I’ve been a mother going on seven years now. It’s slightly surreal to associate a particular length of time to the experience. I am so rooted in my life as a mother, it being so tightly woven into my identity as a woman; it’s hard to remember who I was before taking on the role.
When I reflect on the young woman I was pre-motherhood, I almost don’t recognize her. It seems as if it were a lifetime ago. Nevertheless, I still feel as though I’m a complete novice in the role, every day presenting a completely new set of challenges and learning opportunities. At times, I really do feel as though I am flying by the seat of my pants and, for the most part, I’m winging it.
It’s been quite a journey, as is the case for all mothers (and mother figures)—but once you embark on it, there is no looking back. And though there’s no possible way to communicate all the victories and challenges that have governed my experience and the education I’ve received as a result, there are certain lessons I frequently reflect on and remind myself of.
Be open to motherhood as an institution of self-education
Being a parent, and particularly a mother, is a very holistic, all-encompassing human experience, and if you’re open to it, it can ripen you in the most beautiful and magical way. Early on, shortly after I found out I was pregnant, I decided that I was going to fully embrace the experience and all that came with it, rather than try to control it; I was going to leverage it to grow and develop myself to the fullest extent.
I believe people, experiences, situations, and circumstances all present themselves at particular times, and for very specific reasons. Therefore, each new day, interaction, and experience with my son Salem provides a learning opportunity for me, if I choose to perceive it in that way. And I include him in this process as often as I can. If I learn a lesson through a challenge that I’ve recently experienced or am currently experiencing, I communicate my hurdles—and what I’ve learned as a result—with him. Having Salem was, is, and always will be one long self-improvement project. By way of motherhood, I’ve learned to remain open to whatever life presents me and look for the opportunity to self-educate.
Practice patience and presence
These lessons have been two of the hardest for me to implement, but motherhood has accentuated the incredible importance of being in the present moment and having patience and compassion in my interactions with others. I actively work on this every day. I think being present is challenging in general for the average person in today’s western society; it is not woven into our culture’s DNA and as a result, does not come naturally to us. Our society, for the most part, works against our efforts to be in the present moment. There are simply too many distractions, be it technology, our day-to-day obligations, or the constant turbulence of our mental chatter.
Being present for moments with Salem—the honest and tender moments that children have to offer—has taught me so much about what it means to truly live. Our little humans are love and joy in the physical form, and they gift us these moments, should we choose to accept them. Rooting ourselves in the present opens us up to the magic of living—magic we too often miss in our efforts to keep up with life’s pace.
Go with the flow
One of the biggest learning curves for me was accepting and becoming comfortable with the idea that my priorities will be constantly in rotation, similar to that of a revolving door. One moment I may be focusing on one aspect of my life (and gaining significant momentum), and the next moment, an entirely new set of priorities will come into focus. Rather than let this be a setback, I’ve learned to relinquish control and attachment to a fixed road map, and to instead find the wisdom within life’s insecurity. There is no linear path, and I’ve learned to be less concerned with the order in which my life is unfolding—and more concerned with the values and principles that govern my response to whatever situation life presents.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to life, especially motherhood. There’s no right way to approach it; the best we can do is establish ourselves alongside a set of values we hold in high regard, and do our best each day to lead by example in their name.
Remember what matters most
Perhaps my most profound lesson as a result of motherhood came immediately after childbirth, when I was instantly made aware of what really matters in life. For me, it’s a very short list: love (from which most values originate); the health and well being of myself and my loved ones; and cultivating meaningful relationships. This knowledge roots me in happiness, and pushes everything else in life to the periphery. It was extremely freeing for me to come to terms with life’s simplicity in this way.
For all of these reasons and more, motherhood is, without a doubt, the greatest gift I have received. And I am forever grateful.