Motherhood gives you a new appreciation for your own parents. This feeling will resurface on a regular basis.
  10. Motherhood means learning to love unconditionally. Your love is not a reward for your child’s good behavior.
  11. Motherhood means really listening to your kids and reading in between the lines. They may not always be able to say exactly what’s on their mind or how they are feeling.  Sometimes an angry outburst just means they are hungry and/or tired.
  12. Motherhood means reassuring your kids that you can be a container for their feelings no matter how big they are. Acknowledge your kids’ feelings and let them know that all feelings are okay and there are no “good” or “bad” ones.  Teach them to name their feelings and that they have a choice how to respond to them.
  13. Motherhood means you don’t have to be jack-of-all trades. Save the play-doh and messy paints for the kids to do with a babysitter if you prefer.
  14. Motherhood means letting go of expectation. You might plan a magical outing and it all goes downhill fast when your little one decides to do a snow angel in a mud puddle and you forgot the spare change of clothes at home.
  15. Motherhood means accepting that nothing is permanent. A crawling baby could walk tomorrow. Your 6 year old will be a high school graduate before you know it.
  16. Motherhood means teaching your kids more lessons than you could possibly imagine. And re-learning these lessons for yourself much of the time as well.  Your children will expose your greatest foibles and weaknesses.  Work on these foibles and weaknesses if for no other reason than because you love your kids.
  17. We all show up on the doorstep of Motherhood with our so-called “limitations” or the “I can’t” list. Despite what you tell yourself, these borders are not fixed.  Before I had kids, I used to think I couldn’t function on less than 8 hours of sleep.  I was wrong.  My ability to handle sleep deprivation could rival a Navy SEAL’s (or so I tell myself).  Or maybe you say that you’re impatient.  Your capacity for patience can increase but only if you work on it.  Submit yourself to learning big lessons from a teeny tiny person who may not even be able to speak full sentences yet.
  18. Motherhood will humble you again and again. There will be plenty of times where you don’t know what the answer is or wonder if you are “doing it right”.  Confidence builds over time.  It also means acknowledging and quieting the pesky inner voice that tells you you’re not good enough.
  19. Motherhood means making self-care a priority. This means learning the Power of No and that saying “yes” doesn’t have to be a default, but is a precious gift instead.  I never learned how important self-care was for me and for my kids, until I allowed myself to become depleted and saw how many of the daily gifts I was missing because of it.
  20. Motherhood means being present and really seeing your kids for who they are. Each seemingly ordinary moment is a treasure and fleeting.  Allow your children to reawaken your own childlike wonder, joy, and unbridled enthusiasm.
  21. Motherhood will provide you with more opportunities for creativity than you could ask for. It doesn’t mean you have to come up with all the ideas.  This is a great place to leverage friends, other moms, parenting magazines, and the good ol’ internet.  Your kids don’t care if you came up with the idea or not.  The memories you have with your kids will be some of your finest creations.
  22. Motherhood means you might just become the family historian. Jot down funny/wise/sweet sentences that your children say.  It doesn’t have to be organized.  Take pictures of their bedroom at certain ages, stuffed animals, and record video of the micro-moments that will remind you of this phase of their life.  Hearing your 5-year old’s tiny 2-year old voice in a video can melt your heart.
  23. Motherhood means accepting your kids for who they are, respecting them, and teaching them they don’t always have to please the grown-ups in their life. It’s okay for them to have their own ideas and desires.  This can be hard to navigate especially around bedtime and your kid’s own idea is to keep sneaking downstairs.
  24. Motherhood means letting go of perfection and giving yourself a break. Let your kids wear their pajamas to school or eat cold pizza for breakfast if you are crunched on time.  Don’t worry about what other people will think.  You never know, they may be working on their own issues with perfection.
  25. Embrace the mess. Yes, there will be poop.  And vomit.  And pee.  And more spilled food and drink than you might care for.  It’s part of the territory so don’t get too caught up in wishing it didn’t happen. Have you ever seen a newborn poop on the ceiling?  I have.  This $hit happens.
  26. Embrace the emotional mess. Your wee wonders will do and say things that don’t seem rational to many adults.  A broken granola bar could be tragic and devastating to your small child.  It doesn’t have to make sense to you.  Focus on dealing with their reality and validating their feelings.
  27. Spend more time than you do money. Kids don’t need fancy toys and outings as much as they need to feel seen and heard.  Let them know you will get down to their level, play on the floor, put on the superhero costume, or join them in a rousing game they invented which involves throwing empty Crayola paint bottles in a cardboard box.
  28. Motherhood means teaching your children they have a voice and that it matters. More importantly, model this by speaking up for yourself and for your kid (especially before they can talk!)
  29. Motherhood means going outside your own comfort zone at times if it’s what is best for your child. This may mean standing up to another parent at the playground or teacher as a means to honor your child.
  30. Motherhood means encouraging your kids to connect with other wonderful adults in their lives so they learn how to trust and form secure attachments. Grandparents, family friends, aunts, uncles, and babysitters are all good options.
  31. Motherhood means being needed 24/7 and a home base to which your kids can return after striking out on their own adventures.
  32. Motherhood means joining a sisterhood of other mothers. It means making “mom friends” and creating a support system that’s there when you need it.  This also makes Motherhood more fun and enjoyable in general.  Finding mom friends is kind of like dating except you look for them at playgrounds instead of bars.  Practice getting some digits!
  33. Motherhood means standing up for other mothers out there and not judging them. Everyone is doing the best that they can in that moment.  None of us are perfect and we can never fully understand what another mother is going through or has gone through.
  34. Motherhood means honoring the woman you were before you had kids. Keep doing things that you love to do.  You are still the same person but with an added dimension and capacity for love.
  35. Motherhood means remembering to pay attention to your relationship (which is how the whole having kids thing started) and cherishing it as a separate entity from your responsibilities as parents. This means taking time to be together as a couple and being okay with leaving your kids with a trusted caregiver.  It’s good for the kids too.
  36. Motherhood will make you feel unstoppable like you kick ass and can get more things done and give more than you ever thought possible.
  37. Motherhood also means knowing when to ask for help. This will involve a lot of trial and error and possibly some crying on the floor.  The moments when you do respect your limits and accept help can feel glorious.  But only if you let it.  So allow yourself to feel glorious and let go of the guilt that you can’t do everything on your own.
  38. Besides asking for help, know when to say “yes” to help being offered. Open your heart to receiving.  Practice by saying “thank you” when someone says something kind to you or about your kid.
  39. Motherhood means at a certain point, your kids are no longer babies and it’s okay for them to do things for themselves. The look on their face when they put on their own shoes or say “I do it myself!” is heart-warming and you can witness the fire of confidence being stoked.  On the other hand, this can also prove difficult when you’re in a rush and your 2-year old wants to take 5 minutes to buckle his/her own seatbelt.  I’ve learned that leaving a little extra time in the morning can’t hurt.
  40. Motherhood means being present with your children with the same generosity of spirit when they are feeling proud and happy as when they are feeling sad or angry.
  41. Motherhood means you may unexpectedly cry when looking at your sleeping children because it suddenly hits you how big they are and how little they were only months or years earlier.
  42. Motherhood means lots of hugs, an abundance of kisses, and the twinkling laughter that only a good tickle can provoke.
  43. Motherhood is a gift to be cherished. Some days this gift is shiny, awesome, breathtaking and beautiful.  Other days the gift comes wrapped in boogers and sleepless nights.  But the gift is always there and you are the sun shining on these little seedlings who need you in order to thrive.
  44. Motherhood means you matter even more than you might have ever realized.

3 thoughts on “Oh, to be a Mom…

  1. Amy, I know what an amazing mom you are from watching you with your children. You understand and nourish each of them with a genuine appreciation of his and her individuality. I love this post and hope you will continue to write to support other mothers like yourself. You are a gifted writer, communicator and person! Love, Mom

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