I met my husband when my daughter was just a year old and several years later we got married. Since that day I’ve felt compelled to be the best wife (and mother) I can be. But my journey to being the best wife I could be didn’t start on my wedding day. It started years earlier, the day I became a mother. There are things that motherhood teaches you that no book or relationship expert can teach you. Not even the greatest love stories (real life or fiction) can speak to the lessons rooted in motherhood. So much of who I am was cultivated in the everyday facets of being a mother, from the mundane to the extraordinary. In a sense, motherhood prepared me for marriage. Here’s how:
It forced me to grow up quickly. I was 20 years old when I gave birth. Becoming a mother quickly taught me the importance of looking at the big picture; my life was no longer just about me. I came to the realization that the choices I made would have a profound impact on someone who I loved with my entire being. These early learnings, of course, were important for after I said “I do.” The decisions that I make as a married woman don’t just impact me, they impact my husband and daughter as well.
I learned to lead by example and to choose my words more carefully. As a mother I feel compelled to be more mindful of the way that I carry myself and the way I speak and interact with loved ones. I strive to be gentler with my words regardless of how I feel. I have learned that sometimes my actions say more than any speech or lecture does, even in marriage. In my own marriage I have found that I truly do get what I give (and many times I get even more).
I discovered how to be a great cheerleader. As parents we are the biggest supporters of our children. It comes natural to us. It’s what we do. We marvel at their accomplishments and we celebrate them. When they fall we help them dust themselves off and stand by them until they are ready to try again, offering encouragement along the way. Although we try to be supportive of our spouses we don’t always channel our support in the out loud inspirational way we do for our kids. But cheering on my baby girl inspired me to champion my husband with everything I’ve got. And to remind him that he is capable when he doesn’t feel that he is, to reaffirm his awesomeness and to celebrate his accomplishments whether extraordinary and profound or simply a declaration that he will try again.
It showed me that I’m human. One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with was the fact that I am not perfect. I’ll make mistakes and feel like I’ve blown it sometimes. And that’s okay! Changing my mindset in this way has helped me to be able to admit when I’ve messed up in my relationship, say that I’m sorry, and accept that I am a work in progress. I accept that my husband has the same limitations, and I understand that we all have our “off” days.
It taught me that “love rewards the brave.” The greatest gift my daughter gave me was courage. I reached for my dreams with one arm while she was safely nestled in the crook of the other. I have been able to show her that she wasn’t a barrier to my dreams and instead was a catalyst. She helped me to be brave, dig deep, and pull strength from within. To look up and let faith and love inhabit every crevice of who I was. This courage allowed me to let go of the fear of what could be in order to live in what is. This same sense of courage has allowed me to put everything into loving a man who has shown me that even though real love may not look as easy as it does in movies, it’s still beautiful and worth striving for.
I learned the importance of hard work. All married people say that marriage is hard work. But so is parenting. Parenting is some of the hardest work there is. You are charged with teaching, shaping, and guiding a precious being. The degree of accountability is scary and yet fulfilling. And yet, you do the work because it’s worth it. You show up even when you are tired and feel like you’re running on empty — only to realize that you’re not. You’re running on love and that — love — is enough.