The Best Mom Advice Anyone Ever Gave Me, and Two Other Pieces of Friendly Advice

My daughter and son are fourteen and a half months apart. When Emma was five months old I got pregnant with Lucas. I was barely on top of being a mom to one baby and then I had another baby to nurture and raise. We didn’t have a lot of money and so when Lucas was young I worked one day a week as a personal assistant to the owner of a body shop.

Barbie was, and is a larger-than-life, beautiful woman with a smile so big you can count all her teeth. She makes you feel like you are exactly who you are supposed to be. She’s encouraging and happy, loud and beautiful, and utterly unapologetic. Spend ten minutes with Barbie and you’ll know she has lived a courageous life, and somehow figured out that goodness is not found in getting your way all the time, but in learning to be grateful for the ordinary, beautiful things life hands us if we pay attention.

There I was a new mama, struggling to pay the bills, trying to get my weight back to normal and I end up working for this bold woman who said it just like she saw it.

One day I complained about how I didn’t have time to clean my house, anymore. I’d clean a room and the babies would mess it up within ten minutes. I didn’t know if I’d have a clean house ever again. Not to mention the endless loads of laundry. Barbie turned to me with the most dumbfounded look on her face. “Tina, who cares about cleaning your house when you have two little babies to love? My kids are all grown and gone, and now all I’ve got is a house to clean. Enjoy your children.”

Enjoy your Children. Barbie wasn’t trying to tell me I should never clean my house. Nor was she saying that I was supposed to spend every waking minute with my children. She was a full-time working mom. She was trying to tell me to make it count. Don’t get so lost in all the list of things you are supposed to do that you forget to just enjoy your little ones. In every season. Granted, some seasons are more taxing than other seasons, but carve out time in your life, and space in your heart for simple enjoyment. Look at them at least once a day and sigh in absolute devotion. Your child is yours in a way no one else will ever be. Relish in your child.

Be a woman of consequence. Be a mother on purpose and not on accident. This mothering thing is a one ticket ride. It won’t come again. Even if you got pregnant on accident and are still reeling with the shock of it. Take a deep breath, and be about the things that really matter. You are the only mother or father your child will ever have. Your kids get you with all your particular strengths and weaknesses. You can’t make everything a fight, but you also can’t be so amicable you never take a stand on holy ground. If you are a softy, full of tenderness and love and hugs and kisses, embrace that part of you and nurture the heck out of your kids. Then shore up your weaknesses. Just because you’re soft, doesn’t mean you can’t be firm. If you’re naturally a super firm mom who doesn’t know how to give big hugs, practice. Get better at hugging. Kiss them and squeeze them. This isn’t rocket science. If you aren’t naturally affectionate, take a lesson.

Talk with your kids. Spend time talking about all the things you are worried about. Talk about sex, drugs, boyfriends, girlfriends, social media, identity, choices, God, and prayer. Obviously, try to talk with your kids with an age appropriate awareness. Don’t pretend that your thirteen-year-old has never heard of sex, or that your seven-year-old understands where babies come from. Dig around a little inside your child’s mind and find out what they know, what they need to learn, and then begin talking about things. Straight from the heart.

The other day one of my kids used the name of Jesus inappropriately. It was a genuine slip.  I’m a fairly flexible mom and not usually worried if they swear from time to time. They go to public school and hear a lot of cursing. We talk about swearing. We discuss why enriching our vocabulary is important and why saying shit once in a while is different than calling a girl a bitch. (We don’t name-call. Ever. No matter what. That matters to me. See second piece of advice. I am who I am on purpose.)

When someone uses the name of Jesus in a way that I’m uncomfortable with, I pause and we talk. It was a genuine slip and there was no malice in it, but I took the opportunity to say, that tone, that way of using the name of Jesus is a no-go. Jesus is the center and foundation of all that I hold dear and as far as I’m concerned, his name is Holy Ground.

How about you? What advice do you have for us mothers out there? I’d LOVE to hear.

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Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015.

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