The ABCs of Being Mom: Advice & Support From the Mom Next Door by Karen Bongiorno
We dive into motherhood with no idea of the mysteries, miracles, experiences and meanings we will find in its depth. When my daughter arrived, I felt as though I had been plunged in over my head. I was bewildered by not knowing how I "should" proceed and had no idea of what to do next. Certainly, I loved my daughter and I would care for her, but I had so many questions.
I have a sense that I began motherhood like most moms, loving my baby and wanting what was best for her. This is a universal sentiment but somehow it doesn’t make being mom simple. While raising my children, I struggled while learning, loved them wholeheartedly and experienced some of my life’s biggest joys and heartaches. In many ways, I became a whole new person.
The first change I experienced began in the delivery room. Even though I’d never been a worrier, “Worry” showed up almost immediately after my daughter was born. “It” demanded to know what I knew about crying babies, diapers, sleep schedules, breastfeeding and more. I pushed “Worry” aside to celebrate with “Joy” and “Happiness,” but “Worry” hovered, trying to crowd out “Joy.” When we left the hospital, “Happiness” came home with us but “Worry” snuck in too and then settled in as an uninvited guest. Later, “Worry’s” cousins, “Overwhelm, Doubt” and “Disorder,” showed up to throw us even more out of sync. Our one bedroom apartment became very crowded.
Eventually we moved into to a larger home, but the four unpleasant cousins still found us. They grew even bolder once our son was born. Happily, “Love,” “Joy,” “Delight” and “Fun” were never far away and came to visit and stay with us for extended periods. They were always welcome. But, during the years of raising my children, “Worry” was always lurking, ever eager to stir up emotions and then leave only to reappear, unannounced, time and again.
As mothers, we learn that our prior successes, skills and accomplishments don’t automatically mean that we can manage motherhood, easily. Motherhood is demanding in all new ways and is much tougher than what we’d expected. How could we not have known how exhausting it would be to care for our completely dependent babies? How could we have known that caring so deeply about our babies and children would mean that their hurt, their happiness would become our pain and our joy multiplied infinitely so that our feelings would forever more be vulnerable and exposed to capricious fate?
These kinds of feelings bring worry. Mothers ought to be able to put aside unnecessary feelings of worry, overwhelm and doubt. These feelings don’t help us; they get in the way and frankly we don’t have time for them. Moms need a guide: a guide that tells us what we need to do when we are shaking; that tells us we’re going to be walking zombies at times; that we are going to be engulfed by love and concern for our children, that no matter how much our children grow – we will always be their fiercely devoted mama bears and they will always be our baby cubs. We need a guide that tells us how to manage now that our prior well-ordered lives have disappeared, now that the way we spend our time, money and energy have changed and now that we are unbreakably bound to our children.
How do mothers take on these new challenges? How do we cope? Where is Mom Orientation 101? I never found that class. So I decided to write out the syllabus and then fill in the course details chapter by chapter. This turned into a series of books that follow children’s growth from birth till they go off to college with information that moms need to know at each phase. (Book one covers birth through kindergarten; book two covers the grade school years and book three covers the high school years with reflections on your child leaving for college.) I was motivated to write because I want mothers to have what they need to know to manage these years, to know what to look for and what to watch out for. This information is in my books.
For you, dear mothers, I want you to avoid all the useless worry: the worry that hovers and diminishes your enjoyment of being mom and distracts you from the beauty in these years – your children’s growing years. I wish for you the ability to be present and to take in these times, to breathe them in and absorb them as part of you. I wish you to know what you want for your family, to know what you value and want to pass on to your children; to know what qualities of being you hope your children will choose. You’ll have choices and decisions to make. Your answers will guide your actions and tell you where and how to spend your precious time and resources. They will identify your destination and in turn move you to search for the paths that can lead you there.
Your search will not be a struggle to find each step that you need to take on your journey. You will never be far from the path that gets you to where you want to go. Your care and love for your children keeps you close. As moms, when we nurture our children, coaching out their best selves and share their hours, days, seasons and years, fully engaged by our instincts and love, our children become the center of our families and communities. They learn meaning by what we show them. Show them love and that they are valued.
Your journey will be hard sometimes, especially when your heart aches and you are exhausted. You’ll show devotion to your children with love, care and at times, literally with your blood, sweat and tears. Trust yourself as you move forward and know that your journey is worthwhile. Know that your kids will be fine, they have felt your love, felt your confidence in them and have had your guidance.
So moms, please leave unwarranted “Doubt” and “Worry” on the side of the road. Savor this journey through your children’s growing years. Delight in each milestone; notice and appreciate how your children are blossoming. Enjoy the deliciousness of being mom, knowing that your children are on the road to being the kind, capable and thoughtful young adults you know they can be because you are with them, showing them the way.
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