8 things I want my kids to know about being a parent

May 5, 2021

When you’re a parent, getting through each day feels a little bit like putting on a performance. I wake up in the morning and slip into my costume of leggings and whatever t-shirt is clean. I stock my magic bag of tricks (read: my purse) with snacks and hand sanitizer. Then, I take to the stage, where I juggle doctor appointments and parent-teacher conferences, pack lunches, find missing socks, hold down a job and still make time to read stories before bed.

When I was a kid, I thought parents handled all of these things effortlessly. Now that I have children of my own, I understand there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. On some level, parents have to make it look easy because it’s not up to our kids to worry about our responsibilities or deal with our complicated grown-up emotions. But connecting with our kids as people also means being honest sometimes about the work that goes into parenting and the fact that we have just as many hopes, fears and struggles as anyone else. 

Underneath the Supermom cape, I’m still just a regular person. Here’s what I wish my kids knew about what it’s really like to be a mom.

1. I’m still learning, too

Believe it or not, parents don’t have all the answers. Whenever we face new challenges or run into tricky situations, I often feel just as confused and unsure as you do. There are books to read and grandparents to ask for advice, and trust me, I’ve done all the research I can. Even with help, I’m still learning what it means to be a good mom each and every day, just like you’re learning how to be a kid. We’re both teaching each other new things, and I try hard to be patient while we learn.

2. I hate chores as much as you do

I bet you think cleaning the house is my favorite thing in the world since I’m always asking you to help me do it. Well, guess what? I hate it, too. If it were reasonable for a grown-up to abandon all responsibilities, eat fruit snacks and play Nintendo Switch for seven hours a day, that’s what I’d do. Unfortunately, life is about balance. Relaxing is important, but so is knowing how to scrub your own toilet or rinse the cereal out of your bowl before it turns into disgusting mush. The chores are here to stay, but you aren’t the only one who’d rather be watching Netflix.

3. Parenthood is hard, but not because of you

I know you can tell when I’m feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed, but I hope you know it’s not because of you. Being an adult with a family is challenging sometimes.There are so many schedules to manage, errands to run and things to remember. Day care is expensive, and so are soccer and guitar lessons. I worry about your reading level and whether or not I remembered to add money to your school lunch account. None of that is your fault. You are the best part of each day, and even when my to-do list is three pages long, I always feel lucky to be your mom.

4. When I tell you how wonderful you are, I mean it

I know you’re tempted to roll your eyes when I give you compliments. Nevertheless, I hope you understand that when I tell you how amazing, capable, strong, talented, hilarious and smart you are, I’m saying it because it’s true, not just because you’re my child. As you grow up and stretch your wings, lots of people will get the chance to see how wonderful you are. Right now, I still know you better than anyone else does, and it’s truly a privilege to have a front row seat to your awesomeness.

5. There’s more to me than mom

To you, I am mom. To the world, I’m also a wife, a sister, a writer, a friend and so many more things. I still have dreams and personal goals I want to accomplish outside of being a good mom, like writing a book, visiting Australia and setting a new personal best on my next Peloton ride. It’s normal and healthy for parents to have their own interests, relationships, struggles and aspirations. It’s normal and healthy for you to have that, too. It’s important to me that our family works hard to create space for each of us to chase our dreams and grow into better people.

6. I have secret candy

Yes, there is candy in the house at all times. No, I will not reveal the location of my secret stash. I’m not allowed to eat most snack foods without sharing, use the bathroom alone or sleep past 7:30 a.m. on the weekends, and I accept these things. In return, all I ask is to be able to eat hidden chocolate in peace after you go to bed each night.

7. I won’t always get it right

It’s overwhelming to think about all the different ways I could mess this mom gig up. Every time I lose my patience, hurt your feelings or disappoint you, I instantly regret it. Mistakes are inevitable, but they’re one of the hardest parts of being a mom because I so desperately want to get it right 100% of the time. Instead, I try to listen when you tell me you’re upset with something I’ve done, and I apologize when I mess up because you deserve that. I can’t promise perfection, but I can assure you I’m trying my hardest, and I will always own up to my shortcomings.

8. I love you just the way you are

Watching you grow into the person you’re meant to be is like opening a present every single day. I never know what funny thing you’ll say or what amazing new skill you’ll have to show me. When you were a baby, I used to dream about the kind of person you’d be as you grew up. Believe me when I say the reality of who you are is funnier, kinder, braver and more brilliant than any daydream I ever had. I never want you to be afraid to show your true self. I accept you completely — even the parts that are grumpy or leave dirty laundry in little piles all over the floor — and I love you exactly the way you are.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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