In the past few years, I have stared death in the face more than once. Once by an illness that could have taken my life had it not been caught in time; the other time in a fluke accident that nearly took my last breath.
The strange thing is that both events happened in a relatively short span of time when I still had children under the age of 10. But the good thing, and there’s always a good thing, is that both incidents took a toll on me physically and mentally and have made me stop to think about my mortality and role as a mother.
Prior to these incidents, I just was that mother. The mother who did everything for her kids; the mother who tried to create the best life possible for her kids; the mother who put her career one step behind her when the children were very small to spend more time with her kids; the mother who often felt frustrated by having to clean up after them and organize their play dates and activities; the mother who made sure they have healthy diets and get enough sleep. Everything I did, I did for them until that point.
That actually hasn’t changed since I looked a near death in the eye. My son and daughter still come first. I’m still in charge of their schedules. I still make sure I am at most events at school and turn down opportunities from time to time that conflict with some of my parental duties.
But something changed. Since the realization that life has a beginning and an ending, I am embracing the small moments, and I’m more mindful in all the moments I mentioned above. These moments are not necessarily always about my children. Often they are my own. I don’t take it lightly that life is short any longer, because it is, and I’m just as much here in this life as they are.
Meaning comes in many forms, and as a mother I think about this daily:
The more meaning my own life has, the more meaning their lives will have.
From day one, it’s always been a priority for me as a mom to maintain the person I was before I had kids. I won’t lie – motherhood is serious business and my life is like night and day to before I had them. But now I stop to take in the rare moments before they pass me by. I put my phone down and look up on family trips, and I make my kids put their phones away during meals. I know our time is short and I want to make it meaningful. When they do leave home, let them have learned from our travels, from our conversations about future Presidents at the dinner table, from my own stories about my childhood which I’m now telling them more often.
As busy as I get wrapped up with the details that revolve around motherhood, I try not to forget myself.
During the first few years of motherhood, I did some crazy things. I left a job I left because I didn’t want to travel. I missed Broadway shows I booked tickets for. I lost touch with friends, many of whom didn’t stick around. I gave motherhood my full attention and neglected what I love. I don’t’ do that anymore. Granted, my kids are more capable, but motherhood is still demanding, as I assume it always will be. But I travel when I need to and I take advantage of other opportunities, both professional and personal, that give me personal fulfillment. The world is now about us, not just them.
The more time I create for them, the happier we all are.
As a mom with her own business, I’m always flipping back and forth between my professional and personal life. The juggling is very real. But no matter how busy I get, when I’m home with them, I shut down my computer, put away my phone and focus on my kids. We do their homework in the kitchen, talk about our days and generally eat together if we’re home at the same time. I can honestly say that I’ve seen big improvements in our family dynamic, and a fair amount of attention from a mom who may not have provided enough in the past that is coming now, after my rude awakening, is a very good thing.
The less stress I have, the less stress my children have.
Whenever life gets hectic, I try to figure out ways to minimize my stress whether it be minimizing my kid’s activities due to issues with childcare or missing out on something because we’re all overbooked. When I’m stressed, so are my kids, so I try to avoid that. I try not to take out my own frustration on them. The better I behave, the better they behave, plain and simple. I’m managing deadlines far better than I used to and I’m not at my computer as often.
The more activities we can share and do together, the more we have in common.
I try to include my kids in things that make me happy – Broadway shows, travel, reading books I loved growing up, movies, taking walks by the ocean, long bike rides. The more we share, the more we have to talk about. Of course, there are plenty of things they like that I’m not interested in, and I try to open myself up to new experiences and let them teach me about the things they love.
The more self-fulfillment I have personally and professionally, the better off we all are.
I’ve taken a few missteps with my career, but it’s never too late to make up for lost time. I try to spend each and everyday working with talented people, progressing my skills, and working on meaningful projects. The better I am at work, the better I am at home.
The more engaged my own friendships are, the better off my kids are.
I’m also making more of an effort to call my friends. Texting and email just don’t cut it for me anymore. Since I nearly died, I realize how precious time is and I may not have enough of it. It’s important for my kids to recognize the value of a good friend, and let them learn that from me.
There are just a few things I’ve learned – I’m sure there are more. If you can relate, please let me know in the comments and HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!