Becoming a mother at 19 could have been something that either broke me or shaped me. Even without any wisdom and barely any knowledge as a first time mom, I knew that this could be a learning experience. I thought this would be at the detriment of missing out on “discovering myself” like my college friends had the chance to do. It wasn’t until I turned 30 this year however, that I realized that the first decade of adulthood and motherhood were the catapult for me becoming the woman my kids would be proud to call mom.
Looking at 20-year-old Danielle through the lens of gratitude, I realize she shone light on a lot of life lessons!
Body image: So many people said, “Just wait until you’re 30, you won’t be able to eat what you want and not gain a pound!” Boy were they right! I hate to admit that, but sciences proves it. The human growth hormone (HGH) slows down, and with that comes a slower metabolism. In my early 20s, I ate sparsely with just one toddler to keep alive. This led to bad eating habits of skipping meals for days. I learned that health wasn’t a number on a scale or being able to see your collarbone. Body image was something I became conscious of and secured a good frame of mind about. With this body carrying me many more decades to come, eating healthfully became the focus.
Friends: Some will stay and some will go. Obviously I lost some party girl friends choosing to stay at home with a newborn, and when children number two and three came along, the schedule tightened and sleep became more of a priority. I wasn’t prepared for friendships that would dissipate without realizing it until months down the road. Entering 30, I wanted to fight hard for friendships that mattered and willingly let go those that weren’t healthy.
Vulnerability: In the words of Dr. Brene Brown, “ Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.” Being vulnerable with myself first — my mistakes and hang-ups and bad habits that were otherwise marked as defeat — led to open doors in other relationships. I truly believe if we were more raw and true with those we love, others would learn to do the same.
Faith: In a world where everyone wants a label of some sort — craving connection and community — it’s okay to be a Believer of Jesus and His love. At 20, faith was a convenience. “Lord, please, if you will see me through to the next paycheck I promise to give back double to those in need when I’m able!” Faith became such a necessity as a mom. More than a convenience, it was my hiding place, my growing space, and where some of life’s hardest lessons were dealt with away from other’s judgment.
Marriage: One wise woman said something along the lines of, “Believe your husband’s every compliment.” As a 22-year-old, I thought “Duh! Of course I will!” But then I gained a lot of weight during pregnancy, and cellulite and spider veins followed behind. I stopped believing him and saw myself in a mirror of dissatisfaction. Being a mom to two little girls, that mirror had to become my friend. A reflection to them was an investment in conscious language I was willing to take!
Kegels: Can I take a brief moment to say that you have my blessing to give up the rigid kegel exercises your doctor might have prescribed? If you’ve been a mother for even just one hour, you’re already wetting on yourself. Try to jump or sneeze without leaking a little, and you’ll think your body has failed you. It’s inevitable. Nothing makes a mom humble quite like realizing some body changes are just there to stay.
Kids: I could give 100% of myself to my kids every single day and become burned out and ungrateful that they didn’t verbally recognize sacrifices. Or, I could take some time to be grounded in my role as a mother. Is it that I need to give them all of me? Or should I open up space for other mentors in their life? Let them wander alone and make some mistakes? I have found that letting go of my role as “leading lady” in their life opened up so many doors for them and myself!
Be thankful: Those quick hashtag quotes won’t work being someone who finds gratitude in the mess. I had to practice it often, becoming thankful first in the small potholes and big ditches life had to offer. Solutions can’t be found while wallowing in disappointment and distress.