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The 5 most unexpected, beautiful lessons from my 5 years of motherhood

The lessons from parenting aren’t always easy, but they will change the ways we engage with the world.

The 5 most unexpected, beautiful lessons from my 5 years of motherhood

Exactly five years ago, at 9:21 a.m., I got the first glimpse at the soul who made me a mother.


The doctor put her on my belly and I looked at her in awe. When they announced excitedly “It’s a girl,” I barely registered that information. I was staring at the perfectly formed tiny human that I grew for 42 weeks. I made that—and it was perfect! I admired the button nose, the chubby cheeks, the beautiful, perfect ears in disbelief. Wow! So this is what a miracle looks like!

We get to do all of that inside our growing bellies. It requires no thinking, not (many) deliberate activities or conscious action on our part. It just happens because that’s how nature made it happen.

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It’s magic.

What I didn’t know back then was that this tiny bundle of clenched fists and layered fluff would initiate the deepest, most profound transformation, soul evolution and mind-blowing personal development for me.

Today she is 5 and we’ve been busy celebrating her latest desire to be a mermaid. I’ve baked a sugar-free cake, the lemonade dispenser is empty and I can now sit down and share with you some of the things I’ve learned these past five years.

1. Parenting a child became revolutionary the moment I realized that this is my chance to reparent myself

The way I was parented was not ideal for me. I wish I were held when I was sent away to my room. I wish I were taught to ask questions rather than memorize. I wish I were supported in making mistakes and learn from them instead of striving for perfection.
I strongly believe that my mother and father loved me deeply, the best they could. But that doesn’t mean that was good enough for me.

So, when I had a child, all the painful memories of my childhood once again resurfaced. I thought them healed or at least gone. They weren’t.

When my daughter did something similar to what I did when I was small, I had a choice to react the same way my parents reacted to me and continue the cycle, strengthening the belief that it was the right thing. When she became angry, I could send her to her room to deal with it. That would have been the easiest for me. But then I remembered how that felt. Lonely. Raging. Misunderstood. “Me against them.”

So I didn’t.

Instead, I sat there, in the middle of her anger storm and took it all in. I allowed her to cry as loud and as long as she wanted to. I encouraged her to express it all, even (and especially) when it wasn’t “proper.” While I stood there, battling my demons and desperately repeating to myself, “I am a good mother. This is not about me. This is her right to be accepted and loved unconditionally.” And guess what? Eventually, the storm passed. The anger passed. And the silence followed. And that’s when the good stuff comes. Holding her, telling her that everybody has big feelings and that it’s perfectly okay to take them out of your body, mind, and soul. The soft, deep tears at the end. Hers. And mine. Mixed.

She healed her anger.

I healed my past.

I was kind when I could have been distant.

I stood still when I could have run away.

I opened up to feel sadness and helplessness, even when it was excruciating.

Everything my children do is an opportunity for me to repeat the history or create a new pattern of behavior and thought that would affect not only me and my children but the generations to come.

Sitting in pain is hard. But it passes. It always does. And that’s when the good things start happening. If we check out for the hard stuff, we are opting out from the growth and healing that come after.

2. When it’s difficult physically, it’s the most rewarding emotionally

The first year of the baby’s life is, in my opinion, the hardest. Birthing hurts and leaves scars, both physically and emotionally. Breastfeeding can be challenging and sometimes very painful. Lack of sleep is a medieval torture method. Adjustments must be made in identity, relationships, roles and responsibilities and the person I thought I was but no longer am. It’s transformational.

But that first year when my struggle was at its highest peak, that tiny baby who entered my life had one emotional role: to love me. She wanted to be held the entire time, cuddled, adored and snuggled. She could look in my eyes for hours and sleep while holding my finger very tight. She showed me what unconditional love meant for her and helped me remember and rediscover mine. It was hard work because I never knew that I could be somebody else’s everything.

3. When it becomes easier, it only gets deeper

When my baby started sleeping longer, becoming more self-sufficient, eating by herself and doing things more independently, that’s when I felt I was given the mental space so I can deal with the next stage:

tantrums, anger and tears

frustrations

questions

My child cried for 45 minutes because her cereal wasn’t crunchy enough.
She asked me “why do you like me, mama,” “what’s my risponsibilitee” and “why did the iPad battery finish and will my battery finish as well” in a span of 20 minutes.

Yes, I was gifted more sleep, but I need that so I can come up with better answers to these questions.

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4. Everything that is triggered in me by my child has more to do with me

All moms get triggered by different things. While for you, allowing your kids to roam freely during dinner and just come for a bite here and there is a perfectly fine way to conduct life, for another mother this is quite possibly borderline insanity. The difference? How we relate to these experiences based on our own history.

So when my child stands up during dinner time to go fetch a toy, I could just say, “Please sit down, we are all still eating dinner.”

That normally doesn’t happen.

Instead, many of us bring out the big guns almost immediately:

“If you stand up from the table there is no more food!”

“You’re driving me crazy! I’ve been preparing this food for hours, and all you do now is take a bite and leave!”

“Go to your room. Dinner is over!”

“Sit down right now. Otherwise, I will take all of your toys away!”

“You are disrespecting me!”

“Really? Is this something you really MUST do right now? Really?”

“I’ve been working hard so I can put this food on the table! You now sit down and eat it!”

In reality, we are mostly reacting from a place of hurt.

I was raised with a scarcity mentality. There was never enough; there might not be more tomorrow, the food was precious and everybody had to finish their plate even when it wasn’t necessary or enjoyable. I understand why my parents did it. They were subjected to this as children of parents who had to survive during not one, but two wars, lack of food, safety and love.

I’m grateful I don’t have to battle with this anymore, so I choose to let it go. When my kid is full, I respect her judgment and body. When she doesn’t like the food I cooked, I am sure to make a note of her preferences without taking it personally.

It’s never about something that my child does. It’s all how I view it from my own experience. But the unconscious, knee-jerk reaction is almost always the same one I encountered as a child. The biggest triggers I feel gravitate around food, expressing negative emotions, self-discovery, perceived danger and academic results.

5. The way I talk to my child is the way she will talk to herself and others

I discovered this as I was eavesdropping during bedtime. I put the kids to bed one evening and I stepped out. The three of them share a room—and one of them is noisier than the other two.

My oldest daughter was softly whispering, “It’s ok, I’m here with you and I love you very much. You are safe. Just close your eyes, cuddle your Mimi and think about all the happy things that happened today.”

Noisy child continued making noise. She followed, “Now I’m serious! You close your eyes! It’s time! Right now!”

Even though it was funny, I could hear myself in her words.

The other day, just before bedtime she was making a list of all the things she loves: “I love my family, I love my papa the most, I love my mama, I love my brother, I love my sister, I love my Mimi, I love myself, I love my toys, I love my bed. The end.”

We talk about self-love, self-compassion and treating ourselves and our bodies with kindness, gentleness and love. And now, she says it out loud “I love myself.” It was the proudest I’ve ever felt as a parent. What more do I want to instill in my child if not a base of self-love?

In many homes around the world, however, parents still believe in “tough love,” telling the kids they are not enough, they are not doing enough and they haven’t achieved enough—in an effort to so motivate them to do more.

And while this goal might be reached and those kids will indeed become more successful, their inner dialogue will mirror the words they heard: “you are not enough,” “you are not doing enough,” “you haven’t achieved enough.”

These are my lessons. While not all have been easy to accept or allow in my heart, they have been radically changing the way I think, behave, love and react to my children and the other people around me.

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I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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