And just like that, we’ve come to the end of another year. This has been a pivotal year for me, in terms of both experiences and learning opportunities. In sitting down to write this list of things I learned in 2015, I quickly became overwhelmed. How could one blog post encapsulate the momentous life lessons and realizations that have occurred to me over the past twelve months? I’m having to accept that this list will in no way be all-inclusive; even if I did have time to write a list of ALL the things I’ve learned in the past year, it’s not likely that anyone else would want to read it! Instead, I’m sharing a few of the year’s lessons that have stood out the most. . . things that I want to remember in the future, as well as some things that I’m still in the process of learning.
Because Charlie was born in January, the calendar year almost exactly coincides with my first year of motherhood, so it’s not surprising that most of what I’ve learned in 2015 have been inspired by this new life stage. Since becoming a mom, I feel as though I’ve learned more about life in general, and myself in particular, than in my previous thirty years combined. There’s just something about birthing and raising a child that elicits all manner of contemplation and self reflection. In many ways, motherhood has brought out the best in me; I have gained new strength and confidence and learned to love more deeply than I thought possible. But it has also unearthed many insecurities, fears, and character flaws that I would rather have left undiscovered. I’ve heard of the sanctifying power of marriage, but for me, it has been parenthood that has served as the ultimate laboratory for personal and spiritual development. God has been using motherhood to meet me and mold me in ways I would never have anticipated.
Few of the items on this list are “new material;” a great deal of my personal processing is done through my writing, so a lot of this list has been discussed in—and even prompted by—past blog posts; I hope you’ll forgive me for the repetition. Some of the things I’ve learned this year have been truly life changing, and others are much more lighthearted. Without further ado, here’s a (very abbreviated) list of the things I learned in 2015.
What Becoming a Mom Has Taught Me. . .
- Regardless of how much thought and planning you put into your “labor experience,” things will not go according to plan. . . and that’s okay. The outcome of a healthy baby really is the only part that truly matters.
- Even though my birth plan was thrown completely out the window, I learned that I like labor a whole lot more than I liked being pregnant. (I probably thought differently mid-contractions, but having survived the process, I can unequivocally say that as I anticipate future children, I am looking forward to giving birth much more than I look forward to another pregnancy.)
- Holding a newborn baby—or even an eleven-month-old baby—is the absolute BEST feeling in the entire world. Also, seeing your baby smile at you for the first time is the most amazing sight, and nothing beats the sound of hearing your baby giggle.
- No amount or reading can prepare you for motherhood. I suspected that this would be the case, and I don’t regret all the preparatory reading that I did, but it’s really true that even the best books don’t hold a candle to personal experience or a mother’s intuition.
- Breastfeeding is amazing, both for its convenience and opportunities for mother/child bonding. However, it requires a whole lot more calories than I had anticipated. In other words, I really should have prepared my body by gaining more weight during pregnancy. Note taken for next time.
- Babies grow up entirely too fast. (It’s a cliché because it’s true.) This has been harder than I anticipated: from an emotional standpoint, and also a practical one, as the endless changes mean that I’m constantly adjusting to a new normal.
- Infant-induced sleep deprivation is very real and very hard. And sleep (for parents and baby) doesn’t miraculously get better as a baby gets older. Another note for next time: establish a sleep schedule FROM THE BEGINNING!
- It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap, especially when it comes to baby milestones: I constantly find myself comparing Charlie’s size and development to the babies around him, and even to the milestones listed in baby books. But I’m slowly learning that he will grow and develop at his own pace. Life isn’t a race, and as long as he’s happy and healthy, I don’t need to worry about how he measures up.
- Cleaning a house with a baby underfoot is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. (I can’t take credit for the analogy, but it fits!)
- Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but it’s also the best. I love staying home with Charlie and don’t miss teaching at all.
What I’ve Learned About Myself This Year. . .
- Lifelong hangups like OCD and anorexia don’t evaporate when you become a mom; they simply find new ways of manifesting themselves.
- For my own well-being, and the happiness of those around me, it’s important for me to take breaks from “being a mom.” It’s okay—even GOOD—for me to pursue hobbies outside of parenthood, and there’s nothing wrong with relying on the help and support of others in order to carve out time for personal self care.
- I thrive on organization and structure, and flounder when it’s missing. This is something I’ve known about myself for a long time, but the lack of predictability brought on by a child has shown me how my meticulous planning has been a lifesaver, but also a crutch.
- Being an introvert, it’s easy for me to go into periods of social hibernation, but I’m always happier when I am intentional about seeking out opportunities for social interaction (with adults. . . not that Charlie isn’t a great companion, but he always seems to dominate the conversation).
- This year has shown me how much I truly love blogging. I wish that I could dedicate more time to this hobby, but I’m learning how to maximize my limited work hours. I’m also working to accept the fact that some blogging is better than no blogging, even when the quantity and quality of my posts does not meet my desired standards.
- Gretchen Rubin helped me to see that I’m a Maximizer (someone who is set on making the optimal decision) and an Upholder (I respond to both outer and inner expectations).
- I learned through the Strengths Finder test that my key theme is Input (“People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.”). This is probably why I love these What I Learned posts so much!
- Smaller, short-term goals are a better fit for me than broad, year-long resolutions.
- I LOVE making lists, and coming up with 10 ideas every day is incredibly fun, and excellent fuel for my personal creativity.
- A walk in the park or along our local trails—or especially to McDonald’s for some ice cream—does wonders for my mood. (It’s also a good way to entertain and calm a fussy baby.)
Miscellaneous Things I’ve Learned This Year. . .
- Amazon Prime is basically the greatest invention ever. I use it to order all of our baby supplies (diapers, wipes, etc.), vitamins, and gifts, and our neighbors—having seen the daily boxes on our doorstep—have started to ask whether we ever step foot in a physical store. Nope, not if I can help it! I purchased ONE Christmas gift at a store this year; the rest of my shopping was done online, and mostly through Amazon.
- I fought it for years, but this was the year I finally discovered that reading on an eReader is actually pretty amazing for both its convenience and the potential for eliminating superfluous items in our home. (See next point!)
- I have way too much “stuff.” I’m sentimental and have difficulty throwing/giving things away, but I always feel better after I do. Like the rest of the world, Marie Kondo has really been getting to me.
- Our near-move to San Diego in May taught me that God uses unusual circumstances to guide our lives in ways we might not expect. Though we ultimately decided not to move (at least not last spring), Luke and I learned a lot about ourselves and each other through the experience, and it served as a springboard for some other exciting changes for our family. (And because I know some of you might be wondering: yes, we are still planning to move, but not to San Diego or Arizona. It’s looking like Austin, Texas, will become our home in the coming year.)
- Throughout this wonderful but challenging year, I’ve been reminded that I am married to the most amazing husband and father in the world. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve him, but I am incredibly blessed to have him as my life partner.
I’m joining Emily Freeman and a community of other bloggers to share what we’ve learned this year. I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s lists! And I’d love to hear from you, too: what is one (or 25!) thing that you learned in 2015?