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  • BY VANESSA LAGOA

Eight Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Mother

I used to be the perfect mother: then I had kids! Before becoming a mother, I had such a vivid picture of what motherhood would look like: Carefully chosen, color-coordinated outfits would adorn my squeaky-clean little cherubs each day. They would obviously be exceptional students, inheriting my love for reading. Perhaps they would be Boy Scouts, tennis players, and maybe even play the cello. I envisioned Pottery Barn themed rooms which they played so gracefully in together, laughing, rolling the dice in playful games of Chutes and Ladders. I imagined looking in on moments like this with my husband, while we admired our peaceful children and how well they got along.


Oh, how cute and naive I once was! Being a mother is the hardest job I’ve ever loved. I am grateful for the five amazing sons I have and for the two beautiful girls I was a “foster mother” to for periods of time over the years. Each child has taught me lessons about motherhood, and about myself. While being a mother is the most rewarding role I have ever been grateful enough to have, it is the most challenging!


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Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Mother

Being the “mother of many” I am often asked for advice about parenting. The truth is, I genuinely believe that like most things, practice makes better, and parenting is no different. That being said, after years of being in the role of a mother, I offer some advice. Here are eight things I wish I had known before becoming a mother that I hope will offer you some relief as you enter this phase of life!


1.Tune out the opinions of others and trust your gut!

This is perhaps one of the most crucial pieces of advice that I can give to you about being a mom. While there are lots of methods of parenting and even more theories on how to parent best, the only way to do it effectively is to follow the one that feels best for you. Everyone from your relatives, your co-workers and old ladies at the grocery store will tell you how to do things. You will hear, “Don’t put a blanket on them in the crib”, “Wait until they are six months old to introduce solid foods”, “Read to them every night”, “Don’t let them go to daycare”, “Oh, they should definitely get a flu shot” and the like constantly. If you heed the unsolicited advice of everyone you come into contact with and every keyboard warrior on the internet, you may very likely become a totally overwhelmed mess! Instead, if you are looking for advice, ask mothers you admire for their opinion or find trusted sources who you can rely on to gather information from to sort through. I have found that my gut never lies to me, and I am best to listen to it if I am trying to make a decision. Don’t ignore yours!


2.Prioritize your own traditions.

When I first became a mother, I knew I wanted to be with family and friends on Christmas Eve and I wanted to wake up on Christmas morning with my son who would open up his toys from Santa then play with them all day without having to get out of his pajamas. I never wanted to be rushing around to get him dressed up to go here, there and everywhere, and I wanted it to be a “chill” day. I was lucky that my parents accepted that new tradition and would come to our house to enjoy a lazy day with us. It is so important early on in motherhood to set traditions that feel right as to not end up resentful for feeling “forced” into traditions that may no longer align with your values as a parent. Blended families can pose an added layer of planning and it’s important in those situations to remember that holidays can be celebrated any time on any day! Kids are amazingly resilient and don’t tend to stress about “the day” but rather the time spent together.


3. Compare yourself and your children to no one else.

Comparison is the thief of joy! Every child is unique and every child’s timeline will look very different and that is okay! One of my boys walked at ten months old, and another closer to a year old. I remember being a little anxious, wondering why one was “delayed” but had to remind myself that like adults, children do things at different times. Organizations like the CDC put out guidelines for early childhood development. As parents, we need to be reminded that they are just that: guidelines! If we knew exactly when a baby would take their first steps, how boring would that be? It’s the anticipation that leads to the excitement we have come to enjoy. Many children will pick up things like reading earlier than others, but comparing your child to another won’t serve yours any better. Quite the contrary. Let your child develop and adapt naturally, and enjoy watching them grow!


4.Don’t judge your parenting based on “phases” of your child’s life.

One of the most challenging parts of being a mother for me has been the negative self-talk about how I am “doing” as a parent. I have found myself at my points feeling like a failure or “less-than” simply because my child was struggling with something or experiencing some significant challenges. All kids will go through tough phases of their childhood, sometimes acting out or participating in activities or behaviors that make you feel are reflective of poor parenting. The odds are they are trying to find themselves, and need help managing these things. You cannot beat yourself up or judge your parenting as a whole based on these tough times! Tough times pass.


5.Don’t wait for anyone to offer help: just ask.

I do not like to ask for help. I spent many years trying to do everything on my own, believing there was some prize for independence. News flash: there is not! They say it takes a village (I still don’t know who “they” are, but…) but you may not have one. If that is the case, ask for help from neighbors, join a mothers group, or find a trustworthy teen in the neighborhood who may be able to help you out. I find that people usually want to help but aren’t sure how. I know that when someone specifically tells me what I can do to alleviate stress for them, I’m happy to lend a hand. Just ask. Mothering is an important role and a very all-encompassing one, but NO mother should ever have to carry the load of it all alone. It is not healthy, safe or sustainable. Please, just ask for what you need. (And always seek medical attention if the weight of things becomes too heavy to handle. Depression, especially post-partum is very real and there is NO shame at all in asking for help managing this!)


6. No is a complete sentence.

I am coming around to the idea of “gentle parenting”. I have a close friend who has mastered the art of being present, being patient, and explaining things to her children so beautifully. I admire her and her relationship with her two sons. Her ability to have real conversations with them and allow their input on things is impressive to witness and I strive to be more like her. But let me tell you, I don’t (yet) possess the patience that she has! I am a child of the 80’s where “Because I said so” was frequently the answer. While there are many times I give my children the opportunity to make decisions, I have come to understand why my parents had that phrase on speed dial! I say that “no is a complete sentence” not so much because I don’t value my children’s input but more so because I have learned that the word, “maybe” or phrase “we’ll see” are traps! If the answer is emphatically no, make that clear to your kids instead of giving them false hopes! I do subscribe to the theory that ultimately I am the mother and it is my job to make final decisions for my children, even when the answer is “no” and that may bring major upset or disappointment.


7. Say what you mean, mean what you say

If you feel immense love for your children: tell them! If you feel like you made a mistake, maybe you blamed your child for something they didn’t end up doing: say you’re sorry. Show your children about vulnerability by being authentic with them. I have been very real and honest with my children about things that have been difficult to talk to them about. Divorce, death, addiction: these are not topics many of us want to discuss with our children, but having meaningful, honest conversations with them will not only teach them that when you say they can come to you, they can, but it will build their trust in you. 


8.Take your expectations and shove them!

If I had to give only one survival strategy for motherhood it would be to take all your expectations and throw them out the window, flush them or bury them! Some of the most amazing times I have had with my children have been when I had no specific plan or desired outcome! I have had to let go of what I wanted as I allowed for them to discover what they want for themselves. This may be easy for some mothers, but I am not one of them! I am a semi-retired control freak who still struggles with not being behind the wheel at all times. Motherhood is a wild ride, a journey, a true gift but if you think you are going to be the maestro or the conductor, I have news for you: your kids may not want to be in the band! Let go of the “shoulds” and ditch the rulebook. Create your very own story, free of the expectation, the weight of other people's opinions and create memories that you can cherish for a lifetime.


Whether you are a stay-at-home mother, a working-mother, a step-mother, a mother of one or a mother of many, enjoy the ride. It is true when “they” say that the days may be long, but the years fly by. Embrace the chaos of motherhood!


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Vanessa Raymond with Her Nation Magzine
Vanessa Raymond | Confidence & Success Coach, International Speaker and Author


Meet the author:

Vanessa Lagoa is a typical suburban mother to FIVE amazing sons. She has spent the last 17+ years balancing being a business-owner, wife, and busy mother. She aims to share her experiences with you as you navigate motherhood!

  

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