4 Essential Lessons of Motherhood

(one from each child and yes, I’m also counting our dog)

Happy Mother’s Day 2018!

capturing a moment — ice cream Mickey’s at Disneyland

I write this from where I woke up, in a twin bed trying to stay warm under a too small Little Mermaid blanket because my youngest stole my spot in the king bed with the 600-thread-count-bamboo-perfect-temperature situation. Let that be a reminder of the sacrifice of motherhood.

But seriously, motherhood is the opposite of sacrifice. What is the opposite of sacrifice? Gain? Win? Claim? I couldn’t find a word that captured the opposite of sacrifice so I’m trying this Hindi word out: बलिदान के विपरीत (balidaan ke vipareet). It literally means “opposite of sacrifice”. Motherhood isn’t forfeiting or abdicating, it’s filling. It fills your cup. That’s for sure. Growth? Development? Amplification? Magnification? Those are better words for it.

Yet sometimes it feels like a sacrifice because it’s so full of surrender, but the liberating kind, not the giving up kind. It’s letting go to make room for more. It is more. More than you’ll hope for, more than you’ll expect, more than you feel capable of, more than you can handle, more than your heart can hold. It’s more of life. What could be better than that? Through becoming a mother I get to experience more of my one wild and precious life.

I’m really feeling it this morning so I thought I’d take a moment for reflection. Here are my early morning takeaways. One lesson per kid. Fairness is a big deal around here.

1) When you’re excited, act on it. When I’m doing crafts or experiments with my kids, the ideas cannot. be. contained. I see the lightbulb appear above their heads and then they want it realized the very next moment. It’s part inspiration, part imagination, part manifestation, part impatience, and they run with it. They run to the craft station, grab supplies, start cutting, gluing, assembling, delegating. They make it happen and then evaluate.

Or not. They don’t over-invest in contemplating, planning, deliberating, deciding, strategizing, buying, doubting, judging or evaluating. The only “pro” is doing it and there are no cons. They just indulge in the feeling of creating. Does it always turn out like they’d hoped? No. Do they always have an expectation when they start? Not necessarily. Sometimes it turns out better than they knew they could. Sometimes the unexpected results are even more fun. Sometimes the process reveals a new technique, methodology, or idea that will inform their next project.

They just create and because of their approach and enthusiasm, it’s rewarding every time. Imagine if we approached our work in the same way. Would we waste resources? Potentially. Would we make unexpected discoveries? Probably. Would we fail more? Likely. Would excitement, anticipation, thrill, and joy permeate our process more often? Definitely.

2) When you give your body what it needs, it responds with boundless energy to maximize your time. In this family, we focus on daily and life systems that are effective, that serve the individual, that serve the family, that serve our future. That often means taking care of fundamentals such as making good choices, restorative bedtime routines, mindful mornings that set the tone for the day, limiting screen time, aforementioned creative time, approaching others with generosity and kindness, and cultivating a happy heart.

Key to a happy heart is paying attention to and being responsible for our bodies. If we leave the house, the kids know they are accountable for having the right footwear to power through the day, enough layers for any weather, snacks and water to fuel up and manage moods, and a token of comfort (blanket, stuftie, toy) to minimize stress or rest on the go.

When they choose sugar or slippery princess shoes or forget a jacket, we talk about consequences. It’s an iterative process that’s not perfect, but safety, comfort, efficiency, and exploration are family priorities and we need high, sustainable, healthy energy to accomplish our goals. We don’t obsess, but we listen to our bodies. Hungry? Eat. Tired? Rest. Restless? Play. Curious? Explore, read, study. And importantly, say what you want. Make your needs known respectfully and in the context of the situation.

More importantly, know what you want, long-term and moment by moment. Let your desires, happiness, and fulfillment create good energy and share your zest throughout the day with each other to influence the collective energy that propels your family forward.

3) When you are deeply passionate about your day-to-day, your future takes care of itself. Good begets good. Put another way, and one of my favorite concepts of all time, how you spend your days is how you spend your life. When you plan your days, mix in spontaneity, structure, purpose, open-endedness, investment in the future, and leave room for cream. Build in systems that work for you, that facilitate your life, that allow you to handle your essential business, but also, let your heart guide you.

As mentioned, kids are great at diving right in, but you know what else they are great at? Capitalizing on moments. They know when to stop and smell the flowers, when to ask for ice cream, when to jump in the pool. They don’t miss anything and they trust their intuition about when to linger, when to savor, when to bounce, when to move on. To outsiders, it may feel flaky or haphazard, but if you pay attention and the moment warrants it, you’ll see, a child can stay engaged, and truly present, for longer than you can imagine. You’ve just gotta hold the space for them.

If they are into something, go there with them. Be in it together. It’s a trick to expanding the moment (and expanding life)! Ask “and then what?” Start with “what would you like to do today? What’s next? What else? What do you love? What are you excited about? What do you want to learn? Who do you want to spend time with?” Or don’t ask at all, just follow their lead or even be still together.

Sometimes I get more insight to their quality of thinking and perspective on life by observing them working it out on their own, by watching them find the words or find the courage to make the next move. Likewise, if they are done with an activity, an idea, or a person, respect their boundaries.

Try to do this for others in your life too, your colleagues, your family, yourself. I recently read that as adults, we are more likely to act on what we expect than what we want. That feels really different than how my kids approach life. By knowing what we want, then modeling how to show up without expectation, we are trying to help them learn to balance that fragile tension between present and future, between desire and expectation.

And when you do find your sweet spot, stay in it long as you can, trust what’s next, savor your present. Staaaaay awhiiiile. It’s deceptively easy, right? The joys of childhood are infinite, but they’re also the best example of how fast life moves. No moment, no matter how magical, has exactly the same magic of the previous or the next one — too many ever-changing variables. Try not to miss the magic of now and don’t judge the moments relative to each other (or at all if you can help yourself).

4) When you choose a partner, pick the right one because your choice will be reflected back to you in your children by their looks, temperaments, preferences, attitudes, approach, likes/dislikes, outlook, expressions and more.

We don’t have a perfect marriage, but we are deeply committed, in love and loving, and have a lot of trust and fun together. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our kids are such mini versions of us, I can’t imagine parenting a child that reminded me of someone I wasn’t crazy about. Our oldest daughter is me. Our oldest son is my hubby. Our youngest daughter is 25% me, 25% hubby, 25% big sis, 25% big brother. It’s a joy to watch them, to learn from and with them, to experience life together. But the best part? Watching them do things the way daddy does and remembering how I watched him do it when we were dating and then falling a little deeper in love with both of them. (I hope he sees me in them too and feels the same way).

It’s also a gift watching them do it my way and feeling pride and responsibility in equal measure. And it’s rewarding watching them interact as siblings and realizing that my husband and I are showing them how to treat each other with respect and fairness, modeling how to work together, work on it, work it out. We mess up, but we lead with love and we want our kids to feel that love lifting them up as they approach their lives and dreams too.

I love being a Mama! Congrats to all the mothers out there doing a beautiful job and loving every minute of it. And to those Mamas having a rough time, please know that all the mothers all over this spectacular world stand in solidarity with you. You, your children, and your families deserve every happiness and we pray for it and you. Please reach out anytime. Happy Mother’s Day.

Life and business coach for women. KristiAndrus.com I help moms design lives they love, so they can build businesses that set them free.

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