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Saturday, June 15, 2013

congrats, mommy graduates!

I was recently at a high school graduation ceremony. The speakers encouraged following the graduates' dreams, pursuing their passions, and making the world a better place. Full of hope, promise and goals for the future. It was one of those uplifting events, where you leave thinking, "Yes, I can do something awesome, too. I will be better. Everything is well in the world today."

One speaker encouraged the students to love themselves above all else. If they can't love themselves, treat themselves with respect and dignity, be healthy, they won't be much use to anyone else. He said it's disappointing to hear people pick out their many flaws, we all know something we haven't done right. And yet when someone points out a positive thing we've done or about us, we are very quick to brush it off, "Oh no, that was no big deal..." We don't accept the positive compliments. Why is this, he wondered? Instead, he suggested we be happy with the great things we do, and when someone congratulates us on those things, we smile and say thank you, acknowledging that yes, we did something great and worth stopping for a moment to smile about.

So this got me thinking. The moms I know need to hear this, what that speaker said, about accepting compliments and not being so insecure about our parenting decisions. This got me thinking further that we should totally have a mommy graduation. After our first year of parenting would be a great time, to celebrate all of the hard work we put into that first challenging year of being mothers. And it shouldn't just be offered the very first year we have our first child, it should be EVERY first year of each child we have, because my first year with my second child was difficult in different ways than it was during the first year of my firstborn. Sure, it was like riding a bike - you remember once you get back on. But still, it was different.

So, moms, here it is, my speech for you, if you were to be sitting in a cap and gown alongside other great mothers who survived their first year of parenthood. Here are my words of wisdom, what I wish someone had told me in a congratulatory speech. So just pretend it's a sunny day, all your best mommy friends are there, and you're dressed up - like you actually took a shower and did your hair and makeup for once this year, and you are proud of the hard year you just survived.

Welcome Mommy Graduates!
It's an honor to stand before you today, looking out into a sea of mothers who I know are stronger, more intelligent - despite the Mom Brain Syndrome - and dedicated than you were a year ago. I see your tired eyes and know that you wish you could have cut your hair or done your nails or even shaved your legs for this event, but time didn't allow that. So be it, is what I have to say to that. We're all moms, we get it.

When I look at you, I see the old me. The one who used to worry more and understood less about this parenting gig. We all started out on this journey though in a similar way - unsure, confused, with expectations of doing things better than our own mothers did, and with hearts so full of love for our babies. We quickly get into a lack of routine, sleepless nights, and stress about how or what to feed and where and how long to have them sleep, etc. We all start here, in that same place, typically a hospital, with a newborn, trying to understand this creature we created and do what we can to not lose our minds but instead open up our hearts and do our best.

We all set out with high expectations and ideals for ourselves. We are going to be perfect. We all think this, right? And yet, quickly - perhaps even in the delivery room before the baby has come out of our bodies - we realize that perfection is not something to be achieved.

So, mommy graduates, I want you to stay in that place of not striving for perfection. Stop thinking it's possible. It's not. You must know this by now. Find some way to move past the mistakes, the shortcomings, the worries you've endured. Find a way to let go of that guilt I know you've experienced. You can't be the best mom you can be until you let go of whoever that high expectation version of a mother you thought you'd be is gone from your memory.

As you move into your next year of parenting, know that you are enough. YOU. ARE. ENOUGH. Read it a few more times. You don't need to be whoever your friend is as a mother. You aren't her kids' mother so you can't be her to your kids. Be OK with differences. Accept that everyone is going about this parenting thing slightly differently. Don't judge others. You have no idea what they are going through which led them to make the decisions they made with their kids.

Be present. Sit on the floor and play with your kids. Focus. Don't be that mom who your kid says your name about 10 times while you look at your phone before you respond with an exasperated "What?!" Try to be that mom fewer times if you have to be that busy mom sometimes.

Go into this next year knowing you survived the first year. You made it! If you can get through that first year, you can do all the rest. Teenager years may be another story, but until then, you know you've got this!

 There are going to be more challenges along the way. You're a mother. You know this to be true. It's not an easy ride. Yet, you have what it takes to keep you going. So just trust yourself to do the right thing. And accept that you will make mistakes. You're going to yell or not play as much as you want one day. You're going to choose work or chores or your partner over the kids at points. You're going to wish you could do more, be more, or offer more. It's all normal. Remind yourself of that from time to time. You are doing OK, mommy, you really are.

Lastly, I want you to remember one thing today, on your mommy graduation day. I know what I'll say to you right now is simple. You'll probably laugh or shake your head like, "Yeah, OK, OK, heard that before." But really, I say it with sincerity, even without knowing your exact story or situation or without hearing from your kids to get their perspective.  

You are a good mother. You are. Believe it. 

I want you to leave today thinking of at least one thing you know you did well today as a mom. There has to be something that you can concede and admit went well.

Hold onto this last part: You are a good mother. Hold on tight to that in the coming months, years, when you feel like a failure or like someone else has done it better or gotten it right before you could even attempt to.

Go forward, mothers. Go in the direction of your children's dreams. Remember to take care of yourself and your relationships. 

Be the best mom YOU can be. That's all that matters.

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