How Learning a Second Language Has Made Me a Better Mom

I have always wanted to learn a second language. I dabbled in Spanish in junior high school but the only things that I can remember are how to count to ten and sing “La Cucaracha.”

When I very first met my husband I found out he was fluent in Italian. Fluent! I was enchanted.

I asked him to go with me to an Italian opera for one of our first dates. It was so cute how he translated the play for me. I let him do it for the first act before I pointed out the English supertitles.

His talent for Italian only spurred my desire to learn.

But I couldn’t hack it. I bought Italian language books. I listened to free Italian podcasts. I even bought several Disney movies in Italian when he took me to Italy eleven years ago.

But sadly they didn’t work.

Nothing worked – until this year. I found a free language learning app. I started studying Italian on Duolingo.

At first it was hit or miss.

But with a month-long vacation with my family to Italy this summer I knew I would have to get serious. I needed to help myself and my children navigate the streets of Rome.

So I started studying every day. I made it a priority.

Which is probably no big deal for a lot of people but there are very few things I do for myself every day. I barely get dress and brush my teeth every day.

My kids always come first. There are always chores and meals and games and homework and diaper changes and so on and so on.

This time I put some of that aside for 30 minutes each day and I studied my Italian.

And it made me a better mother.

I had to tell my children to wait sometimes. I had to focus on my computer or iPad instead of all of them for half an hour. I had to sit on my couch and do something by myself.

At first I felt guilty. But I knew it would help all of us in the end so I pressed on.
Not only did I learn enough Italian to be able to ask where the bathroom was or how much something cost, I learned how good it felt to do something for myself for once.

I showed my kids that mom gets to do something for herself and the world will keep turning. I showed them that it is important to stick with something we enjoy. I showed them that hard work pays off.

And I reminded myself how much I love to learn.

It felt so good. Sure I’m not 100 percent fluent like my husband, but my 58 percent fluency really paid off this past month while we were living in Rome.

I was able to understand so much more than the last time I visited Italy. I could help my kids order from menus and find train stops. I could ask for directions and apologize to people when my kids were acting crazy. I could buy my own clothes at the market!

All of that felt so good. Putting myself first for thirty minutes a day made me happy and that made me a better mom in many, many ways.

My studying has dropped off since we got back in America last week. But only because I have a hundred things to do to get back in a groove here. When we get settled back into the U.S. I will restart my online learning.

I think it’s good for every mom to find something they do for themselves every day. It might be hard at first. You may feel guilty. But you deserve it. And your kids deserve to see you make time for something you enjoy.

Fidati di me.

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