We all have preconceived notions and expectations about what our lives will look like.
For me, I always assumed that I’d marry fairly young and have a family (like generations before me). My mom got married at eighteen and had me when she was twenty. When she was my age (thirty-six) she had a sixteen year old.
That has clearly not been my story.
I sometimes find myself wishing that I’d had children far earlier (even though I didn’t even meet Brennan until I was twenty-six). I convince myself that that’s how it should have been and that somehow I have failed. I focus on how “old” I am, how “old” I will be when my children graduate from high school. I think about what they will miss out on – things like knowing their great-grandparents (something I treasure from my life, as one of my great-grandmothers lived until I was 18 and lived down the street).
This is not the way I would have chosen for it to be. I’m not the mom I thought I’d be.
And yet, because of God’s gentle grace, I’m starting to see advantages to having lived more life before becoming a mother. I’m starting to let go of those unmet expectations and, instead, to embrace the life God has given me.
It’s possible that our experience with Tori shaped me more than just the number of years I have lived; but, no matter what, I know that I am a far better mother now than I would have been in my twenties.
- I have a better idea of what my priorities should be, and cleaning isn’t at the top of the list. I always imagined that being a stay-at-home mother would mean a constantly clean house, perfectly planned meals, lots of outings, etc. because “I’d have the time.” Well, that has not played out like I imagined. There are days where I don’t get a single task done, and I’ve had to be okay with that. My boys went to MomsConnect yesterday in pajamas. I choose my battles.
- I’ve let go of my idea of having a perfectly clean house and put together life because sometimes my children demand all of my attention, and that’s my most important job. I’m a stay-at-home mother, not housekeeper (and thankfully I am blessed with a husband who agrees with that and contributes to the household chores!). A good mother goes at the pace of her children and gives them what they need, and that is something about which I remind myself daily.
- I know who I am, what my core fears and desires are, and I’m much more comfortable with myself, which makes me a better parent. There’s so much I didn’t know or understand about myself until my thirties (including new revelations in the past year thanks to the Ennegram). This has truly been my favorite decade thus far because I am increasingly at peace with myself, with how God created me, and with who I am becoming.
- I’ve gleaned wisdom from watching others parent – both from their mistakes and their successes. I also have the benefit of learning from others who have been figuring out how to parent in this age of technology, and the advantage of seeing years of research on the effects of that technology on the brains of young children. I’m so glad that I didn’t have to figure it out on my own.
- To go along with that, I’m continually being reminded that I shouldn’t compare myself to others. Yes, I can learn from them, but I cannot expect my life to look exactly like theirs (and they likely don’t actually have it all together, anyway).
- I’m learning how to show grace – to myself and to others. As an Enneagram 1 (and a perfectionist), I tend to place unrealistic expectations on myself and on others – a practice which only leads to continual disappointment. I find that I am more inclined to show grace to others if I first show it to myself.
- Continuing with the grace theme: when I recognize that others make mistakes and that not everything is intentional, it removes so much frustration from life. I try to always assume the best because I don’t know what may be happening in that person’s life. This applies to everything – driving, conversations, friendships, everything. Grace, grace, grace. There’s likely a reason why they didn’t text me back, or why they have to cancel something. There’s likely a reason why…you name it. We’ve been shown so much grace from our Father – why is it so hard to show it to others?
- I’ve had to learn that there are things in life that truly don’t matter. It doesn’t matter if the dishes are always done immediately. It doesn’t matter if there are toys all over the house. Television/entertainment for my personal pleasure doesn’t matter. What matters is that my children are cared for and loved, and sometimes that means letting tasks go undone and throwing schedules out the window.
- I’m SO much more grateful. This one definitely traces back to Tori and all that we experienced. When our boys are being typical toddlers and I feel myself getting frustrated, I take a breath and remember Tori. I remember that we would have done anything to have been able to cure her and allow her to be an unruly toddler. Remembering what we’ve lost makes me all the more grateful for what we have, as imperfect as it may be.
I may not be the youthful mother I had always imagined being, but I know that I’m far more loving, patient, wise, humble (and willing to accept advice and wisdom), laid back, and gracious than I would have been ten years ago. The Lord knew that I wasn’t ready in my twenties to become a mother. He knew that I had work to do, and I’m so thankful for His hand in my life.
If you’ve been reading my musings for any length of time I know I don’t have to say this, but I want to be clear that I’m am not saying that “I have arrived” or that I have achieved perfection. Far from it. But, I can look back with confidence and thank the Lord that I’m not the mom I thought I’d be.