Mother – to bring up a child with care and affection. What an awesome responsibility being a mom is. Every day I have moments when it hits me smack in the face that I have no clue how to handle this particular parenting situation. Every day I also have moments when I am so overcome with emotion, pure joy sweeps over my entire body because of something sweet she said or did. Being a mom is a beautiful thing that will open your heart to a love previously unknown, it is also a very hard, frustrating job that can leave you feeling more like Joan Crawford than Florence Henderson. So before you grab the wire hanger, below are 10 things I try to practice to be a better mom. Do these 10 things guarantee a successful child? No they do not, I’ve seen women who are incredible moms lose their children to drug overdose, and children who have neglectful moms become extraordinary adults – there is no one blueprint for how to raise an ideal child, but at least as Merle Haggard would say, “Mama tried.” Practicing these may just help us enjoy this job called motherhood more.
1. Realize Your Role As A Mom Isn’t Pinterest Perfect – Picture perfect parties, carefully executed holiday cards, and an all-star soccer player are at the bottom of your priority list. At the top of the priority list – raising a grown up. I love planning a party very very much, but I also know it is in the ‘fun’ category not the ‘important’ category. We have become so focused on perfection or at least looking picture perfect that we seem baffled when our children do not behave, yet when emphasis is put on the material appearance rather than behavior, this is the likely outcome.
2. Don’t Shy From Being A Disciplinarian – All too often we avoid actually having to discipline our child. We threaten, we barter, we do anything to keep from actually having to firmly discipline our children, and guess what our children know this. The other day my daughter was being quite the terror, so I threatened that she would have no use of the ipad that day. She looked at me and said, “I know you don’t mean it, you never really do it.” That talking back enlisted 1 week of no ipad. Like it or not our job as moms is to discipline. Child Psychologist John Rosemond divides parenting into 3 seasons: season of service, season of discipline, and season of mentoring. From birth to 2 years old the mom’s responsibility is to provide service to the child. From 3 to 13 is the decade of discipline. Rosemond says, “This is the most critical season and it is your job to provide leadership and authority.” This doesn’t mean ‘wire hangers’ it means counting down from 10, taking a toy or activity away, sending your child to his room, whatever works for your particular child to firmly punish as a parent. On any given trip to the grocery store we may witness a child behaving badly, most likely to avoid the ‘side-eye’ a mom will quietly try to quiet and appease the child, “you better stop, you better stop, you better stop right now, you better stop right now”…stop or what you are going to say “you better stop” one more time? My mom would not have hesitated to discipline me, so what on earth has happened in our society that we as moms are afraid to take on the most important role as mothers? Discipline is no fun, it is not cool, and it definitely isn’t pleasant for you or your child, but it is as vital as a beating heart to become an adult.
3. Remember You Are Not Perfect – A simple thing to remember in any situation is even though your decisions may not be perfect your decisions will be better decisions than the child would make for themselves.
4. Stop Allowing The Child To Lead – When you were a student and you entered a classroom did the teacher start the class by saying, “Now what would you all like to do today?” No they did not, they had a lesson ready and they told you what you would be learning that day. In today’s world whether it is deciding what to do for dinner or making weekend plans, the child is asked, “What do you want to eat?” “What do you want to do today?” We are the teachers, we are the leaders, it is up to us to decide what will be put on the table at dinnertime and it is up to us to decide how our child will spend his or her weekend. If we want to succeed at being our child’s main teacher, we have to have plans in place to lead and guide our child, instead of flying by the seat of our pants and letting them make the day-to-day decisions.
5. Get Help – Even if you are a stay at home mom you will need help. Maybe your mom or another relative lives close by, maybe you hire a housekeeper or a nanny, but you have to have help as your child grows. Having a good support system is a must. In the animal kingdom it is called ‘allomothering’ and it is absolutely necessary to have the help of family and community to raise a child. Get help by talking about your parental concerns as well. You never know what other parents may be going through the exact situation and may be able to offer wisdom you may not have thought of before.
6. Don’t Judge – From the moment we wake up until the moment we go to bed it is a given that we will judge – whether it is “I can’t believe my coworker is eating McDonald’s” 0r “The new boss has no clue what she is doing” or “If I were her, I would’ve never let my child wear that to school.” It is such a habit, it is as natural as taking a breath, but we need to rope it in and control it, especially around our children. They hear these things – a comment about someone looking bad on tv, a remark over the phone about a family member, a negative inflection about a neighbor. We, as mothers, are our children’s main source to this world and we have to be pillars of respect and love. We have to be lights in this world and not be negative and naggy. We guard the gate to their heart and we should fight our natural reaction to judge as much as possible to keep their heart safe and to teach them first and foremost love.
7. Nerd It Up – There is nothing like seeing the world through a child’s eyes. The things I am learning absolutely blow my mind – we have watched butterflies hatch from chrysalises, observed meteor showers, watched a spider build its web, created a flower garden for snails, and planted seeds of all kinds to watch them grow. I love having my mind opened to all these things and am fascinated by this world just like she is. Like did you know that the sex of a baby alligator is determined by what temperature it is outside when the egg is laid, or that a squash plant has male and female blossoms and in order to have squash you have to have bees to pollinate the flower, or that the way baby sea turtles find their way to the ocean is by the moonlight. So the next time your child asks you why the sky is blue, nerd out and tell them: Sunlight is actually a prism composed of rainbow colors. As the sunlight reaches Earth’s atmosphere it is scattered in all directions by all the gases and particles in the air. Blue light is scattered in all directions by the tiny molecules of air in Earth’s atmosphere and blue is scattered more than other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves.
8. Give Your Child Chores – A child that is 6 or older needs to have a weekly schedule of chores. We started a chore chart a few years ago and it has gone fairly smoothly. She knows she has certain responsibilities in our household. Sometimes she does these without being told, sometimes she has to be told, but the important thing is that she learn responsibility and not expect everything to be done for her all the time. Plus it certainly allows my already stretched to the limit mom brain to function better if I can focus on my responsibilities, while not having to worry about things a perfectly capable 9 year old should be able to do themselves.
9. Give Up This Idea Of Balance – Today’s world seems to think that seeking balance means you are able to raise a child, work, cook for the family, and have a clean home. This is big fat farce. The actual definition of balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. If you try to accomplish work, child, cooking, and organization all at the same time you will topple over. Maintain your day-to-day life by giving up certain things you think you have to do. Know when to grab take out and stop worrying about having an immaculate home. If you think having your soup cans all organized in the same direction was important you might as well get over that. Getting through the day ‘upright and steady’ is the goal. Consider yourself lucky if you get 5 hours of sleep and you remember to put on lipstick.
10. Show Up – We’ve heard it before 80% of life is showing up. As a mom we have to show up physically and mentally. It’s breakfast time – we better show up, whether it is cooking a warm meal or pouring granola in a bowl. It’s piano recital time – it is your responsibility to get your child there and yourself. Your child has a spelling bee – you show up. And you don’t show up and get on your smartphone, you show up and you watch and observe so you are able to talk about it in a connecting way with your child. These developmental years are extremely important and there’s no rewind button. Time flies, you will realize just how fast once they start school, and as it is flying by make sure you show up.