Seasons of Motherhood

December 27th, 2015

The best piece of parenting advice I ever received wasn’t really even advice. It was affirmation.

It was the summer of 2012. We had just moved to Kentucky from Pittsburgh and I was hot, pregnant, and miserable. Morning sickness was kicking my butt and most days I couldn’t muster the energy or strength of stomach to cook. We were eating out a lot and I was plagued with mommy guilt over it.

When my first daughter was small, I prided myself on being a “crunchy” mom. I fed her homemade organic baby food, shopping at the farmers market and lovingly steaming and pureeing feasts of sweet potatoes, beets, and fresh baby spinach. Three years later, I was doing good to account for all the food groups in a day.

After back-to-back dinners of chicken nuggets and fries, I called a friend to bemoan my terrible parenting. And heard her reply – “You’re in a different season of motherhood now. And that’s okay.”

That concept – that the experience of motherhood ebbs and flows and changes like the seasons – was a revelation. And a relief. Seasons are temporary. Fall doesn’t last forever and neither does potty-training. The dark winter of biting will, one day, give way to the warm summer of cooperative play.

We change our behavior with the seasons of the year, too. Summer is for long walks, grilled dinners, and evenings lounging on the porch. Winter is for reading and puzzles and going to bed a little early because the flannel sheets are just so welcoming. It’s the same with parenting. During the early seasons of motherhood, most of our parenting energy goes into basic care. Diapers and late-night feedings and rocking a fussy newborn for hours on end. Staying sane is the ultimate goal and if that means ordering a pizza twice a week, so be it.

But eventually, the season changes.

I can feel one of those seasonal shifts happening in my life right now. For the first time in seven years, I can leave the house without a diaper bag. The baby monitor is on its way out because everyone in my house can get out of their bed all by themselves if they need something in the night.

Christmas Parade 2

The baby season is over. The sleepless nights and marathon nursing sessions are behind me. The faint but lingering smell of diapers is slowly leaving the house (hallelujah!). The sippy cups are disappearing from the cabinets and the plastic plates have made way for breakable dishware. We retired the stroller this year and handed down an assortment of baby carriers to cousins and friends.

Changing seasons are always a little bittersweet. As much as I love the snow, it’s sad to see the final leaves drop in the fall. And even when I’m desperately ready for spring, I miss the beauty of frost-covered trees.

So I’m filled with a mixture of relief and wistfulness as I close out the baby years. I’m ready for the next adventure, but on those rare occasions that my youngest still wants to clamber into the rocking chair with me, I’m more than happy to let her.

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