Thirteen Lessons on Motherhood: One for Every Year I’ve been a Mom

This month, we celebrate Mother’s Day and so I’ve decided to stick to one primary theme this month: Motherhood.

For thirteen years, I’ve had the privilege of being a mom to two lovely children. Motherhood has irrevocably changed me. It has taught me how to love, to sacrifice, and how to yield in ways I never expected. Along the way, over these last thirteen years, I have learned a few things that I thought I’d share. Here are my top thirteen things.

One for each year of mothering…

Eat dinner together, around your table, as often as possible. Dinner conversations are so nourishing. It’s where we discuss politics, and life, where we tell our stories. It’s the place where we learn conflict management. It’s how children learn the value of good listening and how to thoughtfully talk to adults. When I substituted at the high-school the students who knew how to engage in thoughtful conversations were the kids who acknowledged that they discussed the very same things at dinner with their parents. There’s something signficant about table-talk you don’t get anywhere else.

Clean up said dinner together. (John’s been really helpful with this. Everyone takes responsibility and mom isn’t left cleaning it all up.)

Remember the Boulders and Backpacks rule. We have to help our children carry their boulders, the big things they can’t and shouldn’t carry alone. And we have teach our children to carry their own backpacks. Each child is different, but if we don’t teach them to carry their own weight, we do them a lifetime of disservice. If we leave them to fend for themselves with their big boulders we crush their spirits and cultivate powerlessness and repressed anger.

Don’t fight every fight for them. Use discernment. This is a tough world. Sometimes your child needs you in the boxing ring with your hands held high, swinging those punches, and sometimes you have to stand in the corner and let your kid fight their own battles, and on many occasions we have to teach them to quietly walk away.

Nurture grit. 

Show up and be present. This is your one and only shot. They will grow. They will leave the nest. There’s lots of ways to be involved. You don’t have to helicopter your kids to show them that you’re there.

Tell them your stories. Don’t be afraid to tell them the things you regret doing, or the funny mistakes you’ve made. Or even the things you’re proud of. Age appropriate stories, of course, but tell the tales of your family, and of your life. We can’t give our children wings to fly, if we don’t first give them their roots so they know how to land.

Travel. In as many ways as you can think of. Go places, do things. Try new foods. Take them to various different kinds of churches. Get out of your neighborhood and into new cities. Show them you are not afraid of this world.

Listen, don’t preach, and pay attention to cracked doors and windows. Don’t force your children to share their hearts with you, but watch for ways to hear their hearts. Take the time to connect with them, and pay attention to their vulnerable moments and step carefully into them.

Accept their personalities and work with them. Some kids are introverts, some are so extroverted it’s not even funny. Some are naturally born to walk their own wild road. Some are natural conformists and want to please people. It’s not your job to change them, it is your job to teach them and help them within the strengths and weaknesses of their innate personalities.

Model faith if you hope for faith-filled adults. Don’t force faith onto them. Let faith be the foundation of your life, the well-spring of your heart. Talk about Jesus and your life with God all throughout their lives. Don’t forget to talk about your disappointments and doubts, too. Let faith be real. Nurture the sacred of ordinary life.

Lots of affection and warmth. Nurture their little souls. Children need affection and warmth of heart like we need water and sun.

Prayer is your go-to help. Pray all the time. Wisdom comes from above. I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t read books on parenting or take classes. I think those are super important. I read and gather information like a squirrel gathers nuts. But recognize that God is a companion and friend to spend time with. God cares for your children ever so much and wants to help you raise them. Talk to God about everything. Over time, you’ll notice how you are shaped by a wisdom and peace and sense of overall well-being that doesn’t come from a parenting magazine or even from the affirmation of a friend.

There are so many more lessons I’ve learned on the way, many I’m sure I’ll learn as I start my ascent into the teen years, and there are regrets — things I wish I’d done differently. Oh to turn back time!

Next week, I’ll be writing about some of my regrets. Don’t miss it!

For Conversation and Reflection: How about you? What are some of the things you’ve learned on your parenting journey?

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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.


  1. This one is powerful and applicable. Beautifully done, Tina. Excellent insights!

    1. Thank you. xox

  2. What I’ve learned; sage advice passed on to me “pick your battles.” Also, be a parent when they’re young and more of a friend when they’re adults. Boundaries are important. Kids need them. I’ve seen where it’s lacking in other’s children and they seem like they are desperately seeking them.

    1. Oh I like those so much. Yes. Pick your battles. And love the, “Be a friend when they’re adults.” So helpful. And boundaries! That deserves and entire post.

      Much Love,


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