The ABCs of Being Mom by Karen Bongiorno (Book Excerpt)

It takes strength and stamina to be a mother. It is a continuing journey, and you need to pace yourself. Eat healthy foods, get sufficient rest, take time to relax and unwind. It’s a big challenge to take care of both yourself and your child, so you need to maintain your physical and emotional well-being. If you are a full-time parent, it’s easy to fill every moment with work and caring for your family. But try to take an hour each day to do something you enjoy. This was good advice my mom gave me right after my daughter was born. I didn’t realize how wise her suggestion was at the time. Doing this will help you restore your peace of mind and will help you maintain a sense of yourself, which is also important to your well-being. I found that reading each night before bed was enjoyable and something to look forward to at the end of the day. I joined a book group through our Mothers’ Club about the time my son was one year old. This gave me an incentive to read because I knew we would discuss the book. Our book group became my lifeline for the next few years. Going to our monthly meetings was the only thing I did just for myself. Each of the six members had young children, so we agreed to be flexible about requiring members to finish reading the book each month. Most of the time, we did finish, though.

We read over a hundred books together and enjoyed meeting for almost ten years.

In addition to daily time for yourself, it’s beneficial to have a regular weekly break to get away. You could do this while your husband or partner cares for your child. If you are a single mother, plan your break by booking a weekly babysitter, relying on a friend, or trading off childcare with another mother. A complete change of scene will give a significant boost to your mental and physical well-being, providing you with relief from your daily responsibilities and caretaking. Ideally, you’ll be able to calm your mind, restore order to your thoughts, and have time to think and act freely.

Do what makes you feel refreshed: rest, see a friend, go to a movie, pamper yourself. Schedule your getaway at the same time each week, to make planning simple. When you’re facing challenges during the week, anticipating your break will keep you going.

As mothers, we often neglect ourselves or put our needs last. This is not healthy. Looking back, I could have benefited from regular breaks to refresh and revitalize myself, rather than just the occasional breaks I took.

Meanwhile, continue to nurture friendships you’ve developed with other parents. Spend time together. Plan social outings with families who have similar-age children. Go out on family “double dates,” meeting for early dinners at child- friendly restaurants or sharing simple meals or barbecues at one another’s homes. Weekends are great for joint family outings to picnic, go to the zoo or beach, play in the park, ride tricycles and scooters, hike, or even take family trips together. These friendships provide you and your family with support and encouragement. They are important to anchoring you and making you feel connected in your community. This was very true for me and for our family; the friendships and time we shared during these years were very special.

Throughout these years, your child will be active and curious, with no sense of possible danger. She’ll want to explore and play, while you keep up with her to make sure she doesn’t get hurt. Whether you are a full-time mother at home or a full-time or part-time employed mother, when you are with your child, your primary occupation will be to keep her safe, to play with her, and to encourage her while she is busy reacting to and learning about the world around her.

You’ll care for your child’s daily needs: feeding, clothing, bathing, potty training, teaching, and providing physical, intellectual, and emotional support. You’ll be challenged both emotionally and physically. As your child grows, her routines will change. Some days will be easier than others. There is no map or app for this road. You and your child will navigate a meandering path of new discoveries and destinations. At times, you may feel you are on an aimless journey, but this is your chance to discover and travel with your child, to wander and enjoy yourselves together in ways that suit both of you.


Karen Bongiorno is a mother of two children, a daughter and a son, who have both graduated from college and launched independently. Before motherhood, she had a career in private banking in Los Angeles and on Wall Street in New York. During her child-raising years, she started up and ran a small business and wrote books for moms. She also volunteered in her community, working many hours in local children’s and parents’ organizations and raising funds for local philanthropies and her children’s schools and activities. Her child-raising years were often filled with worry and the overriding question of, “Now what?!” This book is her answer to those concerns. You can find out more at



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