01/29/2013 05:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Best Lesson My Kids Taught Me

I remember standing in my kitchen as a young mother, staring out the window and saying out loud to no one in particular, "there's got to be a better way." I had recently walked away from my career and much to my own surprise, decided to stay home with my children. My decision wasn't based on the notion that staying home was the more noble choice, but rather, on my own inability to balance both a career and motherhood with any semblance of grace or sanity. I thought that simply by staying home, motherhood would somehow be easier.

But in those early years of learning to be a parent, I found myself approaching my days at home in the same way that I had at my work -- as a series of tasks to be completed so that I could enjoy a reward at some later point in time: a quiet hour, time to myself, maybe a nap. These are all good things, actually, some of the best things, but I knew that I was missing something important.

I once read that living with children is like living with a Zen master. This was a truth for me, or at least the way that I chose to experience the privilege that is motherhood. Standing in my kitchen all those years ago, I realized that being a parent wasn't just about taking care of and giving, but that it was also about receiving. And in the midst of the hard daily work of raising children, I began to take in all that they were offering me.

I learned to sit on a curbside for hours with my 2-year-old son and feel contentment just by counting the different types of trucks that passed by. I learned to see beauty in unexpected places, especially in a rock house that my daughter carefully created, complete with cardboard furnishings and name tags for each member of her rock family. I remembered the joy of feeling weightless in space as I joined them on our trampoline and I felt delight as I watched them play in the puddles of a pouring rain. I learned to stay in the moment, where children naturally live.

It felt like someone had given me a present wrapped up in shiny paper with a large bow and said, "Here, open this, it will remind you of what you have forgotten and give you what you seek." And it did. My children showed me the better way by reminding me that the rewards are right there in the moment itself.