Shira. Mawenzi. Kibo.
Individual volcanoes that make up the highest mountain in Africa,
Labor. Newborn. Terrible Twos. Teen Years.
Life phases that make up the highest calling on women,
You wouldn’t attempt to climb a mountain without reading about climbers who have gone before you, right? It only makes sense to approach Motherhood the same way. As a Mom-to-Be, you are automatically and immediately inundated with advice once people find out you’re expecting, and it can be very overwhelming. But… maybe consider welcoming it! All of it. The thing with advice is you can take it… or not. You can use it… or not. You get to filter advice through your own opinions and values. You may just learn and possibly be able to try something new that makes life easier for you, or something that simply just expands your current viewpoint.
Personally, I am a let’s-do-it-the-fastest-most-efficient-way-give-me-the-bottom-line kind of girl, and I like simplified instructions and easy-to-remember lists. A-B.C, 1-2-3. I’m currently raising two Littles. After all of the advice I’ve received and filtered through my own trial-and-error, I’m easily able to label these three “bottom-lines” as the most efficient and effective parenting advice received.
They’ve become the mile-markers on my map of the mountain, my Mama Mottos, and my cornerstones to Motherhood.
“LET YOUR DEFAULT ANSWER BE ‘YES.’”
(Sherpa: my Father)
Before I had my daughter, I asked my Dad to give me his one line of parenting advice. He almost immediately responded with, “Say ‘yes’ a whole lot more than you say ‘no.’” This may seem like common sense, but it was pretty profound to me pre-Motherhood. Since then, it has been my Number One approach and has honestly worked wonders in my children. No matter what mess something’s going to make or what extra work it’s going to cause—if it’s not going to hurt them or hurt someone else—they get to GO FOR IT. Why not?? I’ve seen it boost free-thinking and logical skills. I’ve seen it give my daughter her very confident personality. I’ve seen it give her bravery to try new things. I’ve seen it increase happiness immediately. And I’ve never (repeat: NEVER) had an obedience problem to deal with. It’s just worked well for us that when ‘no’ is actually heard, it’s respected from lack of over-use. Letting my default answer, as a Mother, be ‘yes,’ is allowing my children to blossom as the individuals they are, and to freely be themselves. It’s allowed me to guide them, not control them. And it’s made our day-to-day so positive—every day!
(Sherpa: my Mother)
My Mom was always good at putting herself in other people’s shoes. She is compassionate and caring—she will get down and cry with you and feel what you’re feeling with you, or she’ll laugh with you when you think something’s funny. I learned a lot watching this characteristic in my Mom, and once I was a Mom, she reminded me to always put myself in my kids’ shoes. When they’re acting out, they’re just needing us to figure out what they really need. Children (and this is even true for teens + adults!) don’t try to be bad… they try to fill voids. They don’t need our frustration; they need our understanding. We’ll never identify with a tantrum over a blanket having to be in the dryer for 30 minutes. Unless we remember that as 2-year olds, we had no concept of time either. That as far as anyone’s concerned, the blanket’s gone forever in a hot spinning vortex of death. If that were actually the case, it’d be more than enough reason for a meltdown. I’ve found that as long as I’m empathizing, it’s bringing calm, not adding chaos, which has made a smoother ride every time.
“SMILE A LOT.”
(Sherpa: my Husband)
Almost my entire first pregnancy was during a deployment, so, I mean, it was easy to dwell on what Jesse was missing, and how just flat-out depressing it was we couldn’t experience it all together. But he always reminded to do one thing: smile. “Just remember to smile a lot,” he would say. You probably know this, but smiling actually releases feel-good chemicals into your brain, and during pregnancy, your baby actually feels those feel-good chemicals, too! (Isn’t that amazing?) So not only did I take that advice during pregnancy, but I make sure to now, as well, and you know what? It’s awesome. It’s awesome because it’s contagious. Smile at a baby… they smile back! Smile at a toddler… watch it build their trust! Smile at a stranger… it can change their day! Smiling has a power often taken for granted. One of my favorite quotes is “Peace begins with a smile.” You have all the power to bring a little bit of peace to those around you wherever you go. Especially to your children! Remember that!
Motherhood is a never-ending excursion. Once you’re a mother, you’re a mother forever. Climbing the tallest mountain in the world is not to be taken lightly; neither is the Divinely-delegated responsibility for other souls. You get one shot each day; there are no replays here.
So keep your eyes and ears open! Learn from others’ mistakes. Learn from others’ victories. Learn from their experiences. Give yourself the best mile-markers on your map that you can, and always remember that your children were given to you because they need the person that you are to become the people they are meant to be.
At the end of the day, this is your journey with them.
Take advice intended to ease your ascent,
then DO YOU!
And enjoy your climb!