“Learn from yesterday, live for today.” – Albert Einstein
When I finally emerged from that first year fog with baby number two and I was able to actually carry on an adult conversation with my mama friends, I realized that many of them were focused around our own childhoods and adolescence. We talked about how we were raised, our best times and some difficult ones. What we loved about our family and what drove us crazy. We talked about great loves and some even greater losses. We laughed out loud and sometimes cried. But ultimately, we were helping each other work through some of the tough stuff about our childhood, or ourselves, that we hadn’t let into the forefronts of our minds until we became mothers. There is something about raising little people that evokes a desire to look inwards; to learn from the past and model for them the best version of yourself.
In the summer of 2018, my first born was almost three years old and starting to become her own little person. She had feelings (big feelings) and the foundation of her personality was forming. She was very much her own person while simultaneously acquiring some of my personality traits. That’s when the obvious hit me – raising kids is a big deal. Why did no one tell me about how much personal growth happens when you enter this season? Before children, you think you have it all figured out. You are an adult and who you are now, is who you will be forever. [Insert arms crossed and nose snubbed up emoji here.] But in the midst of raising children, when you are pushed to your absolute limits and severly sleep deprived, while simultaneously overflowing with a love you didn’t know existed — you begin to grow up all over again.
So on this sticky summer day, I realized that if my children were going to model my behaviour, then I wanted to be sure that I was showing them the best version of me possible. I realized that in order to do this, I had to dissect why I was the way I was – the good and the not so good. I would have to work to be completely self-aware so that I could shamelessly accept my shortcomings and try to become better with every passing day. If at the very least, I demonstrated to them the ability to evolve and grow, then I promised myself that I would deem myself a successful parent.
Without even realizing it, I learned that this begins with going back. I know the saying, “don’t look backward, only look forward”, but sometimes you need to dabble in the past to be able to move forward with a content heart. A content heart. Sure, we can all move forward without looking back, but perhaps not without burdens weighing on us. Now, I’m not saying let’s dwell and wallow in what has come and gone, but instead, try to understand how our past experiences have formed us into the person we are. What personality traits do we want to nurture and protect vs. what we want to change? I believe, that when you become a parent, this bestows itself upon you without permission. How can I be a better version of the person I have been for 30 years now that I have two little people watching me?
I turned inwards. The deeper I delved within myself, the more I found myself in a place of acceptance – of myself, and others. I realized that I needed to accept all of who I was, instead of improvising to please others. I made mental (and written) notes of some of my areas destined for growth and decided to include them on the roster of things to work on. On the other side of the coin, I also began to celebrate my wins and give myself a little more credit for who my children are becoming. I began to love and accept people for who they were, while also setting my own boundaries. Instead of trying to change people with the rarely welcome unsolicited advice, I began loving on them. I mean, really seriously caring for them and wishing them well in this world whether it be in my life, or not.
As I began to forgive others and myself for any short comings, slip ups, quarrels, or downright meltdowns, I felt the weight I had carried around for so long slip off of my shoulders like a shawl. We need to give grace – both within and to those around us. Some days I falter, circle back, regroup, and go at it again; promising myself to never stay stagnant. A constant work in progress. Motherhood changes you… in the best possible way. It is so much more than just raising children — it is raising yourself.