The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.
~ Jessica Lange
There seem to be two kinds of women in the world: the baby fanatics and the not-so-maternal. I fall into the latter category.
Prior to becoming a mama myself, I was seldom in the presence of babies. I preferred to admire them from a safe distance; the idea of holding one made me a little nervous.
As I entered my 30s, I was single and free-wheelin’. My public answer to the inquiry about having kids was, “I don’t know. Maybe.” Privately, I thought, probably not. It seemed like too gargantuan a responsibility. Plus, I didn’t want to do it alone.
Looong story short, my daughter, Jade, entered the world a little over a year ago. My life since then has changed in countless splendid, challenging, predictable and unexpected ways.
Here are eight of the most important life lessons I’ve learned so far on this journey as a mom. I hope will resonate and be of benefit regardless of whether you have kids or not.
1. We figure life out as we go.
In my third trimester of pregnancy, I had a dozen sobbing breakdowns brought on by fear of the unknown. I’d never even changed a diaper; I felt utterly unready. I was completely overtaken by fear and/or hormones.
But then she was born and everything fell into place. Or, it didn’t, and it was a huge disaster, but we figured it out and got better with practice. She was born, and life became more beautiful.
“All those cliches, those things you hear about having a baby and motherhood—all of them are true. And all of them are the most beautiful things you will ever experience.”
~ Penelope Cruz
2. Life is messy.
The house is always going to be in some state of messiness, and that’s okay.
I’m never going to see the bottom of the laundry basket again. There are toys scattered all over. More often than not, there’s a mountain of dirty dishes in the sink.
Also, kids are messy. They scatter stuff everywhere. They like to play in the dirt and mud. They get food all over their faces and hands and clothes. And let’s not even get into the subject of poop. Parenthood is a lesson in letting go of any inner neat freak I may have once had.
3. I love, appreciate and accept my physical body.
It grew a tiny human! Our human systems are amazing. Thankfully, due to more pressing matters like playing with baby and cat napping, I no longer have the time or energy for self-denigration or obsessing over my chubby inner thighs and bad hair days. I am at home in my body.
4. Yoga practice can be shorter—and sweeter.
Gone are the days of spending two solid hours on the mat. I now practice in short spurts of 10 to 30 minutes or so, as often as I can. If Jade is asleep, it’s nice because maybe I can squeeze in a little more uninterrupted asana and pranayama and meditation.
If Jade is awake, she will inevitably come over and use my body to pull herself up to stand or crawl on, depending on what pose I’m in. It’s pretty stinkin’ cute. I can’t complain.
5. There are pros and cons to every age.
“Motherhood is so sentimentalised and romanticised in our culture. It’s practically against the law to say there are moments in the day when you hate your children. Everyone actually has those moments.”
The newborn phase is amazing and full of wonder, but it’s also super physically draining and emotionally taxing. Now, she’s fun and entertaining and on the verge of her first steps, but she’s also developed the skill of throwing a dramatic temper tantrum.
Point is, every age has both amazing and annoying aspects. (The same is true in adulthood, too, isn’t it?)
6. Being a parent is simultaneously the most difficult and most rewarding thing ever.
It gives you a whole new understanding of and respect for your own parents. And all the thoughtful, good parents who’ve successfully raised children throughout history.
“Motherhood has completely changed me. It’s just about like the most completely humbling experience that I’ve ever had. I think that it puts you in your place because it really forces you to address the issues that you claim to believe in and if you can’t stand up to those principles when you’re raising a child, forget it.”
~ Diane Keaton
7. My heart’s capacity is limitless.
Before I had a child—and when I was in the mindset that I most likely didn’t want to—one of my best friends made an offhand comment that she couldn’t imagine life without kids, because hers give her life its meaning. I took offense but stayed silent.
I don’t think motherhood is the only way to expand one’s ability to love. However, it is one surefire way of doing so.
I became a starry-eyed and transformed Grinch the moment my girl was born; when I saw her for the first time, my heart instantly grew two sizes bigger. I was suddenly able to deeply understand the aspiration from the Metta Sutra to love all beings, just as a mother loves her child, her only child.
“Motherhood was the great equaliser for me; I started to identify with everybody.”
~ Annie Lennox
8. This human birth and existence is simply miraculous.
This is the single most sublime and essential lesson motherhood has taught me—or rather, shown me, viscerally, vibrantly, through every moment-to-moment lived experience. I am so grateful for Jade and for my life and this opportunity to be her mother.
This human birth is precious,
our opportunity to awaken.
The body is impermanent,
and time of death is uncertain.
The cause and effect of karma
shapes the course of our lives.
Life has inevitable difficulties,
no one can control it all.
This life we must know
As the tiny splash of a raindrop.
A thing of beauty that disappears
Even as it comes into being.
Therefore I recall
My inspiration and aspiration
And resolve to make use
Of every day and night to realize it.
~ Tsongkhapa (14th century Tibetan master)
The beauty of nurturing a baby is that it completely forces us to take life moment by moment. Her immediate needs are my priority. She forces mindfulness upon me.
This is baptism-by-fire daily life practice like none other.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
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