‘I read the books, watched the shows and talked to the seasoned moms. I realized a common thread. Kids are who they are, they all respond and act differently.’: Mom of 7 discusses ever-changing role of motherhood, what she’s learned over the years

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“Motherhood is a lifelong journey. One that is always changing as we and our children do. Just like life, we are always trying to figure out what works better and make adjustments. My journey began the moment I held a tiny little 6 lb baby girl in my arms. I felt like I’d been hit with a brick and an incredible amount of love I never before knew existed. It’s so much more than I could describe, so sacred and unbelievable, and yet it happens each and every time I have another. Just when I think I couldn’t possibly love another in the same way, it knocks me over the second we meet.

Courtesy of Mykin McEwan

I was in way over my head with that first one. Truly, I believe I’m still in over my head but I’m no quitter! My husband and I lost our moms the same summer when we were both 13. We didn’t know each other at that time, but they are buried just down the hill from one another in the same cemetery. We’ve always thought that was a pretty special bond we shared, but it’s definitely not the coolest thing to take your kids to meet both their grandmas within 30 ft of each other in a cemetery. There was no mom in the delivery room or waiting area. No mom’s to rock and hold our newborns so new momma could get some sleep. No motherly advice to ask for or any freely given unsolicited. Which, come to think of it, might have been a positive.

We were both 19 when our first little girl was born. No, we didn’t have a shotgun wedding. It was more like a lack of anything better to do with our life than to just get on with it and start our family and start living! The day after I came home from the hospital, after my C-section, my husband had to go back to work. He’d just taken a second, part-time job so I could stay home. He’s always been the best at taking care of us, and it made the most sense to us to have me home instead of paying daycare fees. I’ve been blessed to be a stay home momma for 21 years now. I put just as much, if not more effort into being the best mom I can be as I would’ve any career path I might’ve chosen. (Jet fighter pilot comes to mind…in another life maybe). I believe each of us knows what’s best for us. To you, it might be a killer career but for me, it just never felt right. While I try my best, I still have those days where I’m not on my game. I yell too much. I get tired and overwhelmed just as much as the next girl.

The minute I met our first daughter it became clear to me THIS was it! I’d finally found my calling in life. It’s taken so many years of soul searching and growing to accept that, regardless of some’s opinions, it’s a pretty important one. I was so insecure as a young mother. Technically, I was insecure in SO many ways, not limited to my mothering and parenting skills. I mean, who would ever want to go back to their early twenties or even mid-twenties? You feel me? Finding and accepting myself was one of the most difficult journeys I’ve ever been on and not one I’d like to repeat anytime soon. Granted, I’m always learning more and growing as a person, wife, and mom. I welcome it actually. I just wouldn’t want to head all the way back to start.

I worried. Like all the time. Luckily, my first two made it out unscathed despite my learning curve. There is a myriad of things you don’t think about, like safety, until you know there are actually potential hazards. Like dressers falling over or securing heavy TVs. Hallelujah, they made it, and I learned and did better. A special thanks to Oprah and Dr. Phil for helping me see potential hazards and learning about the need to parent each child in their own way and learning their ‘currency’. I was always second-guessing my ability and my children’s development. Are they well behaved enough, should we spank (my answer ended up being no), are they in timeout enough, why isn’t my child talking with a 10-year-old vocab at three like so and so’s?

Looking back, it’s all pretty ridiculous. Just like my attempts at potty training the oldest at less than two years. I know it’s been said it can happen, but in my humble opinion if your child is under even 2 1/2 and you potty train, you’ve inevitably just trained yourself to take them to the potty, so what’s the point anyway? I caused myself so much, like so much, undue stress over the small stuff. Even by thinking some of the big stuff needed to be such a big deal. I let others make me feel so inadequate. I let them make me feel guilty for the size of the family we eventually ended up having, including the noise level, the fighting, the whining, and the mess. You know? All the typical KID things. Turns out I’m not raising little robots after all.

Courtesy of Mykin McEwan

During those first years, I read all the books, watched all the shows, and talked to all the seasoned moms. I realized a common thread. Kids are who they are and they all respond differently and act differently. Imagine that! I mean, it makes complete sense. We adults are all different aren’t we? We all feel, think and act out our emotions differently! The older I became and the more I worked through my own childhood issues (can we all take a moment and pray that I’m not just creating said “childhood issues” in all my children they’ll later work out), the more I really was able to see what my role needed to be. I was able to envision more clearly what I really wanted to accomplish in raising my kids. I want them to be happy! It’s the cookie-cutter answer but it’s not as simple as it may seem. We say ‘happy,’ but how does one become truly happy? I believe it’s many, many things, the first of which is being comfortable in our own skin.

I seriously wasted so much time being insecure when my oldest was small. I’d love to go back and tell myself to just enjoy the time, but since I can’t, I set out to make sure I help my kids not make the same mistake. Being confident in who we are, finding our path, following our heart; those are the things that make us truly happy. In our home and family, each of us has a voice. Everyone is entitled to their feelings and can express themselves and their opinions so long as it’s done respectfully. Truthfully, it sounds simple but we are a family of strong-willed people. More often than not you get sarcasm and snide remarks from siblings and yelling back and forth. Guilty! Man, it’s easy to lose your cool when you are a circus ringleader to rabid animals. When things go awry we make sure there is acceptance of any mistake-making, apologies made, and reasons for the bad behavior learned so we don’t make the same mistake twice. Or really maybe it’s 20+ times because chances are we are reiterating things for months to years before we see any real sort of behavior change. But it does happen! So don’t give up!

Courtesy of Mykin McEwan

Now that I’m a mom of so many varied aged children, having our last was truly like a sweet little break from ‘real’ parenting. Don’t get me wrong. I know we’ll eventually grow out of the ‘baby/toddler’ phase and the honeymoon will end, but for now, I’m enjoying the cuddles and loves and sweet joy that a little one brings. Here’s a secret for all you new moms out there. Well, sleep is a big one. I get when you are in the phase of just littles, sometimes exhaustion can wreak havoc and it’s hard to see past it to see the joy littles can be. The young ones are physically exhausting which can lead to mental and emotional exhaustion if you aren’t putting in any ‘me’ time. But the older they get the more emotionally exhausting and worrisome it becomes. So, let the laundry and dishes go and when they nap! Nap alongside them. Even literally if co-sleeping is your thing. It wasn’t mine until number seven, but she pretty much makes all the rules around here. Maybe she’ll be the one I totally screw up. It’s definitely a tie between number 6 or 7. We have a stubborn little ‘thing 6.’ When your kids get older, you are trying to teach them not to be little hoodlums, have kindness, empathy, and love for others.

I want to raise good people, not perfect ones. I’m certainly not perfect so why should I expect my children to be. I use my own mistakes as an example for them. I apologize when I speak harshly and tell them even moms mess up. I want them to know if you are working on yourself and always trying to learn from the mistakes you make, that’s all that truly matters. We never stop evolving and learning ourselves, and I want my kids to know that too. I want them to learn if we take a path and find it’s not working or not fulfilling us, there is always time to correct or start anew. We are never done! I tell them that failing is inevitable. It’s what you do when you fail that shows who you truly are. How are you handling your mistakes and failures? All of us fail. It’s giving up that makes you a failure. Even then I’m not so sure you can’t come back from it.

My most important role as a mom is to help guide them to who God knows them to be. To lead them to learn what their talents and strengths are, and to help them use them for the benefit of others. I want them to know that even though someone else has a talent, it doesn’t mean you don’t have something wonderful to offer as well. I will always be here to help guide them when they need it, push them when they are standing still, revel in their accomplishments, and help them through their mistakes. I take my role very seriously!

Truthfully, we really wanted to create in our own family circle something that neither of us really had, or maybe felt like we never had, growing up and giving them something they’ll always have in the future. We want our family to feel unconditional love for each other. We want them to learn to accept each other for their individuality, know they always have people to lean on, and create a tight bond with one another that will endure long after we are gone. Yes, there are fights, and mocking, and not nice words being thrown around, but hopefully, with consistency, reiteration, and love, we can connect them to one another through our love and commitment to them. I see giant family picnics with all the kids and their kids in our future. Birthday parties at grandma and grandpa’s to celebrate as an entire family and envision twice-monthly dinners where as many can come will come. I know it won’t be picture-perfect. I know there will be bumps in our road. That’s life. That’s motherhood.

Courtesy of Mykin McEwan

Truthfully, I never set out to change the world. I never wanted to. I’ve always just wanted to be a mom of a big giant family. I felt adrift as a new adult trying to figure out what would make me happy. What to major in at college. What did I want to do?? The moment I became a mom it all fell into place. I finally had a place to put all my effort and love. So, while I was never going to change the world, in essence, I created it for seven small people. I was their whole world, for a minute, even. As their world grows bigger and they are ready to slay their own dragons, I just hope that I’ve given them the tools and confidence to be the best them they can be! I hope they always know when life outside our home, even after they are long gone from its walls, gets to be too much, they have a soft place to come and a shoulder to carry their burdens for a while. I will never stop being here. So, while I might’ve been doing my best to help them figure out who they will be, they have all actually taught me who I am! They are my biggest teachers and my greatest accomplishments. I am their mom. And that’s a pretty cool thing to be.”

Courtesy of Mykin McEwan

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mykin McEwan. You can follow her journey on Instagram. A version of her story can be found on her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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