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As I learn how to be a mother, I understand you so much more, Mama

You’ve been here, where I am now, deep in the trenches of motherhood.

As I learn how to be a mother, I understand you so much more, Mama

Oh, Mama, that granddaughter of yours. That sweet, strong daughter of mine. Nowadays, she insists on putting on her shoes without my help.


Sometimes, I have to close my eyes and think about something else while she does it.

Sometimes, I have to walk into another room and busy myself with another task.

Sometimes, it is so hard for me to just let her do it herself. We need to get out the door.

There are times when she overcomplicates the process, and I think, sweetie, it could be so much easier if you just let me help. I see her frustration and the way her confidence is shaken when she doesn’t get it straight away.

It’s hard for me, but I let her do it. I’m there for her if she asks for help, to offer an encouraging word, or to acknowledge her perseverance, but at the same time, I have to step back, and let her try to figure it out on her own sometimes.

I’m starting to see now that this is what you’ve been doing for me.

And Mama, I want to thank you.

Ever since she was born, and especially since her little sister was born shortly afterwards, my text messages and calls to you have increased exponentially. “Mama, I need your help.”

It’s the cry from our children that causes us to come running. It’s the cry that makes us want to drop everything and fix our babies’ problems.

But sometimes, being there for our children means just that—being there.

Thank you for being there, Mama.

Thank you for being there when I called you, cradling my slightly feverish newborn and panicking as I looked up the number for the emergency room.

Thank you for telling me that yes, you knew it was scary, and yes, you knew how worried I was, even when you knew that it was most likely the common cold she’d go on to experience many, many more times.

Thank you for being there when I needed to vent about how I wasn’t coping with the sleep deprivation, how I resented every person in existence who got to sleep for more than two hours at a time, how unfair it was, and how I didn’t recognize myself anymore.

You didn’t tell me to try this or that, sleep train, give her an extra bottle, or provide a fix-it-all solution. You listened and you let me cry tears of exasperation because when you have a baby that won’t sleep, the desperate helplessness needs to come out somehow. You knew that, and you were there.

Thank you for being there when the parenting choices I make differ to yours.

Thank you for saying things like, “Hmm...that’s interesting”, or “I hadn’t considered that perspective before,” when I tell you about a new book I’ve read or a school of thought to which I’ve subscribed.

Thank you for respecting me when I manage my children’s behavior differently to how you would have done it.

Thank you for not criticizing, dismissing or telling me I’m doing it wrong. You’re letting me forge my own path as you look on, assuring me of your support regardless of whether or not I admit that your way was the right way, after all.

Thank you for being there at three in the morning, when I have a baby finally asleep in the crook of my arm in a still, silent room, as we speak through text messages so we don’t wake anyone up.

Thank you for making it safe for me to tell you things like, “Today, I’m sick of being needed by everyone,” or, “Today, I wish they’d just grow up already.”

You’re on the other end of the tunnel, probably missing being needed and wondering how the age of littles has passed you by so quickly, but you tell me that you know—you know it’s exhausting, and overwhelming, and just about impossible some days.

When you don’t tell me to cherish every moment, that it’ll all pass so quickly, or that I should be grateful to even have these beautiful children in the first place—even if that’s all true—you allow me to be my whole, imperfect self with you. And I can’t tell you how priceless that is, Mama. I don’t need to tell you because you already know.

You’ve been here, where I am now, deep in the trenches of motherhood. And now, you’re here again, but in a different, almost poetic way—you’re here for me.

So Mama, thank you. Thank you for just being there.

I know it can’t be easy watching your own baby, who has babies of her own, trying to figure out something you mastered a long time ago, four times over. It can’t be easy to give her space, watch her grapple with something, and learn the hard way sometimes.

But I suppose you know, as I am learning now, that a huge part of being there for your child is to assure them of your unwavering support whenever, and however, they need it, while they navigate their own uncharted waters, even if you already have a pretty good map of those waters from when you embarked on a similar voyage seemingly not so long ago.

I guess, Mama, that our experiences of motherhood, although separated by decades, are not so different, after all.

And I thank you for being there for me, Mama, while I navigate mine.

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

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

Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

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Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

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