I suddenly find myself in this strange phase of life where I am an empty-nester. It feels like I just blinked. One day I was changing diapers and wiping noses and the next I was moving my children out to live on their own. I am at a real loss to explain how time moved so fast.
About eight months have gone by with both of my girls living away from home and that has given me some time to reflect on my parenting journey. Looking back there are times I’m really proud of how I parented my daughters and there are moments when I’d really like to have a “do-over”.
I learned hundreds of lessons on my parenting journey, but here are my top 10 reflections and pieces of advice after 20 years of being a mom:
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. I know it’s a cliché, but I worried way too much about little things. I wish I had played more, been silly more and laughed more. I wish I had been in the moment more. I should have said “to heck with the dirty dishes, they can wait”.
- Do worry about the big stuff, like your children’s physical and mental health. As I watch my daughters become young adults, I realize how important it is to teach them to take care of their bodies and their minds.
- Build a strong relationship with your children. Your relationship with your child matters more than you realize. Sharing love and trust with your child pays off in dividends. The strong, respectful relationships I had with each of my children helped get us through some of the tough times that came our way.
- You are your child’s biggest role model. Children are sponges and are watching and learning from you from the moment they are born. They learn more from observing how you interact with the world than from all the lectures you give them. So walk the talk!
- Be there, be present and be involved. Even your teenager who rolls their eyes most of the time wants you to be involved. They need your love and guidance. Stay connected, even when you’d like to pull your hair out!
- Embrace your child’s temperament. Your child comes to you with their unique personality. No two children will be the same. I always said my job was to help my children make the most of their strengths and work with their weaknesses. And I still believe it today as they blossom into young adults.
- Be kind, be calm, be patient. This isn’t easy. I hope I was always kind, but I wasn’t always calm or patient. I think I got better at this as my kids got more independent, but I sure wish I could have some of those early years back to yell less and slow down more.
- Parenting joy ebbs and flows, just like parenting despair comes and goes. There will be challenging times. You will cry; it will be tough. You will get through it. Keep your head up and your heart open. Cherish the joy along the way.
- Find your people! Find people who support you, who share your values, who you can laugh with and who you can cry with. You need these people. I would never have survived without a network of friends and family to get me through the tough days and to share in the delights along the way.
- Look after yourself. I can’t overstate this enough. You can’t be a kind, calm and patient parent if your own needs aren’t met. Love yourself. Eat well, sleep well, move your body. Take the time you need to nurture yourself.
The time we spend raising our children is really quite short in the big picture of life.
As I anxiously count down the days for my daughters to return for the summer months, for the house to fill once again with their voices and laughter, I pledge to cherish this time and soak up their love and energy. The time they will both be living at home is starting to dwindle.
While I am feeling a little sad that my parent role is shifting, I do know my parenting journey is not over. It is just changing and evolving. I’m not sure what lies around the corner, but I am excited to see what being the parent to young adults feels like.
Do you have any advice to share?
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