Last week my daughter turned 8. I have some lovely friends who always make a point of congratulating me on my kids’ birthdays. It’s such a sweet way to be recognized. So, in celebration of my 8th anniversary of becoming a mom, I’ve put together a list of the things I love about being a mom.
This is not to say that it’s always sunshine and rainbows. Of course I’ve struggled. But that struggle has made me who I am. And had helped me to learn and grow. And since I have long had the habit of sharing the things that are hard or going wrong, I wanted to take a moment to actually see for myself and show others the things that are actually great.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but some of the things I love most. There are so many big and little things that matter.
1. Snuggles! There’s nothing like getting hugs and physical loving touch. It increases oxytocin—the hormone of relaxation, well-being and love—and it feels great to be held by someone cuddly. Waking up to a snuggly kid is one of the best feelings in the world!
2. Unconditional love—they see me at my worst: physically, emotionally, and fashionally. And yet they still love me for who I am. Somehow they see me as the most beautiful, smart, capable woman in the world (for now at least—we’ll see what happens when they’re teenagers!) and I try to see myself in their eyes and accept myself for who I am.
3. Creativity. I have friends who are artists and I never thought that was my thing. But having kids has allowed me to get more comfortable and have more fun making stuff. One of my favorite things about having unexpected down time at home (like snow days) is getting out the art supplies and unleashing our creative juices. I love to watch them make their own art and join them in the process.
4. They are my mirror. I thought I knew myself pretty well before I had kids. I was 37 when my daughter was born. I was introspective, had been to therapy, was interested in self-awareness and self improvement. But boy has motherhood really shown me who I am. Not only do they parrot the things that I say but being a mom has brought emotions to the surface that I never knew existed. Not only intense love but intense rage and fear and worry too. While I haven’t always enjoyed revealing parts of myself that aren’t so lovely, I’m glad to have gotten to know those parts so that I can be honest about who I am—an imperfect human, doing the best I can.
5. Being a better person. Similar to the one above, because they are my mirror, I have to really pay attention to how I’m behaving, what I’m saying, who I am, because they learn from it all—including the appropriate use of swear words! I’ll never forget the time my then 4 year old daughter said to a man who’d just pulled a crab out of the Hudson river, “what the fuck is that?” While I was shocked and dismayed and worried about what they would think, I was also proud that she’d at least used it properly. I still curse a fair amount, but I am more conscious about how I talk about the world. I want them to see us as all connected to each other and to recognize that we have a choice in how we relate to the world. I try to choose the positive outlook as much as I can and to show my gratitude for what we have and who we are.
6. Seeing my husband as a dad and having him as a co-parent. Admittedly, Jonathan was a reluctant dad. He’s written about it here. But when I got pregnant with my daughter, he embraced the process and was so excited about birth and parenting. We talked a lot about what kind of parents we wanted to be, we read lots of books and we still talk endlessly about it. We truly work together to do the best that we can.
7. Witnessing their relationships with friends and family. Seeing my kids find love and connection with the other people in our lives is amazing. They are able to be themselves in many different contexts and to feel loved by lots of different people. Watching them come into their own is a beautiful thing.
8. Self-confidence. I know myself better, I know what I want out of life and I know how to take care of my kids. I know for the most part what’s best. Well, that’s not totally true, but I know that even if I make a choice that isn’t the best that I can change my mind and keep working on it.
9. Watching them play. This article in the Huffington Post talked about the thing college athletes liked to hear most from their parents was “I love to watch you play”. Until I read that article I didn’t say that much, but I know I feel it constantly. Watching the joy that comes from playing, singing, dancing, reading, jumping, makes me swell with love. And now I use those words to tell my kids that.
10. Silliness! I'm a big fan of not taking myself too seriously and being able to laugh at myself. I'm sure I will be terribly embarrassing when my kids are teens, but for now, they love it when I get silly with them. We laugh, we dance, we play. It is fun!
I wrote this as a reminder to myself—on those days when it’s hard to be a mom, when I feel exhausted and overwhelmed and really unsure about what’s right. Those days do come! And when they do, I will reread this to connect back into what I really love about being a mom.
What do you love about being a mom?