Stories and Stages of Motherhood

by Meghan Fitzgerald

My awareness of the "it takes a village to raise a child" proverb dates way back. Raised by a mother with three close sisters and the many other mothers in my tight-knit neighborhood, I grew up hearing moms chatting on the phone or around the kitchen table, sharing stories, advice, tears and so much laughter. I had no idea how lucky they all were to mother together in such a tight community.

I still have my aunts and those memories, and in the past seven years, I've been blessed to come to know, love and learn from so many fellow mothers. We each bring special gifts to mothering, and we face unique challenges and gain new insight at each stage—the learning and growing never stops. Life is so busy these days for all of us, so it feels like we need to work hard to make time and space to share and support one another like the moms of my childhood did. This Mother's Day, we celebrate all moms everywhere by sharing stories and nuggets of wisdom from a few of the supermoms who make up our Tinkergarten village. Endless thanks to my teammates featured here for offering these beautiful stories of how you are growing in your current stop along the mom journey. 

Roxanne Lubbers, mother of a 6-week-old, 6-year-old, and 9-year-old

Motherhood for me is about cherishing each moment. Now more than ever, when I look at my newborn, I feel deep emotions about how fleeting it all is. I see my 6 and 9-year-old and recognize how many moments have become memories of their childhood. How big my son’s hands have gotten; how my daughter is losing all her baby chub. At the same time, as I relish these moments with my baby, I feel even more deep emotions for the amazing people my big kids are becoming. My son is learning to read. My eldest runs faster than many adults. 

It’s so true how they say you wish you could freeze time - freeze all of it. I take mental pictures of my children all day long. Just now, as my newborn is snuggled next to me nursing, she stroked her hand against my arm. It was such a lovely touch. I thought, “Remember this.” 

Alyssa Harris and Family

Alyssa Harris, mother of a 2-month-old and 2-year-old

Being a mother is truly the best and hardest job I've ever had. I love the opportunity to raise children, share in their life experiences and witness everything all over again through their eyes. With a two-year-old and a two-month-old, I have found it hard to balance quality time among the two. But every day is a new opportunity to pour my love on them and the joy they bring is worth any hard days. 

                                                                      Addie King, mother of a 1-year-old, 4-year-old, 7-year-old, 9-year-old, 11-year-old, and 14-year-old

Addie King and Family

What does motherhood mean to me right now? As a mother of so many ages? Hmmmm.... it means knowing everything and nothing all at once. Sure I know how to feed, change, bathe, nurse, and in general keep little people alive. But, it’s so much more. I am learning that being a mom means all those things and so much more. Just listening to them. Letting things unfold and not trying to solve all their problems. My 1-year-old gets all the space and time in the world to develop into the little person she is discovering. My 14-year-old was suffocated by my constant “helping” round the clock. I know now that letting them have time and space to explore is what shapes them. It is a magical time and I am cherishing as many seconds as I can of it. As I’m writing this my two littlest are fighting over a pop tart in front of me in the bathroom. Lol


Sarah Maxwell, mother of a 4-year-old

Sarah Maxwell and Family

Sarah Maxwell and Family

Theo transformed my wife and me into parents 4.5 years ago, and he's been teaching us about ourselves and the world ever since. He loves fiercely, approaches life with boldness and is a boundary pusher, a challenger, and a strong and capable person with a special love for nature and its many "creatures." 

This season of motherhood feels particularly tricky, as we prep our family to move across the country, away from a community of friends and family we love dearly. With the anticipation of our move, Theo's feelings are bigger and louder than usual, the moods more quickly shifting, his need for reassurance more pronounced. I'm grateful, during this time of change, for all the bits of routine we have in our busy days, our family ritual of sitting down together for dinner and clinking glasses in celebration, our Monday mornings spent with Tinkergarten friends, and our conversations about life while traveling back and forth for school. 

As big as he likes to remind us he is, Theo still needs us so much. He relies on Baba and me to keep the family waters calm, no easy feat when we are feeling adrift ourselves. He looks to us to remind him how to be in the world, how to navigate conflict with friends, and needs one of us to help him drift off to sleep, because the darkness still feels too scary to face alone. It's easy, when the house is quiet for the night, to look back on the day and only see the moments we could have navigated with more grace, to hear the echo of words we could have spoken more gently to one another. When I find myself replaying the day like this, I feel pulled to sneak quietly into his room, to watch the steady rise and fall of his chest, and to inhale deeply right there in that tiny place between his ear and his shoulder where he smells like dirt and honey and grass. I know that tomorrow we get to begin again, the three of us, and I feel so lucky to get to move through life as his mama. 

Letitia Tadros, mother of a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old

As I drop off my boys at school today I realize that times have changed. I now have a few hours during the day while my boys are at school to get things done and to prepare for all the activities and plans and parties and events that have now have filled up so much a part of our everyday life.  And even though the days of diaper changes and bottles and mommy groups and sleepless nights have passed my days are still very much centered around their needs. Although their needs are very different now,  they still survive and thrive with my gentle and sometimes not so gentle guidance and support.

Erna Barenio, mother of a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old

Erna Barenio and Family

My 2 boys are in elementary school now - one about to enter middle school years. In some ways, it is easier: no more extra clothes, snacks, that diaper bag that held all the other “just in cases”. We can just pick up and go pretty much anywhere without a whole lot of planning. I get to see their personalities really emerging in relation to other people. We have real conversations about everything under the sun! At the same time, after years of being the primary educator and caretaker in their lives, I now have to share them more with the world. That anxiety of hoping they are valued and loved in all the wonderful ways that they are. Will their teachers see how amazing my boys are while not letting them get away with pushing the boundaries of new rules in school? Will their spirit and natural curiosity stay intact? Motherhood at this stage is complicated and wonderful and just as emotionally charged as when they were younger, just in different ways.

Tricia Ragone, mother to two 9-year-olds, and a 13-year-old

Tricia Ragone and Family

Tricia Ragone and Family

Motherhood for me is about discovering my children’s interests, watching them explore those ideas and reveling in their successes. It is about providing opportunities for Anthony, Elizabeth & Samantha to experience a wide variety of new things, while also continuing to challenge and expose them to what they are really passionate about.  I want to nurture their spirit and help them grow into kind, thoughtful, independent and well-rounded adults.  I want their experiences to be varied and across multiple disciplines.  I want them to love playing in the mud, as much as playing a piano concerto!  I want them to appreciate tinkering, as much as solving a difficult math puzzle!  I want them to love reading and going on adventures in their minds, but also in their daily lives.  

One of the struggles of parenting “older” kids is finding a balance between keeping them involved in the activities they love and finding time for them to just “be.”  When they were younger, they could play all day and I could rest assured they were learning, exploring, growing and developing.  It was easy and didn’t require too much planning, just my time and attention.  As they grow and develop their own individual wants, needs and personalities, however, juggling those for each one and also between the three of them, is more challenging!  School, sports, music, art and myriad other interests can often use up all the time in a day, a week or a month.  Ensuring "down time,” play time and time in nature, become coveted moments.  Trying to make sure those times are valued and prioritized in our busy lives, takes a good deal of effort, but is worth it.  One of the biggest benefits of becoming a Tinkergarten leader for me and my family is the constant reminder of how easy and fun it is to play outside, to spend time as a family and to get dirty and messy!  There are values and experiences that you NEVER outgrow and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to have that constant reminder and to help instill these values in other families!

Missy Sherburne, mother to an 11-year-old and 14-year-old 
When my boys fit squarely in my arms with their heads oh so perfectly nestled on my shoulder, I couldn’t imagine this stage of my life. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, people would tell me – this parenting journey. I blinked and now Harrison is about to enter middle school and Samuel (who towers over me!) is on the precipice of high school. I coordinate sleepovers, shuttle them to baseball and hockey, and spend my Saturdays cheering on the ball field or at the hockey rink. I love the sound of my kitchen door opening and closing, opening and closing, boys shuffling between inside and outside, as I cook dinner with a glass of wine in hand, my music playing in the background. Playdates now entail a gaggle of boys shooting hoops, scarfing down snacks, and 11-year-olds still giggling their hearts out.

Missy Sherburne and Family

Missy Sherburne and Family

These adolescent years bring so many changes – physically, socially, mentally, and beyond to children – and figuring out how to parent day to day with all of these changes, challenges me emotionally in ways I couldn’t anticipate while the younger years were so taxing physically. It’s hard to watch your child not make a sports team he desperately wanted to or navigate teenage life in the world of social media. I have to remind myself to pause and to listen, to ask questions, to withhold judgement when I can, to give them space to fail without stepping in and to simply be present, which can be so hard in our busy lives, and perhaps most importantly, to laugh often.
Motherhood at this stage means loving them for who they are, and showing genuine interest in their interests. And not letting their seeming disinterest stop me from bringing them to a speaker series on racial equity or to a Broadway play or on a new hike. These experiences and moments count and leave indelible marks even when they are not immediately apparent. I’ve seen this over and over. I’ve taken up new hobbies thanks to my boys (who would’ve thought I would love golf!), I sing along to their Spotify playlists in the car even when it’s not my music of choice and I’m grateful everyday that I get to parent two of my favorite people in the world. Mile 16 of the marathon feels pretty good.

Renee Thompson, mother of a 36-year-old and a 38-year-old

Renee Thompson and Family

Being a grandmother strips away a lot of the business end of life as a parent and lets you enjoy and focus on relationship. The care, unconditional love, and experiences we lavish on our precious grandchildren are, in a way, allowing us to connect and show love in a more intimate way with our grown children than we might normally. My 37-year-old son has all the responsibilities of husband, father and business owner. He doesn’t ‘need’ me for much. But seeing the tenderness in his face when his two little ones run and throw their arms around my neck to greet me or ask when he asks the name of that lullaby I used to sing to him so he can sing it to them, is everything. My relationship with my daughter has never been stronger as I support and encourage her as a mother of her own 2 1/2-year-old daughter and 4-month-old. When I take my grandchildren for our walks in the woods or read to them or act out fairy tales with living room sets and kitchen drawer props, my son and daughter and  I get to relive the very best parts of their early years all over again. Having been a single mother for most of their childhood I can truly appreciate the challenges they, like most other young families face. They struggle with all the same things I did and some I could not have even imagined. To be able to give them some perspective, to lighten their burdens a little and to share in the joy of discovery of the outdoors with their young children is truly the golden part of my golden years.

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