I keep thinking about this young mother I saw leaving Walgreens a while back.

She was carrying a baby and she had a toddler clinging onto her leg in a state of frantic bawling.  I’m not talking whimpering, I’m talking howling.  The mother couldn’t move.  Yet there was something in her face that spoke to me.  Sure, she was frazzled and frustrated.  She had a little ball of fury hanging on her leg for crying out loud.  But there was also something strangely calm about her in the midst of that little hurricane of emotion.  She was being a “durable object” (I talked about that back HERE) as her toddler let out some frustration.  And I felt such a swell of love for motherhood right at that moment. I know, weird time to think motherhood is grand, but hear me out.

As a fellow mother who has been through that exact scene before, I knew there wasn’t a thing I could do.  If I tried to comfort that toddler the wails were sure to become mightier.  And the mother was much too in-the-zone to let me sweep away that baby to give her room to calm the toddler.

But that day as the door swung open at Walgreens and that swell of life greeted me, I wished I could give that mother a giant hug.  I wished I could tell her something:  all that patience she was exerting raising those babies was worth it.  She was engaged in some of the most important work in the whole wide world: raising life.  Teaching, praising, nurturing, being the “eye of the storm” pretty beautifully right at that moment. 

It made me wonder.  How patient was I in the throes of the trenches?  How are my trenches different now?  I certainly have them, but they have morphed into something oh so different, lassoing teenage hormones, helping maneuver through tough choices, training without pushing, guiding without nagging, praying for help along the way in such a different way than I did back then.

Would I do it differently if I had it to do over again?

A couple days later as I perused the isles of the grocery store I saw another mother.
This time the mother was a grandmother, hunched over her grocery cart, white hair, her cheeks weathered with wrinkles and a twinkle in her eye.  (I assumed she was a grandmother because she had a couple toys in her cart, possibly for grandchildren?)  Undoubtedly she had been through a lot…everyone who reaches that age has.  Her sparkly eyes and smile told me that she had braved it well.  It was a much more quiet observation than my previous motherhood observation and struck me as such a poignant contrast.

Both mothers made me kind of stop in my tracks and think about stages of motherhood.  Whatever part we are in, are we making the most of it?  If that grandma could pull me aside and give me advice or a pep talk from her vantage point on the motherhood spectrum what would she say?  I’m guessing she’d probably tell me to slow down (something that’s always a struggle for me).  To go on walks more with a child at my side.  Put my new-fangled phone down more often and let things slide?  Would she tell me all my worries and striving to re-center would be worth it in the end?

I bet she would.

I’m going to go ahead and take the advice I imagine she’d give and live it up to the best of my abilities at this stage right here right now.

My sisters and I laugh when we get together because one of them always says, every time, “my kids are in the best stage!”  I feel the same way about my own kids.  Just when I think one stage is the very best it can get, the next gets even better (who knew having a missionary could be so dang fun?  more on that later…and older kids who can discuss the world…I talked more about “stages from baby to teens” back HERE).  I hope I can always make the motherhood part the “best stage” too.  It’s so interesting how motherhood shifts and changes over the years.  How I hope I can always recognize the best parts of this grand journey along the way.

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  1. It says that I'm Pete, but that's my husband. I'm Jessica:) I love the message of this post. It's so easy to wish away seasons, but we are just robbing ourselves of enjoying today for what it is. The next season is sure to be joyful, but also have it's challenges. I host a podcast called the Extraordinary Moms Podcast and interview a different mom every week who shares their motherhood journey and the lessons they've learned. It would be such a joy and an honor to interview you on my show. If you'd be interested, you can email me for more info at jessica@extraordinarymomspodcast.com

  2. One of the best advice from an older mom to me when my girls were 5,6 and 8, was "not to look over their heads into the future and wishing myself out of each stage. Enjoy your parenting tight where you are because it changes so fast."
    I stopped looking towards future years and events and started to really enjoy where the girls were right then.
    Thank you for your blog and your deliberate motherhood.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I feel like you just gave me a huge hug! Motherhood has the power bond families, strangers, women, and perhaps even the world! I've been a long time off and on reader of your blog, thank you for being a positive force for good!

  4. This is perfect! We're about to have our fifth and my oldest will be three (!) So to say we're in the trenches of young children is an understatement. Remembering to find all the goodness (because there is a lot of it!) In the midst of the sleepless nights and tantrums is the key 🙂 My kids are at the best stage!

  5. This is perfect! We're about to have our fifth and my oldest will be three (!) So to say we're in the trenches of young children is an understatement. Remembering to find all the goodness (because there is a lot of it!) In the midst of the sleepless nights and tantrums is the key 🙂 My kids are at the best stage!

  6. Love the positive outlook in this post! I sometimes get sad thinking that the "best stage" is when my kids are little and I only have a short time left in it .. It's always good to hear that there are blessings in ALL stages of motherhood and that I won't spend the rest of my life wishing for this stage back (and being angry that I didn't appreciate it enough!)

  7. Just wanted to thank you for your posts on concrete mothering. I've been feeling a bit lost for ideas this last little while and my 6 year old has really thrown me with her behaviour lately. Tonight my husband and I gave out awards (I completely forgot to even mention this idea to him, but decided to spring it on them all anyway and he thought it was genius! He even got his guitar and 'sang' the winners and a description of why they got it and they thought it was sooooo funny). Love getting ideas from others when my not so creative brain fails me!

  8. You always make me feel so good about being a mom. There is no maternal bone in the women in my family, except me, so I love your blog. My youngest just had two days of lunch detention for forgetting EVERYTHING, and my oldest called from college to tell me she has three formals over the next three weeks, and well, how about that? ($$$). But I always get hope, joy and encouragement from you. Thank you so much!

  9. I have five kids like you and my youngest started school full time this year. It has been a hard transition having them all gone all day and not as sweet and loving as they used to be. I appreciate your advice to enjoy the stage you are in and not long for the past or the future. There is good to be found in each stage of motherhood.

  10. Shawni, I just have to tell you how so very grateful I am for you! I have followed your blog for the last 8 years and have read every single post (and ended up back reading all the other ones I had missed). I speak about you/your posts on what I have learned to someone on a daily basis. I have some people that tease me saying I would be more star struck running into you then maybe anyone else, I think they are right :). I feel like you have been by my side, helping me step by step raising my 4 beautiful children. The things you have taught/reminded me, I will be eternally grateful for! This post came at such a great time for me as I have been struggling with one of my children who was once my easiest kid. Such a great reminder. Just this morning I went to the temple with a friend. While we were waiting I couldn't help but ponder this post, and share with her my thoughts on it. Thank you thank you for going out of the way, to share all of these wonderful insightful things. A lot of these things we already know, but the way you go about reminding us, helping us reset our focus and give us hope for a better day.

    Thank you for being you! Much love, Rebecca (Herriman, Ut)

  11. Oh my gosh, I am that first mom right now!!!! I can't thank you enough Shawni for writing! You seriously inspire beyond words! We had a favorite things party with friends the other week and filled out a questionnaire and for "favorite internet site" I put 71toes! I get the best advice and internet loving from you! You give me excitement for my kids to go to the next "best stage" all the time and enjoy the one I'm in more!

  12. Amazingly beautiful. Thank you for your incredible insights into motherhood. They always uplift me and give me hope and energy.

  13. I am in the same motherhood stage as you–and I do feel like it's the best- just like I feel like being in my forties is the best time I've had! I realize like you do though, that it's just getting better & better. Great insight. 🙂

  14. I love this post! Thank you for reminding me that re-centering is worth it, sometimes I wonder if I'm wasting my time. I'm not. Thank you for your insights.

  15. Love this Shawn, and love you. This is just the kind of perspective I need as I transition to another phase of motherhood. I've been writing/thinking a lot lately about how to gracefully embrace every stage instead of looking forward or looking back. Can't wait to talk to you more about this sometime.

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