Reflections on a Decade of Motherhood


I’ve been a mother for a decade. A whole decade of motherhood!

My little boy turned 10 years old on the last day of September. He’s almost as tall as I am and wears the same size shoes as me. Although he’s closer to adulthood than he is to babyhood, I still catch the occasional glimpse of his tiny newborn face on his freckled, big-boy face as he sleeps. I hope I can see it there forever.

Becoming his mom had a profound effect on me, as having a child does to most women. I’m glad it did because I wasn’t that interested in kids beforehand.

I remember my mother questioning my maternal instinct when I was in my twenties. “Are you sure you want kids, Jenna?” she had asked, in response to me rolling my eyes and complaining about a loud child in a restaurant, as was my pattern.

“Of course I do,” was my answer, because that’s what women did when they grew up: They had kids. My desire for them at that point was apathetic at best.

I hadn’t thought that much about my future children, or what they’d be like, or how I’d be as their mother. I knew I’d keep them quiet in restaurants, though. They’d be well-behaved because I’d be a good mother. Because I’d be an adult, and adults have control over their children, right?

Needless to say, motherhood hit me like a ton of bricks. Thankfully those bricks knocked the naiveté about parenting and the indifference about having kids out of my head really quick.

My first son as a baby.My son was born and I was changed in an instant. I saw the undeniable truth in that sugary, overused Elizabeth Stone quote that I can’t help but love: “Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

I felt an intense attachment to my son. Our bonding was immediate and strong and life-altering. I would gladly sacrifice myself for this human I had known for all of five minutes. I’d do anything for him — my seven-pound, six-ounce Ride or Die.

My husband bonded with him with the same intensity. We were obsessed with our little guy. The apathy I had once experienced fell away and was replaced by unconditional love. Four years later, our second son was born and we fell head-over-heels in love all over again with another little stranger.

Ten years have passed since I became a mom.

It’s strange to think I was ever “meh” about having kids because now they are the biggest, best part of my life. I love them with such ferocity and they know I will go Mama Bear Crazy on their behalf if anyone ever messes with them. Sure, they can be a handful and frustrate me to no end on some days, but the good days far outweigh the bad ones.

My two boys snuggling when they were little.The hardest days are when I’m struggling to balance my need for control with their need for independence. I’ve come a long way since I was in my twenties when I assumed parents could elicit good behavior in their children by asserting control. I’ve found it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Kids have their own brains, opinions, motivations, and personalities.

They don’t always see eye-to-eye with us, hence the difficulty in blindly controlling them into compliance. They’re going to act the way they want to act. I’ve learned it’s my responsibility as a parent to teach my sons what is and isn’t acceptable while respecting who they are as individuals.

Before having them, I figured my kids would be my “mini-me”s. I was the most obedient, calm, approval-seeking child around. My parents said I was a breeze to raise. Wouldn’t my own kids follow in my footsteps?

Not so much.

My boys and husband after a decade of motherhood.They are wonderful, but not in the obedient, calm, approval-seeking way that made raising a kid like me so easy. They are wonderful in the mischievous, hilarious, boisterous, sassy, hyperactive way that keeps me on my toes.

Every day feels like an adventure with my sons. Life is never boring. Our home is full of energy and laughs and fake fart noises . . . sometimes real ones, too. Our sons make my husband and me incredibly happy. I’m so glad they are who they are because a mini-me wouldn’t survive in our crazy house!

I’ve learned a lot about love, acceptance, and motherhood since my first son came into this world 10 years ago. Moving on from this first decade of motherhood, I can’t wait to see who my sons become, and how much more I learn from being their mom over the next decade.

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Jenna Arsenault
Jenna is a Maine native who moved to Charleston in 2006, moved away for a while, then moved back again in 2018. She just couldn’t stay away from this city that feels like home! She’d choose palm trees over pine trees any day of the week. Jenna and her husband of 12 years have two rambunctious sons, ages 10 & 6, and live in Mount Pleasant. A social worker and registered nurse by trade, she is passionate about maternal mental health and is currently a postpartum doula specializing in perinatal mood disorders ( Jenna loves to read, kayak, paint in watercolor, and travel with her family. Visit her personal blog on all things motherhood at


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