When #5 Turns 5:: 5 Motherhood Lessons I’ve Learned

Ihave a bruise on the top of my forehead today where a child dropped a back-scratcher-doubling-as-a-baton on my face while I was lying down. There’s a scar on my lower abdomen that basically looks like the pale, wrinkled version of the “meh” emoji. And I can’t even remember the last time I wasn’t tired.

B​ut I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

M​y kids didn’t come right away. I begged God for them for years. Begged. For years. Trust me, it wasn’t pretty. And now, on those days when I hear things like the whiney sounds of, “Mom! He called me the ‘d’ word!” and I know they just mean “dumb” and I want to roll my eyes, but I pretend like it’s a bigger deal than that because I want to teach them to be kind, I remind myself of that solitary truth:: I begged for this.

Y​ou know how sometimes on a computer you click on an icon and nothing happens, so you click on it again? And if you’re me and really impatient, you click on it again and again? Well, that basically describes me wishing, hoping, pleading for children. Click. Double click. Click–Click–Click. And when they came? Yup, just like the computer programs:: after the delay, they all popped up at once. I had twins first. 15 months later, our third son came. And a mere two years later baby boy number four bounded into the world. Three years later our one and only girl joined the team. And now, my heart–not to mention our house–is full.

When #5 Turns 5:: 5 Motherhood Lessons I've Learned

M​ake no mistake:: I am not an expert, if there really is such a thing when it comes to motherhood. I’ve only been at this job for 11 years, 8 months, 27 days {plus 14 bazillion hours–that’s my unofficial hour count of 2020 rounded down so it doesn’t feel exaggerated}, and I still feel like a rookie. But I know more than I knew yesterday, so there’s that. And this month my #5 is turning 5! So it got me reflecting on what I’ve learned, what I wish I would’ve known, and what I’d share with my friends who are in earlier stages than I am. So here are my top 5 motherhood lessons I’ve learned over the years:

#1:: Nothing Lasts Forever

I​ guess if I could impart any wisdom, any encouragement at all to anyone new(ish) to the sisterhood of sleepless nights and goo–oh so much goo!–it would be this: remember that it is not forever. None of this. Things won’t leak out of you forever. Diaper blowouts will one day be fond memories {just kidding, you’ll cringe just thinking about them, but you will stop worrying about them and planning for them and dreading them}. And finding the “perfect” bottle or stroller isn’t really as big of a deal as it feels in the moment. You won’t need them forever. They don’t make you a good/bad mom. And knowing that the biting phase or the phase where you fall asleep in the recliner or the phase where he won’t stop throwing food on the floor or the phase where she climbs on everything, or the dreaded potty training phase will one day, usually without warning, disappear. And you’ll find yourself in another phase–that one will be temporary, too.

#2:: Wear the Shirt

Oh, and wear the shirt. You know the one. The one you bought for a special occasion and now that you are homebound, you keep thinking you’ll save it for another special occasion. Just wear the shirt. Today is special. I saved a shirt in my closet so long that when I went back to wear it, I wondered why I still owned it. OK, so I’ve done that more than once. Lesson learned.  If you have a shirt that makes you feel beautiful right now {or a pair of jeans or a necklace or lipstick}, wear it right now. Don’t wait. No judgment if you wear it every day for a while. Promise.

#3:: Don’t Judge

Hold your thoughts. Don’t judge the mom who’s walking through the grocery store with a screaming child. Don’t. Don’t judge the mom who’s buying the candy or the mom refusing candy to her children. Stay in your lane. Trust me. You think you know the whole story, but you don’t. Just let it go and look in the mirror. There are no perfect mamas, but the one you can change? Yeah, she’s looking back at you in that mirror, sis.

#4:: Make Time for Yourself

Do something you love every day. You know, besides feeding children and reading the same two picture books over and over. If you didn’t have something that sparked joy before like painting or reading or writing or running or singing, try new things until you find at least one thing you love that really breathes some life into your soul. I have had to let go of a ton of perfectionism around this because doing something you love on a mom-schedule is quite a bit different than doing anything pre-kids. Buckle up for interruptions and shorter amounts of time. But still make that time. Even if it’s watercoloring your own painting while your kids paint at the kitchen table or reading one page of a book you want to read before your eyelids fall under their ever-increasing weight. You’ll have more joy to give if you’ve given yourself a chance to recharge.

#5:: Choose One Thing

One thing at a time. I am one of those people who gets twenty ideas in my head at the same time, so I decide to try them all. At the same time. Like the time I decided we should renovate our kids’ bathroom in August, just before school would start and my twins would start kindergarten and I had just taken on a new position on a board of directors and my husband was beginning a new football season {he’s a coach} and I agreed to be a part of a pre-school co-op that would meet once a week and I began researching my options for taking an online creative writing class. All while trying to keep up with laundry, teaching online classes, volunteering at my church, and momming four young boys. What was I thinking? I do this to myself all the time. And then I wonder why I am so exhausted. If you fall into the same trap that I do, or you fall into that comparison trap and just reading this makes you think maybe you should be doing more things, pump the brakes. Choose one thing. Focus on that one thing and either finish it or let it become a comfortable habit before you add more. Trust me, you and everyone around you will appreciate it.
When #5 Turns 5:: 5 Motherhood Lessons I've Learned
Maybe one day I’ll write a book about the other 9428 things I have learned. But I hope these 5 brought you some joy. What motherhood lesson(s) would make your top 5?

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Alissa is a wife to her best friend {since 2003} and a grateful mother to four boys {2009, 2009, 2010, 2012) and one girl {2015}. And if you're going to be friends, you should know she has a deep and abiding love of chocolate. She's survived infertility, IVF, two NICUs, cloth diapers, a food allergy, and so much more! In 2017, she officially began writing and publishing children's books and LOVES it! When she's not writing or picking her kids up from school, she'd like to be reading/singing/laughing/napping/traveling/crafting/learning something new. But in reality, she's probably grocery shopping/cleaning something/telling her boys to stop fighting. She lives in Katy, blogs at AliMcJoy.com, and occasionally visits Instagram {@alimcjoy}, and Facebook {@alimcjoy}. She is a big believer in living life--especially mothering--with intentionality. If she's learned anything it's that accidental success is a myth: decisions determine destiny. She will also be the first to tell you she is not even close to perfect, but she's giving life her best shot one jam-packed day at a time.


  1. Love these photos of your family. And your 5 things. I agree with all of them. I have 5 kids too, now all grown (or we like to think so anyway). My top 5:

    1. Kids grow up and get independent and leave. Build a relationship now, so they will want to live close and come visit and bring the grandkids. Find time to do what they love with them, whether it’s painting, sharing books, Scrabble, karaoke, piano duets, taking a walk, getting frozen yogurt, watching people be ridiculous on YouTube, sharing memes, cooking, shopping the thrift store. And support them in the activities they choose. If they have extra curriculars be involved. Chaperone the band, be a timer for swim team, attend their plays, or go to their tennis matches and bring treats. Then when they do come back, build a relationship with each grandchild the same way.

    2. If you don’t like their boyfriend/girlfriend (when they are in their teens), don’t let them know it. And by this I mean if they are in danger of bodily or moral harm of course you intervene. But if you just don’t like their attitude or think they are a slob or lazy or just wrong for your kid in general, say nothing. Because to your teen, their relationship is the most personal choice they have made and when they are 17, in their mind they are right and you are wrong, Any objections on your part will confirm their decision to stay with that person at all costs and squelch any doubts they may have on the subject. Instead, be polite. Feed them. Be kind. Invite them to family activities. Be oh so patient. And your kid will eventually figure it out themselves and wonder why they ever dated that person. P.S. That really awful ugly t-shirt that they love and you hate? Same thing.

    3. Pray for them. Never stop. For their future, for their safety, for their education. All of it.

    4. Pay for a driving school. Seriously. Do not do the parent taught method entirely. I mean, yes, practice with your kid all you want once they have that permit. But let the driving school teach them how to merge onto the freeway and prepare them for that driving test. Why? Those driving schools have extra brakes in their cars, and your kid won’t be as nervous or resent the driving instructor telling them what to do. It will save your sanity and your relationship and your leg when you try to shove it through the passenger side floorboard multiple times hoping a brake has miraculously sprouted on your side.

    5. Teach them domestic skills before they move out/go off to college. Have them help all they can while they are young and be independent with chores as soon as they can. Assign them a night to cook (let them choose the menu too and put the items on a list) and a night to do dishes. Teach them to clean/maintain their room and bathroom. Teach them how to do laundry. My kids were in charge of their own laundry when they hit high school. Teach them to change a tire, change an AC filter, iron a shirt, unstop a toilet, and manage their own money. Better they burn the Hamburger Helper or turn their white shirts pink while they are still at home, rather than at college when they can’t afford it. Their roommates will thank you. Their future spouses will thank you. You will thank yourself when someone thinks they are worth living with and marries them.


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