Are You Getting What YOU Need Out Of Motherhood?

As I was folding laundry this morning, I found a tiny little baby sock somehow mixed in with all my kids’ relatively large socks. Then as I folded jeans, I put a pair in my pile before realizing they were actually my son’s jeans. My babies are seven years old now. My oldest baby is 12 – a full-on pre-teen with the surliness and unpredictable maturity that comes with the territory.

It seems like just yesterday we were here:

And now we’re here:

I now have 5 kids in elementary school. I have 6 hours of kid-less time each day to accomplish things without interruptions (I still have to pinch myself daily…). I have 5 kids who can dress themselves and put on their own socks and shoes. I have 5 kids who can read. I have 5 fun people around to talk to about all sorts of interesting things and to accompany me to the library and to museums and to instigate bike rides and art projects and family read-a-thons. I’ve got 5 people who know how to do the dishes and clean up their rooms (but of course knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two different things…).

I’m loving motherhood these days. While I loved my kids’ babyhood and toddlerhood and often wish I could go back in time to cuddle their squishy little bodies, hear their babbling and first words, and see their adorable first smiles, first steps and first laughs again, I think I’ve really hit my stride as a mother with all my kids in this middle childhood stage. I think most moms have a stage of motherhood that really clicks for them. Some can’t get enough of newborns. Others adore toddlers. Some thoroughly enjoy the teenage years (and I hope that’ll be me). So far, the stage I’m in right now is absolutely delightful (most of the time) for me. And I wish I could keep these fun kids right where they are for a while – quite a while.

I heard a quote a while back by a mom who’d had a big successful career outside her home while mothering her young children. In an interview one time, she was asked whether she thought she was able to give her children the attention they needed while giving her career what was required. Her answer was something like this: “My kids turned out great. They’re fabulous people. I think they got everything they needed from me. But looking back, I feel like I’m the one who missed out. I don’t think I got everything I needed out of the experience of motherhood – and there’s no way to go back.”

I don’t want to look back and feel that way. I want to cherish this precious time when my children are at such delightful stages and when they still want to show me things and tell me things and do things with me. I need this time with my kids just as much as they need this time with me.

A couple days ago, the twins brought home a book about ancient Greece and we all read it together. Everyone was fascinated – including me. Last week I was feeling like Isaac needed a little special attention so I picked him up from school at lunchtime and took him out for a surprise date for lunch. It turned out to be the best-spent and most-fun hour I’ve had in ages. On Saturday we all worked on the back yard and I had great one-on-one chats with each child as we worked alongside each other. Two weeks ago we drove to California and actually had a wonderful time reading books and playing games in the car together for 12 hours each way (I kid you not – car trips are actually FUN now! And you can check out this article I wrote with concrete road trip ideas). Today we all sat around the table for a long time after we were all done eating dinner, just laughing and talking and sharing stories. I love this stuff. And I want to really enjoy it while it’s happening without allowing my brain to be preoccupied and my schedule to be cluttered with stuff that’s good – but that isn’t great and isn’t a “now-or-never.”

You know the saying, “Never put off ’til tomorrow that which you can do today”? My parents coined a new version: “Always put off a put-off-able in favor of a now-or-never.” Enjoying the spontaneous tackle while trying to get kids to laugh for a photo is a now-or-never. Getting a good shot of everyone can happen after the tickle party.

So while there are 1000’s of hours of Power of Moms work that needs to be done and countless other timely projects that are important to me and to others, I’m protecting my precious time with my precious kids and training my brain to focus on the here and now. I’ll get done what I can get done while they’re at school but some things will just have to remain un-done. I’ve cut back on extra-curricular activities for both me and the kids and we’re protecting family movie nights on Friday nights, time to relax together on Sunday afternoons, and family dinner time with good food and good conversation pretty much every evening. I’m striving to be with my kids 100% – physically and mentally – at bedtimes and homework time each day. I need group and individual time with these precious people who call me mom. And there is no “later” when it comes to what they need and what I need from motherhood.

NOW is the time to be with my kids. It’s also the time to embrace and support the great things that are happening with The Power of Moms (we’ve got over a million moms who are now enjoying the website and new opportunities pop up daily). I’m realizing I CAN do both; but only with carefully drawn boundaries, tons of patience, plenty of help from other great moms plus a large dose of “letting go and letting God.”

I’ll end with this poem I memorized when I was a teenager – it was cross stitched in a frame in the home of a family I used to babysit for all the time. As I played with their cute kids, I remember thinking of the day when I would have children of my own and deciding then that I would always prioritize time with my children.

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow
For children grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow
So quiet down cobwebs
Dust, go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby
And babies don’t keep

Here’s a new version of the poem that rings even more true to me today:
Websites and emails can wait ’til tomorrow
For children grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow
So quiet down projects,
Phone, go to sleep,
I’m enjoying my children
And children don’t keep.

QUESTION: Are you getting what YOU need out of motherhood? What do you enjoy doing the most with your children? Are you doing what you enjoy as much as you can and should?
CHALLENGE: Decide on one thing you will do (or NOT do) to create more space for really enjoying motherhood this week.

*** My sister Shawni spoke at a recent Retreat about cherishing the moments – a snippet of her speech is found on our page about our new Mommy is a Person video series – scroll down a bit to see Shawni’s part.

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Comments

  1. Anna Cash says

    I LOVED this Saren! My mom had a copy of that poem above our stove and it was the first thing that I memorized as a child, I’ve always loved it.

  2. soccercoach says

    I am always trying to find this balance… I am also a mother of 5. 4,5,6,7,9… We are a happily blended family and starting the new school year, the youngest two will both start kindergarten. I am trying to treasure every moment with the younger ‘twinkies’! Time goes so fast, that I am finding myself ignoring the laundry pile to focus on what’s really important. Things like walks and deep discussions about puppies and marshmallows.

  3. says

    Oh wow! I need to ponder this and re-read it. My two kids are still in the diaper phase and I think I’m going to be one of those moms who really hits her stride when the kids are just a little bit older. Newborns are HARD for me. Toddlers are fun but wear me out.

    Don’t get me wrong — we have fun. I’m just weary.

  4. tammy says

    Beautiful article! I really needed this. I have five kids ages 15-6 and wish (most days) that I could just freeze this time in my life and have it last longer than I know it will. Great reminder of what really matters. THANK YOU!

  5. Amanda says

    Loved this Saren. Jared and I were just talking about this the other night. I’m working harder at being in the moment and soaking up all that is motherhood. Thanks for stating it so eloquently. Love you!

  6. Laima says

    This was really nice. It even caused one little tear appear my eye. I am so happy to have time for my baby.

  7. says

    I have one 2yo boy, in college full time, while he’s in the nursery and I still find motherhood hard…my main emotions are worry and guilt with a little sprinkle of joy here and there..
    in a way I love this article and its sentiment but also I feel guilty – someone can manage with FIVE and I can’t manage 1…not even full time :(

    • crazymommyof5 says

      Evsie… I was a single mom of 1 working 7 days a week… im now a mom of 5… let me tell you, a lot of the time it was harder with just one child…dont let guilt rob you of memories… dont waste precious time on minutes/hours you’ll never get back… your doing right by both of you to further your education to make a great life for you both… my oldest is 14 and we have an awesome bond,and hes a GREAT kid… so focus on what youre doing..nowtwhat you could be doing differently… dont sell yourself short..you are AMAZING :)

      • says

        thank you for your comment :-) I try hard not to let guilt and worry rule my life and sometimes it just all feels too much.
        But I’m hoping it will improve as he gets older…
        I hope we have a great bond when he’s 14 too :)

    • Lourdes says

      I can relate. I have 5 little ones and I work full time because it is the only job we could find when our family company went down (when Obama was elected it killed our industry agh) anyways, I always feel like I am missing out and it makes me so sad… This article just reminds me of this :(. I’m always so jealous of SAHM moms! terrible, huh?

      • says

        Lourdes:
        No matter whether we work outside our home or not, it’s important that we look for and savor the beautiful moments with our children that are available to us. Most moms need quality time with their children for their own emotional well-being as well as that of their children. But even if we have to spend significant time away from our children, we can cultivate beautiful moments!

  8. says

    Thank you Saren for this lovely post and beautiful reminder to enjoy the precious time with our children. I recently read a related, great blog post about feeling frustrated when your kids interrupt you by Jackie Hall, and it provides a lot of insight as to why we can sometimes feel frustrated when our kids interrupt us – this can enable us to change our thinking to enjoy our children more.
    Here is the link to the great blog post:
    http://selfhelpformums.com/a_happy_mum_blog/view/4219/why_are_my_kids_giving_me_the_heebie_jeebies__to_put_it_nicely_

  9. says

    I have 1 girl and 3 boys. I can so relate! I homeschool 3 of mine. I have to remind myself not to let it pass me by even with all the time we spend together.

  10. Shylee says

    oh saren, I’m here reading this in absolute tears…. you put in to words, but I hadn’t been able to as I now realise, THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN WANTING and I didn’t realise it…..
    THANKYOU…..

  11. Dawn Wessman says

    This one made me think! I really like the the mom’s quote about getting what I need and want out of motherhood. Love ideas that shift my perspective. Wonderful family picture! Is someone taking it?

  12. Koni Smith says

    Thanks, Saren. This is great! I feel like I got a bonus with our newest little one – I have one more chance to do it right. After spending 2 hours with my 8 year old doing homework yesterday, oh was I frustrated (why do they wait until the last moment?), but I think he’s learned a lesson (I sure hope so)! I do feel so blessed to have these great kids call me mom and hope that they never stop talking to me!!

  13. says

    Thank You Saren, you filled my bucket this morning. I am Loving, Loving my teenagers right now but it always helps to remember how fast it goes and to really enjoy every moment. You just reminded me that I need to schedule some one on one time more often. Thanks for your thoughts, you said it beautifully.

  14. says

    Reading this was pure gift. I spent the morning trying to juggle a needy toddler, a needy baby, and a needy to-do list for work. Failed at being present (or productive) to any of them. I started beating myself up with the familiar “maybe I’m just a lousy mom” routine. And then I read this and realized that maybe I’m just not at the sweet spot of motherhood yet. I was so uplifted by the joy that came through your description of enjoying each child and their interests and activities. Looking ahead to “middle childhood” gives me hope today – thank you!

  15. says

    I have that same poem hanging in my kitchen. My step-mom gave it to me from her house when my first child was born. As I watch my 16 month old interact with my 13 year old I am reminded that the time does pass too quickly and I realize it is ok to say enough busyness! Besides, playing with horses on the kitchen floor is a lot more fun than sweeping it!

  16. Nicole says

    Poem my grandmother cross stitched for me…i have 6boys and one step daughter…”I hope my children look back on today, and see a mother who had time to play. There will be years for cooking and cleaning, for children grow up while we’re not looking.

  17. says

    What a beautiful reminder of what is important. I needed that today! It is also helpful to hear about that “next stage “of parenting, as I am still in diaperville and appreciated a gentle reminder that this stage of life is fleeting.

  18. says

    Thanks so much Saren! I don’t know if you remember me. I am the girl who gave you a paper doll at a Conference a few years ago. I am now doing four four and under…I think of you so often when it is so tough. YOU GIVE ME HOPE! :) These thoughts are so true. THANKS!

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