11 Important Parenting Lessons I Learned After Having 6 Kids

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Here’s the virtual group hug all moms need from Modern Parenting’s Editor-in-chief Marga Medrano-Tupaz

Two days ago, as I was going through photos in my phone, I came across some old ones of the kids when they were toddlers and babies, so I shared them on my Instagram Stories. Surprisingly, there was one in particular that sparked so many reactions from my friends —

How did you do it?”
“You are so amazing!”
“I can’t even handle X kids with helpers, but you raised 5 without any help.”
“You are mom goals!

I was so grateful for such kind words, but truth be told, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. Behind the scenes was a mom who was unsure of herself, trying to keep it together, overwhelmed, temperamental and scared.

I looked at the photo more closely and I remember taking that snapshot in early 2007 — it was mid afternoon and I was getting the little ones ready for their naps so I could help the older ones with homework. Gosh, how I wish I enjoyed being in that moment a little more!

Instead of wallowing in feelings of regret and guilt, I decided to unpack the things I learned over the years, and wish I knew then. Hopefully this inspires other moms who need some reassurance, especially with all the challenges we are going through lately.

11 things I wish I knew 14 years ago:

1. Time flies, so enjoy each and every moment.

I know it doesn’t feel like it right now because you are raising 5 kids under 7 years old. Most days are long and busy — between chores and taking care of one infant, two toddlers and two preschoolers. But what you need to know is you are doing a great job of keeping them alive and yourself sane. And THAT is already cause for celebration.

You need to stop obsessing over that to-do list because honestly, it’s unfair to you and to your family. You don’t need reasons to feel bad about yourself if you don’t get things done. Enjoy all that time you have with your babies because it will happen so fast, whether you are ready or not. Time waits for no one.

14 years ago: Natalia (4), Nicolo (1), Arriana (2), Luigi (2 months) and Miguel (6)

2. Once in a while, let the kids make a mess.

Your house can’t be spotless and in perfect order when you have young kids running around the place. You also do not need to vacuum every hour and Swiffer the kitchen floors three times a day.

Let them make a mess with their toys, let them walk around with yogurt, juice or chocolate milk stains on their shirts, don’t wake them up when they fall asleep after dinner just to bathe them. Once in a while, just let them be, so you too can rest. Organized chaos is something you will learn to love.

3. Take as many pictures as you can.

You love taking photos of your kids and that’s great, but you need more pictures with them. I know what you’re thinking — who will take them when you are usually the only adult that’s around. There’s a thing called “selfies” that’s gonna be big in the next several years, so try that. While you have so many memories and photographs of your kids, they will one day want photos with their mom. So give them plenty!

Exploration Peak Park, 2007

4. Do not stress about feeding your kids.

Mac n’ cheese, Go-gurt, Hot pockets, PB&J sammies, cereal — just let them have at it. They need good experiences when it comes to food, so don’t force them to eat “healthy” things. They are little people with their own likes and dislikes, and that will change and evolve over time.

Eventually, some will become very adventurous when it comes to food and some will just never outgrow being picky. When choosing your battles, this is not one you should even consider fighting because you know why? Your kids will grow up to be health conscious and they will never stop eating. They’ll even learn to plan and cook your meals in another 12 years, and do a much better job at it than you. #Facts

5. It’s OK to do whatever makes you happy, so you just do you. 

Go ahead and binge watch Jon & Kate Plus 8 and the first two seasons of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Shop ’til you drop for all those kids clothes — without feeling guilty. You have my blessing since that is your only indulgence. In the future, your kids will see photos and love all the outfits you put them in when they were younger. Not many kids can say that. Good luck trying to convince your husband though. Besides, Baby #6 will get to enjoy these outfits too. Surprise!

And here she is. Baby #6, Sabrina (2009)

6. Ditch the itineraries and schedules when you go on vacation. Just go with the flow.

You are supposed to be taking a break and having fun, right? The art of doing nothing is something you will enjoy in the next ten years or so, might as well start now. And really, no one wants be hanging out with a party pooper. The kids will make fun of you when they grow up, so relax, have fun and just go with it.

LA Zoo, 2007

7. Ask for help and let people help you.

You are a control freak. You know all that laundry that never seems to get done because you won’t let anyone else touch it? Well, you ought to teach people who want to help you how it’s done.

I know there are days you daydream about having yayas especially when you want to hit the snooze button, but you can’t because the babies need a diaper change, or the two older kids need to get ready for school, and when you have to gather enough strength to clean up someone’s vomit.

Eventually, you will learn that good help is hard to find. When you move to the Philippines and have helpers available, you will miss the times you didn’t have any, when you had privacy and life was simpler — you know, the good ol’ days.

8. If you think having 5 kids is tough, wait until you have 6 kids (and those 5 become teenagers)! You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Christmas 2019

These adorable and clingy kids who always need you and want to cuddle with you are so precious! Savor these moments because it’s not gonna happen again. When they become preteens until their early teens, their hormones will sort of take over, they will grow like weeds and morph into different people.

Get ready for the drama and the tears. You will be able to stand your ground and you will set them straight, after all you’re no push over. But it’s during these times you will find yourself staring at the pictures of how they are right now and wonder — where did your babies go?

So whenever you’re tired and the kids push your buttons, pause, take deep breaths and just give them hugs and kisses — it’s for you. Trust me when I say that it’s not worth crying over spilled milk.

9. When it comes to raising your kids, theirs is the only opinion that matters!

How many times have you been criticized and shamed thus far for being so young and having so many kids, and how many times did you get triggered and ended up crying about it?

I agree it’s annoying, the unwarranted comments get old, and you will eventually tell some people off. For as long as you are doing your best, do not second guess the way you are parenting because no one knows them better than you do. Those kids will be everything you could ever hope for and more! They will make your heart burst with so much pride and joy. And the best part — you’re going to witness them growing up to be the best of friends.

Las Vegas, 2008

10. Lasting memories are made up of the simplest joys in life.

And there it is. Sorry for bursting your bubble, but you will prove this to be true time and time again. Your kids will never remember all the extravagant things you do for them — all the birthday parties, trips to Legoland, Disneyland, Sea World, etc., all the nice gifts you shower them with, none of it.

While you are so worried about whether or not you are giving them a good life, you will find that in the future, they will constantly talk about their childhood very fondly and with so much excitement. What they will remember most vividly are movie nights in your crowded bedroom, trips to the park, the times they played hide and seek, when you let them have picnics in their bedroom past bedtime, and the spontaneous ice cream runs or long car rides in the middle of the night.

Being together and doing things together — those things will make up their happy childhood memories. That’s it. Don’t feel bad if you can’t give them everything because what they already have are things money can’t buy. 

11. You’re going to make a ton of mistakes, so cut yourself some slack.

You became a mom at 22 years old and you’re doing a lot of growing up with your kids. You are winging things all the time, you’re thinking on your toes, so you are bound to make mistakes and you will learn from them. You cower at the thought of messing them up or not doing enough or not giving them enough attention, so you never rest.

Listen, one day, your kids will tell you about all the fun things they remember doing with you, the little details they noticed and paid attention to when you thought they weren’t looking — you are the constant force in their lives and nothing is going to change that. Be kinder to yourself.

When they’re older, they will tell you just how grateful they are for you and how much they love you — especially on your birthdays and on Mothers Day. And yes, you will cry every single time without fail. That feeling of reassurance, of knowing that you’re doing okay, is priceless.

Mother’s Day 2020

The most difficult but also the most fulfilling job in the world

As parents, we’re all guilty of being our own harshest critics. It’s true that there are always going to be other parents who are far better than we are, who can give so much more than we can, but to our kids — we’re all they’ve got. And what they need, especially in the times we are living in today, is for us to be present. To them, knowing that we will always be there whenever they need us (or not) is everything!

Today, being a mom to two adults, three teens and one preteen, has a different set of challenges. I am still constantly figuring things out. But, what I know for sure is that parenting is about living and learning, it’s designed for trial and error, it gives us room to make mistakes and be able to correct them. It’s never too late. Everyday is an opportunity to start fresh, it’s a chance to make new memories, so make it count!

There is absolutely no such thing as a perfect parent, but there are a hundred and one ways to be a good one. And I bet in your kids’ eyes, you are as awesome as it gets!

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