You simply can’t beat life experience.
No matter what you do, nothing prepares you for life quite like actual hands-on experience. A doctor has to start somewhere. A teacher has to start somewhere. A carpenter has to start somewhere.
After finishing school they have to roll up their sleeves and begin a different kind of education.
I occasionally find myself admiring my peers who have gone on and achieved higher education and career successes. Sometimes I even envy them. What possible life experiences could I ever even hope to stack up against theirs?
Then I remember that I’m a mother, wife and homemaker. I can tell you that I don’t have money. But with that title, what I do have is a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career….I’ll stop now. #taken
I am just now beginning to see how the experience gained from my current role spills over into other parts of my life, and am learning to really appreciate that fact.
Here are some particular ways parenting might help you develop critical life skills.
1.) It might help you Become
A Loud mouth AN advocate
Ever wonder about those individuals who make a big fuss about, oh, well, EVERYTHING? I still wonder about them.
Then I am reminded of something: while I am almost a devoutly non-confrontational person, when it comes to my children there is practically nothing I wouldn’t do for them, and no fight I wouldn’t face for them.
Whether it’s their education or health care, the law or even just dealing with a bully: there is nobody that I would hesitate to
run over with my minivan stand up to if it came down to something negatively impacting my children.
When it comes to your children, you shed a lot of self-doubt and worry over whether or not you’re stepping on someone else’s toes.
I’m downright passionate about my kids, as is my husband. And I might not say a word about the person who cuts in front of me at Subway, but I’ll be brazenly outspoken when it comes to my children, or the rights of any parent or child.
2.) It might help you become more resilient.
The first three months of a baby’s life is wrought with challenge after challenge… for the parent, not the baby.
No sleep. Emotional havoc. A ravaged body if you’re the mom. Lives that are completely turned upside down. And just when baby gets a teeny bit bigger, and things calm down the tiniest bit, new challenges emerge. Like teething.
I’m six years into motherhood, and I know this: this six years post-motherhood Ashley is a lot less whiney, a lot more flexible and determined, and, as a rule, more calm about what is going on around her than the new parent me. Or even PRE-parent me.
Parenting makes you learn to do without on occasion. Parenting makes you realize that you can survive without all of the creature comforts you were accustomed to before….like privacy in the bathroom.
If you can survive pregnancy and giving birth you can survive the nuclear holocaust.
I have spent almost two years of my life breastfeeding tiny people. I have spent the last three years being told almost every day that somebody dislikes the dinner that I just slaved over. I have handled knowing that in one particular moment or another, my kids don’t like me very much.
But In the words of Gloria Gaynor, I will survive.
And this too shall pass.
3.) You might learn to let go a little
Sort of building on what I just said, becoming a parent has helped me understand that life goes on, whether I’m ready for it to or not.
When the afternoon goes down the tubes because someone is teething and crying their eyes out, and someone else has a fever and germs because it is a winter day ending in “y”, and the dog has puked all over the carpet and you have to take the car to the shop AGAIN….
You learn that you will just have to settle for starting over again tomorrow. You learn that things can change in an instant, and that even one good moment can redeem an entire day.
You get over the fact that your favorite pair of pants you just plucked from the wash already have puke on them and that your sleep was cut short by two hours and that your house is an absolute disaster and has been since 2012, and that your dinner plans with a girlfriend were cancelled because of sick children.
You learn this world isn’t gonna stop just because you have it rough.
You learn that this world is bigger than you think it is and bigger than the plans you have for it.
Life goes on. As do you when the going gets rough.
4.) You might just learn how to let yourself feel
Those first few years of motherhood I bottled everything up I was feeling. And I am pretty sure that I felt allll of the things there were to feel about parenting.
I felt guilty for not enjoying EVERY moment of parenting. I felt guilty for sometimes wanting to be somewhere else, including locked behind a bathroom door with a book.
I still feel guilty that I get overwhelmed. The difference between then and now? Now I can admit to myself how I’m feeling and realize that it is perfectly OKAY. Because parenting IS HARD. Did you read that part, parents? Parenting is HARD. Like, for reals.
So instead of adding to your discouragement by scolding yourself when you become anxious, you learn to tell yourself it’s okay to feel how you feel, and remind yourself not to get swept up in the moment. You learn to be honest with yourself.
We will ALL feel that way about parenting or about ANYTHING at one juncture or another. And that is okay. We feel it. We breathe in and exhale it out.
And we move on.
5.) you will care a lot less About what other people think
Have you ever trudged through a Walgreens pharmacy wearing leggings, your husband’s old t-shirt and BearPaw boots, unshowered for three days with bags under your eyes while trying to procure medicine for sick children?
Sometimes, I grocery shop without brushed hair and makeup, and with three kids hanging off the side of the cart. Because it’s what must be done. So if people want to look at me sideways then that is their issue. Cus me? I’m doing the best I can with what I got.
Then there is the issue of self-preservation. If we give into every parenting fad, every “expert’s opinion,” and every other nagging mom friend’s “suggestions” about what we should do? We’d go insane.
Seriously, we would be living in a cave, huddled in the fetal position and murmuring to ourselves by the end of the week.
So where does this leave us?
You learn be confident and not give too much leverage to people who think you should be doing something else and say, “that’s nice if you breastfed for two years, I’m very happy for you. Great if you co-slept for the first five years of your kids’ lives. Wonderful if you homeschool or send your kids to public school or private school. SUPER. I am so happy for YOU and YOUR choice for YOUR kids.”
You realize that other people are them, and you are you. And you’re content to be the expert in your children and in your own family.
And if people don’t like you, ya know, just as a rule or just because….brush it off
because they can go suck an egg because we’re good over here, thanks.
6.) You just might learn to laugh at yourself
Finally, and perhaps the most important part…
You learn to laugh at yourself.
The first time my husband and I changed our son’s diaper all on our own did not go smoothly. We were still in the hospital, and our nurse was out of the room. So naturally, we decided that between the two of us we should be able to handle one eight pound baby.
No dice, people.
That pink, wiggly newborn made my husband and I look like complete and utter jackasses. He peed all over the two of us, his bed and on his own face. In a matter of 30 seconds, it was all over. And we were humbled.
We were also laughing hysterically.
There is hardly any pride in parenting if you’re doing it right. I’ve worn the bodily fluids of three people. They’ve made me laugh when I’m supposed to be straight-faced, disciplining them. They ask us weird questions when my husband and I were trying to be serious (“mommy, does Jesus make farts smell bad??”) They have broken my foul mood just by being themselves.
You realize that you can’t have this gig and take yourself too seriously. You’ll miss the chance to be a kid and in awe of the world all over again. So laugh with them, enjoy them and don’t worry about what you look like. Yes, you look ridiculous. But whatever, you’re practically the coolest mom ever for letting your kids draw all over your face with markers.