What Mothering Has Taught Me: Women Share More Life-Changing Lessons
Motherhood shifts your entire life — often your entire being. Now your days are different. Now your hours are no longer your own. Now you share your life with a miraculous being who challenges you in the hardest and best ways.
And you’re likely learning all sorts of lessons along the way. Lessons about who you are, about what’s important, about how to spend your days. Below, we asked various women to share the valuable lessons they’ve learned so far.
It’s OK to mourn your previous identity. The first 4 months of Arianna Taboada’s pregnancy were terrible. She spent most days by the toilet. “I felt like a shadow of the productive, motivated, and enthusiastic person I used to be,” said Taboada, a maternal health consultant who helps pregnant entrepreneurs babyproof their business, plan for maternity leave, and navigate working motherhood.
“I had to learn a whole new way of working and navigating everyday life given the discomforts of pregnancy.” She slowed down and became more introspective. She mourned the productive, outcome-driven part of her personality. Which actually helped her prepare for motherhood. Because she’d already released a previous identity, she’s remained open. “I’m still growing into my mom identity, and it is a process.”
To nurture your child, you must start with yourself. “I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I need to care for myself if I’m going to be in any kind of shape to be a nurturing mother to my daughter,” said Kate Swoboda, the author of the Courageous Living Program and founder of the Courageous Living Coach Certification. Which is not easy to do.
Swoboda needs a lot of alone time to recharge. So she reminds herself that her ability to be patient, to be empathetic and to think clearly during challenging parenting moments is affected when she doesn’t get it.
She meets so many moms who believe they can’t ask their partners for help so they can enjoy a yoga class or coffee date. “I’d rather deal with the short-term guilt of slipping away for a break than the long-term guilt of knowing that my own standards around parenting had fallen because I was so in need of some time for myself.”
It’s important to know your strong yeses and nos. Mothering has taught writer Sarah K. Peck the power of having and expressing strong “yes” and “no” answers. Peck is the founder and executive director of Startup Pregnant, a media company documenting the stories of women’s leadership across family and work.
Before having kids, she’d wait to decide whether she wanted to attend everything from meetings to dinner. Today, if she’s waffling at all about an event or engagement, she declines. Because any wavering is a sign that it’s not a strong yes, which means it’s a strong no. And when it is a strong no, Peck communicates firmly and clearly that she can’t attend.
By making quicker decisions and being clear about them, her life has changed. “People can trust me more, depend on me, and know that when I say yes, I mean it.”
It’s important to offer yourself compassion. When psychotherapist Shonda Moralis, LCSW, has a mommy meltdown, she takes responsibility for it—and offers herself compassion. “Without self-compassion, we continue berating ourselves and remain stuck in shame, which is counterproductive to positive change.”
Moralis figures out where she got off track and how she can handle the situation next time. And she repairs the issue with her child (which often includes an apology and a long hug).