I first entered motherhood when my oldest daughter was born nine years ago. Fast forward to now and I have given birth to a second daughter, adopted three from foster care, and fostered five more. Over the years, I have parented kids with histories of trauma, PTSD, cognitive and physical delays, sensory needs, and attachment struggles. I have changed thousands of diapers, potty-trained five kids, and survived the terrible twos more times than I can count. And while I have learned creative ways to get a child to eat their vegetables, there are several things that I had a hard time accepting as motherhood truths, until now.
Truth: You get to choose the rules
One of the privileges of being a mom is getting to shape your family and make decisions. I am not just talking about what colors to pick out for the nursery. When my first daughter was born I had this very loud voice in my head of the rules for motherhood. It has taken almost a decade for me to really accept that I get to make my own rules for my children and my family. It’s hard to ignore all the voices of expectations we hear as mothers, but when we give ourselves the freedom to embrace our own motherhood truths, it is incredibly freeing.
Truth: Every child really is different, embrace it
I do a lot for my kids to make things fair. I match their clothes for holidays and special occasions, I give them the same number of Christmas gifts, and I make sure to take them each on dates nights. But when it comes to parenting I am aware that they are individual people. With each year that passes I see that every child has a different love language, and I have let go of the guilt that comes with giving them what they individually need, even if it doesn’t always look the same.
Truth: You will have days in the trenches
Rest assured, you will climb out of those trenches, and most likely learn even more about the mother you already are or hope to be. Trenches also look different to every mother. For some, it is physical and emotional illness, for others financial strain or job loss; and for almost all when we are parenting in a hard place that we never saw coming. We can’t criticize those in the trenches just because it isn’t a place of distress that we know.
Truth: Trust your instinct
There are many hard decisions to make for your child. Whether they are IEP meetings, potty training, or co-sleep vs. sleep training your baby, motherhood is full of decision making, and more times than not you know what you need to do for your child because you feel it like a beacon. Do what you feel is right at the time. As mother’s we know our children like nobody else.
Truth: Grace is better than judgement
I think in the beginning years of parenthood we are so eager to put ourselves on the map. We hope to justify our decisions and motherhood truths, often putting down the parenting styles of those around us simultaneously. After raising many kids with different levels of needs, I have seen that the kids require me to stretch my ideas in parenting techniques, and I have come to embrace the fact that we are all doing what we think is best for our children. So when we are out in public or in a friend’s home for a play date, remember that we don’t always know the history that came before that day. And we all want grace rather than judgement, so that is what we should give.