Now that I’m on that other side of parenting (meaning my three sons are mostly grown and I’m no longer in the trenches), I’ve had some time to reflect. When I say reflect,I mean think about things I think I got right and things about which I was off base. There are things I wish I had known—things I would tell my younger self about being a mother if I could.
Here is some of what I would say…
Dear Younger Me,
I am not going to tell you to enjoy every minute of parenthood because, if I offer that advice, I know you will find a way to reach across time, into the future, and smack me (and you would also think an imposter was writing to you). While one kid is vomiting and another is shrieking and the third is out of sight and up to mischief, it’s hard to think about how fleeting time is.
I realize that from where you’re standing right now, time may as well be standing still. Just know that the time will pass and, despite their best efforts to break you, you will survive (mostly) intact.
Give them your all but-
Save a little something for yourself. I threw myself into parenting because it’s the job I
wanted. However, I wish I had done just a tiny bit more for myself. Like writing—I know I barely had time to think, much less create cogent and insightful sentences but I wish I had held tighter onto the things that were important to me. I’m grateful to get a chance to do more now but I wish I hadn’t waited so long. So, younger me, please listen and nurture yourself, as well as those children. Carve out a little time for you.
Stop worrying so much-
I know you can’t help worrying. Unfortunately, that’s not going to change in the future. But I can tell you that all the worrying you are doing is a huge waste of time and effort. At least try and dial it down a notch if you can. Or start meditating a little so you can be a tiny bit more Zen.
You’re not screwing them up-
Good news; despite a few mistakes we made along the way, they all turn out fine. They are actually pretty hardy and resilient creatures. Even the high strung one. In fact, they are more than just fine—they are terrific. They aren’t necessarily any tidier but they are good people who care about each other, their friends and girlfriends.
Yes, you read that right; I said girlfriends.They are now human enough to have significant others—really nice ones you’re going to like. You will finally have other females in the house. And, as a bonus, I want you to know the kids will be able to get jobs and support themselves.
It’s just a phase-
The baby who wakes up all the time? He does learn to sleep through the night. And that kid who only eats pasta? He will start eating chicken and veggies at some point. How about the one who keeps having tantrums and throws things when he loses? Yup, he will stop doing that. In fact, he’s so docile now it’s hard to believe he’s the same person. And how about the one who can’t manage his money? OK—we are still working on that one but I’m guessing he learns how to do it someday soon.
My point is, although their personalities don’t completely change most of the behavioral stuff really is just a phase.Just ride it out like you would a wave and know that some new weird behavior will come along before you know it. And that even if it doesn’t, it eventually ceases to be your problem (at least to some degree).
Despite the craziness and lack of money and time, work on keeping the marriage magic going. Try and go out a little more; the kids will be fine without you. I know you want to be with them but they really will grow up and have their own lives. You need to make sure you and the hubby still have things to say to each other after they are gone.
I don’t want to tell you everything that is going to happen—some of it is amazing and some,
well…you will get through the bad things too. And at the end of the day you will even still havea sense of humor.
Most of all I want you to know two things:
You did a great job and I’m proud of you.
When it’s all said and done you will be so glad you did it all.
So hang in there. I will check in on you again and, if you need me, feel free to reach out and I will be there for you.
This piece originally appeared in Marlene’s hometown publication The Inside Press.