I absolutely love being a mom.
But, I have to admit that having kids has absolutely destroyed me. It has forced me to be much less selfish and self-centered. I have had to re-design myself, per say, over and over again. Often I find myself saying, "I wasn't like this before I had kids." BUT, my children mean the world to me, and honestly, they make me a better person. I would give anything for them, would never trade them in for anything, and find that I am continuously astounded by their abilities to love, learn, grow... and teach me to find true happiness in life.
My husband and I have so much fun with our kids. They really keep life interesting and challenging. For me, they have filled the past eight years with joy, tears, very little sleep, excitement, worries, and laughter. Sometimes I feel sorry that my husband misses out on so many of the fun moments of being a parent, but we try to fill him in as much as possible when he is around. He is a wonderful dad whose love for life is rubbing off on the kids.
Often, when I tell people that my husband is a medical resident, they respond with: "Oh, so you are like a single parent - but worse." It is not a question. I usually laugh cordially and then assure them that I can't imagine that it is anything like being a single parent.
It is true that he is absent a lot. But, he is also present - a lot. He attends activities and cheers for the kids whenever possible. He wrestles with them, plays hide-n-seek, and reads books to them at bedtime whenever he can. I also try to make sure my kids know how much their dad loves them. I never say anything negative about my husband or his career choice in front of them. I do try to talk openly with them about it though. We often discuss how much he is gone and how much he has to study, but I always remind them that he loves them and wants to be with them. We try to focus on how their dad works so that they can have food, clothes, toys, etc., and not on how important it is that he is helping people. We mention that too, but I don't want my kids to think their dad is choosing to help other people, rather than to be with them.
During these years as a parent I have learned that the two most important things to focus on while parenting are:
1. Time playing and talking with the children - and loving them
2. Effective teaching (or disciplining)
Of course spending time playing and talking with the kids is important. This is easier said than done when my husband works long hours and is often tired or needs to study when he is home, and I am exhausted by the time he gets home. If we plan ahead and schedule our time wisely, we can fit in fun activities together when possible. Sometimes we exercise together as a family so that my husband can get his exercise, and the kids can talk with and be around him. We also take advantage of adventures whenever possible. My husband loves to try and experience new things so we go camping, hiking, exploring, and anything inexpensive and fun to do with kids. My husband also tries to take each child to do something separately as often as possible, known as a 'Daddy date' or a date with Dad.
Because my husband and I decided to have children before he started medical school, teaching appropriate behavior (or disciplining) has become a huge part of my responsibility as a mother. Learning how to effectively teach my children has been difficult because I prefer to "keep it light" and enjoy my time with the children. I would really like to be 'the good guy' and have my husband discipline the kids, but this has always been totally unrealistic. Sometimes I feel like the children have to behave perfectly when my husband comes home so they can enjoy only positive experiences with him during their short time with him. I've found this is also unrealistic.
We both have to be part of the process.
Usually the way we teach our children works well, until one of the children challenges it in a new way and we disagree about how to handle it. Through the process we have come to discover that treating children like capable, intelligent human beings as we instruct them on appropriate behavior helps enormously, rather than just sending them to "time out." Of course, open communication is the key to whether my husband and I can work challenges out and parent effectively together.
Sometimes, though, I do wish (so much) that I had studied child development as an undergrad student. Yes, that would come in handy. Often I parent according to the "trial and error method," love my kids like crazy, and just pray really hard that Heavenly Father will make up the difference.