10,000 Days: Am I Great Yet?

In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell wrote:

“Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.”

He suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials. While this concept might be valid for some things, like learning to play golf or the violin, it sure doesn’t apply to parenting! If it did, we would all be masters when our children are one year and 51 days old, because parenting sure can feel like it’s a 24/7 “intensive practice” in those first 10,000 hours.

But how about 10,000 days?

Is 10,000 days of parenting enough to feel like we’ve “achieved mastery of complex skills?”

I’m about to find out.

Kerry celebrating 10,000 days of motherhood

This Tuesday is my 10,000th day of mothering. That means my oldest son is 27 years, 4 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days old.

There’s no way I’d call myself a “master” of mothering. I guess I never will. Even now, the target keeps moving as the kids continue to evolve, and I’m often pondering how to show up as a good mom/stepmom/mother-in-law and soon, “grandmother.”

When I first became a mom, I really thought that this far into it, I’d have motherhood nailed.

Little did I know that motherhood is not actually a skill to be acquired; it is a never-ending evolution of being. It is an ongoing lesson in restraint, being of service, and exercising patience and kindness. Parenthood is an immersion into the reality-check of how much of life is outside our control. Perhaps the “complex skill” to be learned is that of constant adjustment to change. Just when you figure out how to deal with one stage, your child gets older and presents us with the next challenge.

I’m still going to celebrate 10,000 Days of Motherhood on Tuesday.

This will not be a celebration of mastery.

Rather, it will be:

  • An honoring of huge challenges and lots of learning
  • Deep gratitude for the village of support, guidance, and mentorship it took to make it through 10,000 days.
  • A celebration that there is no limit to how much we can love.
  • A profound, on-my-knees gratitude that all six of my kids and stepkids are healthy, happy, and alive.

I’ve learned a few things in my 10,000 days of mothering:

9. Even the most passive of women can develop a stronger “Mama Bear” in them than they might have imagined. In order to give my children an emotionally healthy home, I had to get strong enough to turn my life upside down to protect them.

8. There is no limit on love. When my second baby was overdue, I worried that he wasn’t coming out because he knew I was afraid I could never love anyone else as much as I loved my firstborn. I smile at that now, because I’ve learned that love is not a zero-sum game; instead, my heart has just gotten bigger and bigger.

7. It’s possible to love someone enough to jump in front of a train for them and simultaneously feel absolute fury towards them.

6. Even though it seems like the daily grind of parenting will last forever, these kids do grow up (if we’re lucky) and move out.

5. Even the girliest of girls can turn into moms who enjoy playing “Dinosaur Battles,” throwing a football, watching action movies, going on Boy Scout winter campouts, laughing at her boys’ crude humor, and generally adoring the alien creatures growing up under her roof.

4. Here’s one that’s not so useful: one can put a noodle in their mouth and make it come out their nose and pull it back and forth. Who knew?! Leave it to one of my many teenage sons to demonstrate that important skill!

3. Love doesn’t come instantly. It took a minute to love my stepkids. I thought that would come right away since I loved their dad, but it was a relationship that had to grow, just like any other.

2. When I was a teen girl, I thought that teen boys were the cat’s pajamas… so manly, so strong, so sexy. As a mother of teen boys, I chuckled at girls thinking that way about my squirrely boys who could still act so young behind closed doors.

1. It’s a sacred honor to be “home base” to a child.

Kahlil Gibran said it best when he wrote:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

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Kerry Stutzman MSW, LMFT

My passion is helping my clients develop close, connected families and healthy relationships. For the past 20 years I have been helping people discover the best version of themselves.  Learn more

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My specialty is couples therapy with parents. I also have expertise in parenting, betrayal recovery, and addiction.  Learn more

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Amy Cobb MS Family/Human Development

I specialize in working with parents and caregivers with children from cradle to college, with special focus from birth – 10 years old. Learn more

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