When my mom was young, with only me to give her that title, she and my dad were head residents for some freshman dorms. She had quit her teaching job to stay home with me, while my dad finished school. Many of their friends were still in school and had young children, so she seemed to always be helping with other people’s kids, while also tending to the needs of the freshman in the dorm. All this while she was still figuring out how to be a mom.
One morning she was babysitting a friend’s daughter, when the toddler opened up a bottle of Vaseline and smeared it all over her clean laundry. (She holds no grudges, Tara.) My mom lost it. It was a last-straw situation. She sat down right there and scrawled out a list of “Things I Hate.” It got long. And she felt worse and worse.
So she crumpled up the list and started a new list: “Things I Love.”
I love this story, partly because it makes my Super Mom so relatable. All moms have experienced a similar scenario and felt these feelings. Whatever stage you’re in, it’s hard, and there are a lot of things to hate. But we’re not going to talk about those things right now. We’re going to focus on the things we love.
One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s sometimes easier to think of things to add to the “Things I Love” list when you’re looking backward or forward, thinking about what you miss from past stages, or what you look forward to in future stages. So I asked my Instagram readers what they loved and I came up with my own list. Then I asked my mother and mother-in-law for their lists. This was actually the best part about writing this post, and I encourage you all to ask your moms and mothers-in-law what they loved in each stage. I treasure their responses!
Here is our list of some of the things to love in each stage of motherhood (recognizing that these stages overlap if you have more than one child). The goal is for you to be able to look at your own stage from a different perspective, to make sure you don’t take these lovable things for granted.
Things to Love About Raising Babies
- They have a short list of needs and, for the most part, you know how to provide them.
- They’re portable.
- They don’t intentionally cause problems.
- They’re adorable and delightful.
- Everyone wants to hold them/help.
- Fat baby hands and rubber-band wrists.
- All the firsts: smiles, giggles, words, foods, walking, discovering toys, walking on grass, digging toes in the sand…
- Having them fall asleep on you.
- The smell.
- The soft skin.
- They trust you implicitly and completely.
- Rocking them to sleep.
- Bonding with an infant and the loving looks a baby gives in response to undivided attention.
I miss having a nursing baby stop and smile at me—while milk sprays all over their face.— Molly Liggett (kids: 12, 10, 7, 5, 3, 1)
I miss having things nicely under my control like I did when I had toddlers and babies. I miss the routine and organization because there weren’t so many big people in and out of things. I miss feeling like I made an impact on my kiddos. As they get older, it’s harder to see your influence.— Katie Smith (kids: 16, 14, 10, 4)
Things to Love About Raising Toddlers
- They discover new things every day and meet them with such delight.
- Watching them learn to pretend.
- Seeing their cute little legs when it’s shorts season again.
- They sleep through the night! (sometimes).
- Watching language develop and playing a role in how babies learn to communicate.
- Finally finding out what’s going on in that little head.
- Trying to figure out what works with each different child’s personality and thought processes.
- Singing songs with them.
- Watching them figure out how to play at a park.
- The giggles.
- The cuddles.
I couldn’t wait to go to the store by myself. Now I have to bribe a kid to come with me so I don’t have to go alone.— Jessica Stevens (kids: 17, 15, 12, 9, 7)
Things to Love About Raising Preschoolers
- No more diapers!
- They can play simple board and card games.
- They create elaborate worlds while playing.
- They start playing with their friends instead of around them. (And having a friend over can almost be like having a babysitter.)
- Reading to them.
- Listening to their made-up stories.
- Helping them figure out how to create art.
- Their excitement at learning new things.
- Their quirky personalities start to really show.
- The funny ways they dress themselves.
I loved pointing out things to make the kids laugh and singing songs that made them laugh. I enjoyed cultivating a sense of humor in the little ones.— Susan Singley (my mom)
I’m loving ages 4-6. They’re so loving and curious, but also big enough to be independent too.— Ariana Field (kids: 6,4)
I miss the simplicity of having little ones that were totally good with our outing of the day being going to the grocery store or the library.— Kelli Archibald (kids: 9, 6, 4)
Things to Love About the Raising Elementary-School Kids
- Watching reading click for them.
- Going on hikes where no one needs to be carried.
- Reading chapter books together.
- Sending them off to school and getting some time for yourself.
- Playing games with them and teaching them to lose gracefully.
- Going to events where the kids showed off their talents and skills like piano recitals, baseball games, soccer games, etc.
- Talking about more complex concepts.
I loved this age because they can sing along and learn to harmonize with one another. This gives a child great confidence and makes being in the car more tolerable.— Susan Singley (my mom)
I look forward to family road trips without a baby or toddler screaming (almost) the entire time.— Lindsey of momsminutesaregold.com (kids: 7, 5, 4, 2)
Things to Love About Raising Tweens
- Those times that they relax and let themselves be a kid.
- Watching them take chances outside their comfort zones.
- Watching them figure out who they really are.
- Finding out where their talents lie (and where they don’t).
- They start really excelling at certain things.
- You start to see the payoff with long-term things like piano lessons.
- Hearing their budding-adulthood take on things. Seeing how they process things and maneuver through hard things.
- Seeing what they’re capable of rising above.
- Cheering the little successes.
- Maneuvering through awkwardness and coming out OK.
- Seeing glimpses into their future selves.
- They can do most things by themselves and are starting to be self-directed.
- They’re actually helpful.
- They can babysit!!
I loved talking about things that happened in school and with friends. I was lucky to have kids that loved to chat. If one of the kids became sullen and quiet, I would take them in the car until they surrendered and began spilling the reason for their self-seclusion. I was a world class spy.— Susan Singley (my mom)
Things to Love About Raising Teens
- Their sense of humor.
- They’re able to have deeper, more intellectual conversations.
- Having a house full of fun and friends eating us out of house and home.
- They’re so clever.
- They pass you up in some things.
- They write really interesting papers for school and have big ideas.
- They’re self-directed.
- They’re capable.
- Watching them joke around and interact with their friends.
- Milestones like dances and first jobs.
- You get to relive the fun high school times.
- Watching them learn how to interact with the opposite sex.
- There are lots of important firsts, like first jobs, first dates, first time driving, etc.
- Reading more advanced books with them.
- Teaching them more advanced skills like how to sew.
I loved going fishing with my kids at this age, and singing barbershop harmony with them.— Susan Singley (my mom)
I started seeing that they were going to be good adults. Even better than me.— Marjean Archibald (my mother-in-law)
Things to Love About the Adult Stage
- Watching them make life choices.
- Being surprised by their competence.
- Seeing what career they choose.
- Once you have an empty nest, rediscovering your hobbies, interests, and spouse.
- Seeing what good parents they are.
- Seeing who they choose to marry.
- It’s really fun to watch them fall in love.
- It’s fun to be friends with them.
- Playing with grandchildren and watching grandchildren play with one another.
I love getting together with my children and soaking in their colorful personalities. If I need a laugh, I just text my kids about something. It is bound to evoke a hilarious retort from one or more or them.— Susan Singley (my mom)
It’s so fun when your kids become adults, because you get to start learning from them. I learned from watching their relationships how to improve my own. It helps me to remember that we were once a young couple.— Marjean Archibald (my mother-in-law)
If you thought of things you’d add to any of these lists while you were reading (or talking to your own mothers about their lists), please continue the conversation by adding them in the comments below!
QUESTION: What do you love about the current stages your kids are in?
CHALLENGE: Keep your own list of the things you love about your kids in each stage so you can share it with them someday.