6 lessons I learned from parenting my 6-year-old

It doesn't matter how many parenting books you read or who's advice you seek, you will never truly be ready for motherhood. This is what writer, Dana Santos, learned. Click here to read her story.

Does motherhood change you? While most mothers say “yes,” I’m more inclined to answer, “If you let it.” But biology and my own experience make for a compelling and amazing change.

 

6 Important motherhood lessons I learned

Bigger brain for a more open heart

Did you know that while a mother’s brain shrinks during pregnancy by 6% (to render her nest-bound and minimize risk to the fetus), the brain goes back to its normal size after birth and eventually gains mass? According to researchers, this is the way our body gives us the cognitive resources to handle our new role as a mom. I suspect this is also how we can make a bottle with our eyes closed, too.

Is it that significant a change? The same pattern has been seen in rat studies, and when compared to non-mother rats, the mothers usually do better in problem solving, stress management and decision-making. Now you know where we get the prescience to anticipate every emergency and get all the details right!

Goddess in the House

6 years in, I can say I’ve stayed true to some of the vows I made to my child and myself, and at the same time I’ve had to break a few to keep on going. Here are the lessons I’ve learned:

1. You don’t sacrifice, you give your kids what they deserve

Lots of mothers think that staying at home or forgoing some of their creature comforts for their children is because they’re ‘sacrificing’. That would mean you gave something up. How I think about it is that you gave birth to your child while they never asked for it. You have to give them what they deserve in exchange for being born to you. You don’t sacrifice what you’re willing to give for someone who’s now stuck with you without a choice.

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2. You never turn away help and you ask for it when you need it

The image of the selfless mother usually entails the lone, alabaster figure weathering the trials of her children and her family with grace and poise.  I say, you take whatever help you can, especially when it comes in the form of free babysitting. Refusing help on the grounds that you can do it on your own is immature—motherhood means that you accept and appreciate anyone thinking about you with an open heart.

3. You have to be whole if you want to be a good parent

I’ve had to leave my hang-ups at the door (to the delivery room) and get my act together. How could I even think to control and direct someone else’s life when I didn’t have control over mine? When you’re a mother, you have to let go of your insecurities and a lot of your old, small fears and be a benevolent being to this tiny vulnerable person.

4. You have to be your best self—all the time

I think that this is the hardest part about being a mother. As much as possible, you have to keep the best things about yourself at the surface and create an impenetrable barrier to your worst self underneath that. Why should you do this? Being your worst self can cause irreparable damage to your child. We can never know how our children view us—so wouldn’t it make sense that you be your best self all the time?

5. You must love yourself more or you can’t love freely and unconditionally

How can you be your best self and do all that when you feel awful, ugly and unhealthy? So don’t be a hipster and say that buying in to the beauty industry is being duped. Get a massage, a facial and even the most expensive hair treatment you can afford. These are actually healthy for you! Buy a library’s worth of books, a lifetime’s worth of games or a closetful of bags and shoes. Don’t scrimp on your happiness—how else can you make your family happy if you aren’t?

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6. You learn your limits—and you break them

I think that this is the most fulfilling part of being a mother. You realize you don’t know how to cook, to clean, to teach a toddler or to repair a sink while working professionally. You think that you can’t do all that—but you can. You learn and you feel better about it because some things just don’t faze you anymore.

Motherhood is always about you

What a lot of us don’t understand is that motherhood isn’t about the children. It’s actually about you and your self-actualization. Your children and your family should be the ones who benefit from your transformation into your best self, and your life should always move forward and be fuller than it ever was.

So keep flexing those bigger brains and be the goddesses you are, mommies!

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