What I Learned About Myself in the First Decade of Parenting


What I Learned About Myself in the First Decade of ParentingBecoming 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.

What about you? What have you learned about yourself through parenting? Whether it’s the first month, year, or decade, I’m sure there’s a life lesson taking shape. Someday our kids will look back on the strength of their mom and it will give them momentum in their own lives!