Last week, Elizabeth shared her first 5 in this list of 10 Things she doesn’t wish she had done differently as a mom. This week, she’s sharing the rest of her list with us. As you read her list, think about what you wouldn’t do differently…
The other day, I Googled “what I wish I’d done differently as a mom” and got 10 million results.
Apparently, a lot of moms have a lot they regret about their mothering.
Apparently, as a parent with some mom mileage on me, I should be writing about my own regrets and done-differently wishes.
And, mercy, do I ever have them to write about. I’ve messed up and made bad decisions and taken wrong turns more times than I can count.
But with 29 total years of motherhood racked up, I’m so thankful to be able to say there are a few things I don’t wish I could undo, by the grace of God.
These things I have done and things I haven’t done have worked for me and for my girls and for our family.
Some of them may be deal-breakers for you. Some of these may be non-negotiables at your house.
You may read this list and think, “Good grief, woman! Have you no shame? How can you possibly not regret this?!” Which is okay, actually.
Because you see, sweet mama, this is not a list of how I think other moms should do motherhood. This is only a collection of what, with the benefit of some hindsight and two older, happy, healthy, thriving children as evidence, I can leave off my personal do-over wish list, by the grace…
As a mom, I’m thankful I don’t regret that I…
6. Set the bar of expectations low. From family vacations to the house we live in to back-to-school wardrobes to Christmas gifts to birthday parties, our secret to family contentment is pretty simple: promote low expectations.
Our thinking was—and continues to be—that if we set a low bar for what is good and satisfying and acceptable and worth looking forward to, contentment would probably follow. If my family expects M&Ms, and they get triple chocolate layer cake, they’re thrilled and pleasantly surprised and think I am the greatest mom ever. But if they expect the cake and all I deliver is the candy, they’re disappointed. I’d rather exceed low expectations than fall short of high ones.
7. Was “lax” about reading to my babies and toddlers. I knew I was supposed to read to my children…poetry in utero and then classics with discussion in their teen years. But my girls didn’t particularly care about being read to. They reacted to my dramatic interpretations of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom with approximately the same level of enthusiasm they reserved for having their runny noses wiped. So I gave up.
I listened to kid-safe books on CD in the van and around the house, made plenty of actual books available, read in front of them, and left it at that. Today, they’re voracious, enthusiastic, and skilled readers. They’ve both usually got about three books going at once in various formats. Also, they wipe their own runny noses now. It’s all good.
8. Have learned to be okay with my daughters growing up. I well understand the melancholy tug moms feel at seeing their babies mature. I know that tug myself.
But whenever I feel sad that my girls are moving from one age or stage to another, I remind myself of something: if I asked any parent who has lost a baby or a toddler or a young adult or a middle-aged child what they would give to “have” to watch that child go off to preschool or middle school or college or a job or their first colonoscopy, I know what they’d say. Anything. They would give anything.
Watching my girls grow is a blessing and a gift I try not to take for granted. I also believe this to be true: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind” (C.S. Lewis).
9. Took—and enjoyed—mom “alone time.” I loved and love being with my girls. But I am a better mom when my batteries are recharged so I have fresh energy to pour into their lives. For me, that recharging happens when I am alone and have a break from some of my maternal duties. And I’m not the only one who has benefited from this occasional separation.
10. Picked my battles. My younger daughter told me one day, “I’m just not gonna get in a big hassle.” I don’t remember what the issue was, but that was how she decided she was going to approach it.
As a mom, I could choose to “get in a big hassle” about every bite of food my girls eat, every minute of TV they watch, every book they read, every outfit they put on, every everything. But I haven’t. And not because I am some laid-back, relaxed personality, either. Please. I drove four college roommates to the brink of insanity with my uptightness. (I’m so sorry, girls.)
That I’ve let so much go as a mom is quite possibly pure laziness on my part, but I like to think I’ve tried to fight the battles that needed fighting. The battles that had eternal significance.
I want my girls to pursue faith in God and purity and compassion and self-control and kindness. I really don’t care if they eat an Oreo while they’re doing it.
Maybe someday I’ll put together a list of what I wish I’d done differently. (And let me say it again: I have plenty of fodder for that collection. Mercy.) But right now, I’m just incredibly grateful I’ve got a few things to put on this list…a few things I’ve done that I wouldn’t undo.
By the grace.
Elizabeth Spencer is mom to one tween and one teen daughter. She’s been married for 20 years to a very patient husband who copes nicely as the lone male in a house full of girls. She avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by blogging about life as an imperfect mother at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and spending time on Facebook.