Birth is just the beginning

Your child’s whole life is in your hands. There is the promise of a future nestled in your arms. And not just that baby’s future, but yours, too.

Birth is just the beginning

Before many women have their first baby, so much emphasis is placed on their birth experience and success at breastfeeding. New mothers seem to believe their whole worth lay in the balance.

Yet, once your feet come down from the delivery stirrups; life goes on. Because the truth is, the evolution of becoming a mother is not something that happens overnight.

Our validation is not found after a victorious birth experience. It is a slippery elusive thing intertwined with our ability to parent and find joy in the drudgery of rearing children.

Early on, motherhood feels like a stripping away of all the elemental pieces of ourselves that brought definition. As time trudges on, you begin to realize it is not about losing hold of your “old” self, but about blossoming into a new one.

We emerge from the chrysalis of our former selves unsure if we are ready to embrace our new form and take flight. Some of us flounder. We hold on too tight to who we used to be—and miss all the possibilities that reside just over the horizon.

As we grind through sleepless nights and never-ending days wearing puke-stained yoga pants and a messy topknot to hide the fact we haven’t showered in days, it feels nearly impossible to believe something vital has not been lost.

And perhaps you are right. You will never be the same. But there is something preposterous about the butterfly mourning the loss of her caterpillar self.

Great things are in store for you and that little baby.

Your child’s whole life is in your hands. There is the promise of a future nestled in your arms.

And not just that baby’s future, but yours, too.

You are not defined by your birth plan.

You are not defined by your ability to exclusively breastfeed for the first year of that baby’s life.

You are not defined by that child’s successes or failures.

You are not even defined by your role as a mother.

You are still you; just evolved, expanded, whole.

You define what kind of woman you are going to be.

Will you fly? I hope so. While you’re sitting in your mesh undies in a hospital bed, or at home with a toddler screaming at your feet, just remember you are standing at the edge of a precipice. This is not an end.

I hope you too will launch yourself, as I did, off that edge into a new unfamiliar landscape.

Right now the days are so long and there are times that it feels nearly impossible to find any space for myself. Little hands clinging to my skirts hindering my flight. But that’s okay.

I like to smell the flowers. I will not be slowed forever. There will be a day when those little hands will be gone and I will be left with only myself.

These experiences, this slowing of time, are a honing of who I really am.

I am revealing all sorts of hidden discoveries that would have otherwise been left unearthed. Some are pretty. Some are not.

At times I find myself grasping for composure as what I once thought of as a never-ending supply of patience has run dry. Sometimes I am so very unkind to these two little beings who have taken my days hostage. But my kids have taught me the value of humbling myself when I am wrong. Their ability to forgive is so foreign in my adult landscape. I’m trying it on for size.

I have learned there are times when watches are a hindrance. My toddler has given me the ability to view the world through his unadulterated lenses. While there are times I feel so restless all I can think of is shedding this skin and running free. I know there is a lesson here; a tuning of my spirit. Motherhood has not bridled me. Seeing chains within motherhood is a lie we sometimes tell ourselves.

I choose to define myself beyond my ability to mother my children and by doing so I find a peace during the difficult parts of my day. I find definition in my job, in my role as wife, in my love of nature, books, and cookies.

I take small moments for myself so that I can nurture that little hidden place where the essence that is fundamentally just me can still whispers dreams in my ear. I believe it makes me a fuller person for my children, my husband, and myself. By not denying that I am still an individual beyond my role to my family, I am able to share that vital light.

The birth of my children is not the climax of my life.

Birth was just the beginning and now I’m prepared to fly.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But, a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4 year old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year...

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keeping an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Following children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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