Moms reveal 5 things they wish they could tell their younger selves about motherhood

Motherhood is a journey unlike any other, and one that is nearly impossible to prepare for. No matter how many parenting books you read, how many people you talk to, how many articles you peruse before having kids, your children will emerge as completely unique creatures who impact your world in ways you could never have anticipated.

Those of us who have been parenting for a while have some wisdom to share from experience. Not that older moms know everything, of course, but hindsight can offer some perspective that's hard to find when you're in the thick of early motherhood.

Upworthy asked our readers who are moms what they wish they could tell their younger selves about motherhood, and the responses were both honest and wholesome. Here's what they said:

Lighten up. Don't sweat the small stuff.

One of the most common responses was to stop worrying about the little things so much, try to be present with your kids, and enjoy the time you have with them:

"Relax and enjoy them. If your house is a mess, so be it. Stay in the moment as they are temporary..more so than you think, sometimes. We lost our beautiful boy to cancer 15+yrs ago. I loved him more than life itself..💔 "- Janet

"Don't worry about the dishes, laundry and other chores. Read the kids another book. Go outside and make a mud pie. Throw the baseball around a little longer. Color another picture. Take more pictures and make sure you are in the pictures too! My babies are 19 and 17 and I would give anything to relive an ordinary Saturday from 15 years ago." - Emma H.


"Spend more time just listening, even when what they say is the same thing over and over again! Some of my funniest memories were conversations I had with my kiddos...sad to think I may have missed something because I was so distracted with other things." - Mysti R.

"Relax a little. You don't need to spend every moment terrified. I wish I had known they were going to become responsible, productive adults so I could have just enjoyed their childhood." - Amy S.

"I wish I had learned to pick my battles when my kids were younger. You want to wear that same super hero outfit 3 days in a row? Fine. As long as you wash and brush your teeth. *Now, as a grandma, this is the advice I give my daughter most often. Stop stressing about all the little things." - Debbie P.

"It's almost never, EVER as big of a deal as you think it is. The spills, the broken things, the bickering, the pickiness at dinner time.... it's going to be fine. Chill." - Becca L.

"Spend more time making good memories and let the little mistakes be ignored. The housework and laundry will still be there. If they ask you to do something, do it now, before they don't ask anymore because they have things to do with their friends. Love them, hug them and tell them you love them often!" - Diane S.

Take care of yourself, psychologically and physically.

There are a couple of angles here that are important for moms. One is to get help with your own childhood traumas because they'll definitely become apparent to you when you have kids of your own.

"Go to therapy and work on those childhood traumas before having kids." - Melissa P.

"Generational trauma is real! Take some classes! Work on yourself before you have kids." - Cherry S.

And two, don't ignore your own needs. It's okay to take time for basic self-care.

"Put the baby down, let her cry a bit, go to the bathroom, take a shower, change your clothes, eat something healthy and she'll still grow up to be normal." - Chetna F.

Don't let the "enjoy every moment" advice derail you.

One of the most common refrains moms of young kids hear from older moms is "Enjoy every second! It goes by so fast!" and many of the commenters in our post said just that. The problem is it's not really possible to enjoy every second of motherhood, and it doesn't feel like it goes by fast when you're in the thick of it. For moms who are deep in the adorable but messy, sleep-deprived, relentless baby and toddler stage, "enjoy every moment" is not always helpful advice, even if it's coming from a place of knowing how quickly it passes.

These comments provided a nice balanced approach to this advice, acknowledging that the days are long but the years are short:

"'Don't wish away their childhoods.' My mother-in-law said this to me. I remember always thinking it will be easier when they can sit up, walk, read on their own....and so on...because it was so 'busy' raising 3 kids who were so close in age. Now they are all grown up and have moved away to their own lives and it certainly is not 'busy' here anymore. Miss those days." - Karen R.

"Yes, enjoy the time, as it goes by so fast; however, be patient with yourself as you are only human. If you are doing what is best for your child, and are trying to parent in a loving, responsible manner, no one is able to do it perfectly. Be patient with yourself as well as your kiddos." - Judy N.

"Unpopular opinion, it's ok to not enjoy every moment. Some of the moments of motherhood are hard, like gut wrenching, soul sucking, exhaustingly hard. And it's ok to not enjoy those moments. Do enjoy the giggles, the smiles, the milestones, the growth, the hugs, the kisses, the sweet sound of their voices, but don't feel guilty for not enjoying every minute. ❤️" - Nicole W.

Real talk—it's actually wicked hard sometimes.

Some moms wished they could tell themselves that it would be harder than they thought and that it's okay to talk about that. So often, moms feel like they can't talk about the hard parts because of course we love our children and what kind of mother complains about the precious gift of motherhood?

While we share the immense, intense joy that often accompanies motherhood, we also should be real about the less-than-magical experiences as well. The exhaustion alone—phew. And when you have a particularly challenging phase—or a particularly challenging child—motherhood is not all sunshine and roses.

"All the things that were 'hidden' or 'unspoken' about motherhood... how hard it would all be, that it is not automatic magic and joy, that conception doesn't just happen, how real postpartum depression is, and how misleading it is to pretend everything is perfect and you couldn't be happier (and how much shame we carry because it isn't)." - Rachel J.

"Exactly what my mother told me… You are going to be tired for the rest of your life 😊." - Francesca A.

"It's the most exhausting underappreciated, and beautiful thing you'll ever do in your life." - Kathleen G.

Take photos. Keep the goal in mind. Pace yourself. You're doing great.

There were so many great tidbits of wisdom—here are a few to tuck in your pocket:

"Take pictures with your kids, not of them. These are the photos they will cherish and pass down for generations." - Teresa C.

"Try to remember that the goal is to raise adults, not eternal children, so encourage their creativity, their independence, their empathy for others, their kindness." - Louise W.

"It is everything you wish for and nothing you expected. Enjoy sleeping in now cause later you're not gonna want to miss a beat. Motherhood is a marathon not a sprint. Be good to you. ❤" - Karytza M.

"I would say slow down and take it all in. Relax, things don't need to be perfect and everything will work out. Your baby WILL sleep, you won't lose your mind (much 😆) and it will be in the past sooner than you realize and you can't get it back so do your best to enjoy the beautiful moments. And you're doing GREAT!" - Tusha W.

You are doing great, mamas. Keep calm (or at least try to) and carry on.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt as I headed into the city on July 3, 2018. My pink hair was styled. I wore it up in a high ponytail, though I left two tendrils down. Two tendrils which framed my face. My makeup was done. I wore shadow on my eyes and blush on my cheeks, blush which gave me color. Which brought my pale complexion to life. And my confidence grew each time my heels clacked against the concrete.

My confidence grew with each and every step.

Why? Because I was a strong woman. A city woman. A woman headed to interview for her dream job.

I nailed the interview. Before I boarded the bus back home, I had an offer letter in my inbox. I was a news writer, with a salary and benefits, but a strange thing happened 13 months later. I quit said job in an instant. On a whim. I walked down Fifth Avenue and never looked back. And while there were a few reasons why I quit that warm, summer day: I was a new(ish) mom. A second-time mom, and I missed my children. Spending an hour with them each day just wasn't enough. My daughter was struggling in school. She needed oversight. Guidance. She needed my help. And my commute was rough. I couldn't cover the exorbitant cost of childcare. The real reason I quit was because my mental health was failing.


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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt as I headed into the city on July 3, 2018. My pink hair was styled. I wore it up in a high ponytail, though I left two tendrils down. Two tendrils which framed my face. My makeup was done. I wore shadow on my eyes and blush on my cheeks, blush which gave me color. Which brought my pale complexion to life. And my confidence grew each time my heels clacked against the concrete.

My confidence grew with each and every step.

Why? Because I was a strong woman. A city woman. A woman headed to interview for her dream job.

I nailed the interview. Before I boarded the bus back home, I had an offer letter in my inbox. I was a news writer, with a salary and benefits, but a strange thing happened 13 months later. I quit said job in an instant. On a whim. I walked down Fifth Avenue and never looked back. And while there were a few reasons why I quit that warm, summer day: I was a new(ish) mom. A second-time mom, and I missed my children. Spending an hour with them each day just wasn't enough. My daughter was struggling in school. She needed oversight. Guidance. She needed my help. And my commute was rough. I couldn't cover the exorbitant cost of childcare. The real reason I quit was because my mental health was failing.


Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."