8 Hard-Earned Lessons From Motherhood

Readers reveal the important life lessons motherhood taught them.

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Photo by Anna Parini

When debating whether to send my first child to kindergarten or to wait a year, I was convinced that one option was the right one and any other path would ruin her life. (I had this same right-versus-wrong mind-set when picking a college and a husband.) But after querying friends and educators about my dilemma, I realized that each choice had benefits and drawbacks. I just had to do what I thought was best. Thankfully, I adopted this new attitude early on in the parenting game and can now apply it to other decisions in my life.
Elizabeth Spencer
Battle Creek, Michigan

How to stay calm during a crisis!
Sandi Fuller
Indianapolis, Indiana

Try to make others smile the way we work to make a baby smile.
@brighton_babe

In my 20s, me time consisted of an hour-long massage and lounging about for the rest of the day. Now that I'm a mom, I've learned to relish little doses of happiness, like an uninterrupted cup of coffee or 10 minutes of grown-up television while I fold laundry. That personal time, no matter how short, rejuvenates me.
Sheila Dunbar
La Cañada, California

Before motherhood, I scheduled out my whole life and everything needed to go according to plan. After experiencing so many debacles, especially when traveling with my two little girls, I've learned to just embrace the chaos. There's no need to get upset if one of my well laid-out plans goes awry.
Christen Gowan
Greenfield Center, New York

I used to pride myself on being able to do things on my own. Then I found myself with three very young children and my world turned upside down. Since the smallest of tasks became huge ordeals, I started letting others give me a hand (like having friends babysit while I run errands). I thought this would diminish me and my independence, but instead it has allowed me to get more done and be a better mother as well as a happier person.
Alison Francis
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Never underestimate the power of stopping to take three deep breaths before reacting to a situation.
Melissa Shea
Savage, Minnesota

In the past, whenever someone let me know about a problem she was having, I always wanted to help her solve it. My daughter taught me that I don't need to focus so much on "fixing." Simply listening and offering support can be enough.
Lynne Bunnell
Albany, New York

There's nothing happening online that's more important than what's happening in real life. My son will never be this age again.
@whitneymeadows

I never appreciated the complexity of the decisions a mother has to make—that is, until I became one myself. I've learned to forgive my mom and appreciate the sacrifices she made, to forgive my children after they test my patience, and to forgive myself for not being the perfect mother. I no longer dwell on the past.
Mary Vanwisse
Austin, Texas

Since childhood, I was always too timid to stand up for myself in uncomfortable situations. Even as an adult in the workplace, I failed to speak up when a colleague took credit for my success. After my children were born, I knew that I had to overcome this issue, because if I didn't stand up for them, who would? Nowadays I don't hesitate to approach school administrators or other parents if I believe that my child is being treated unfairly.
Claire Ryan-Robertson
Newton, Massachusetts

Do a load of laundry every single day.
Laura Healy
Centennial, Colorado

Nothing stays the same. The phases keep changing, and we survive them all!
@jennytiegs

Before I became a mother, it used to be my way or the highway. However, as the parent of a strong-willed child, I discovered that I can't accomplish much with that kind of attitude. It helps to try to respect your child's point of view even if you don't understand it or agree. Now that I'm more accommodating and flexible in my personal and professional relationships, people have been a lot more responsive to my requests.
Joan Cino
Metairie, Louisiana

To speak kindly to myself, because someone else is also listening and learning.
N.R., via Facebook