I posted this image to social media a few weeks ago with the caption “Mom lyfe got me like 😳”
Someone once told me that motherhood is a time when you completely forget about yourself and tend to the whims of your children.
I was a new mother when I received that piece of advice. After 8 years of mothering, I’ve come to the conclusion that not all advice is advice you should heed. That particular piece of advice is probably one of the worst things I’ve heard.
Don’t get me wrong. At times, I actively seek advice from the more experienced mothers in my life. To me, the beauty of motherhood is that it doesn’t look the same in everyone’s life. There is room for individuality in being Mommy and the bond between mother and child is always beautiful, even when the situation is less than perfect. It’s so interesting to me how instinctual the need and longing for a relationship with a mother is.
Mothering has been the most motivating, inspiring, beautiful and challenging thing I have ever experienced in my life. Put extra emphasis on the word challenging. It’s been challenging to be constantly needed. It’s been challenging developing routine and establishing healthy relationships with my children when I haven’t always had a healthy home environment. Some of those basic things that are so routine, necessary, and hard wired haven’t always been so easy to grasp for me.
The most important Mommy lesson I have learned is that it is not only helpful to take time out to be someone other than Mommy regularly, it is CRUCIAL. Being mother is a demanding job. In the field of social work, there is a huge emphasis on self-care, with good reason. The turn over rates for some social work organizations pay tribute to the need of self-care. Refusing to take care of number one isn’t just a detriment to the helper; it’s a detriment to those seeking assistance from someone in the helping profession. Life requires a delicate balance between work and play. Mental health can quickly become compromised when helpers are always focusing on the needs of others. Just because helpers have dedicated their lives to navigating the path to wellness for others doesn’t mean that the needs of the helper are diminished. We all have needs.
Similarly, mothering is a pretty selfless thing. You constantly have to place the needs of your children over your own. Being a mother doesn’t require complete selflessness, 100% of the time.
Time constraints, obligations, school, and my husband’s work schedule don’t always allow for Mommy time, so when I don’t get it, I have discovered other ways to keep it together.
I’ve been a mess of a mother. I’ve been the kind of mom that has it together. I’ve found if I don’t adhere to this set of guidelines I’ve created for myself, more often than not, I do more harm than good. I’m not happy, the kids aren’t happy, my husband isn’t happy, and nobody wins.
- Pick your battles: This is a life rule I try to follow in general, not just in parenting. I like to laugh. I like to be easy breezy. When I’m constantly finding something to correct, life is hard. I feel overly negative and not happy with myself. In any given situation, I will mentally make note of what is really important to me. If anything occurs that goes against those notes, I will speak up. Things like social justice, personal safety, and a safe space for children are list toppers. If someone makes a rude remark, is overly critical, or just plain mean, I try to ignore it. If ignoring it doesn’t help me and I start to obsess over it, I will remove myself from the situation. When my kids are involved, I do the same thing. List toppers for situations involving my children are things like respecting others, safety, and positivity-positive self image, positive thinking in trying situations, and perseverance when tasks are too challenging. On a day-to-day basis, this might look like insanity to others. In my home, it looks loud and messy, but our home is filled with giggles. For instance, if my children are being loud, I typically let it go. Toy piano? Bring it on. Singing at the top of our lungs into a karaoke machine that’s turned all the way up? I can deal. An occasional scream of excitement here and there? No big deal. I’m not saying I don’t cringe sometimes. I’m not saying I don’t have to run and hide sometimes. I’m saying I feel much better about myself when I don’t fuss over the little things. The same goes with mess. I prefer that the shoes be lined up in the closet. I organize my clothes in the closet by color and clothing style. I like the sink to be clean and the toys to be organized by type. Does that happen? Absolutely not! Do I stress about it? Sometimes, but not nearly as much as I used to. Do I waste our valuable time nagging about organization? No, I don’t. When picking battles, my goal is that my children will hear me when it’s really important. REALLY hear me. I want my children to soak in the little lessons I give them about positive self talk. I want them to remember the talks we’ve had about lifting others up instead of tearing them down. I want them to carry those lessons into adulthood and I don’t want any background static blurring those crucial lessons.
- Wine. I like wine. Sweet, dry, red, white. I like it all. That’s not really what this rule is about though. I have found that it is SO important to take time to be an adult. This means biting the bullet, shelling out money for a sitter, and going to places that are only appropriate for adults. When I take time to do adult things, I feel like a human, instead of a booger crusted zombie Mom. I can enjoy this rule tandem with my husband, solo, or with a group of other age appropriate friends. It doesn’t really matter. The real point is that I’m taking time away to talk about things other than American Girl Dolls and Legos, with uninterrupted, meaningful conversation sometimes. It gives me a chance to foster my adult development in areas that don’t involve being a mother. I wholeheartedly believe that this type of interaction makes me more prepared for motherhood. I come back prepared to tackle the most daunting of Mommy tasks with enthusiasm.
- Locking myself in the bathroom: There are times when this messy, loud house gets to me. These times usually come in conjunction with some mental roller coaster ride that went unaddressed for far too long. I turn on my most convenient babysitter–the television, grab a few candles, a glass of wine, some bubble bath, and my handy little bluetooth speaker and lock myself away for one episode of Spongebob. Sometimes, all it takes is some hot water and 30 minutes of unadulterated silence to get me in the right frame of mind. You do what works–and locking myself in the bathroom works for me.
- Literature: When I want to escape for a little bit, I indulge in a good read or I write. This gives me the opportunity to get the creative juices flowing and to remind myself that I am human. I think it’s good to show my kids how much I enjoy reading. I’m all for positive examples, especially the ones that come naturally to me.
- Goals and Gains: This is the best way for me to avoid feeling stagnant in my life. I set a goal and work on it until I accomplish it. For the past 5 years, I’ve been chipping away at a HUGE goal that is of utmost importance to me. I’ve been a full time student and dedicated to achieving my bachelor’s degree in social work. I thoroughly enjoy being a student. What I enjoy even more is creating new trends in the family history so that it may become more likely for my children as well. I certainly didn’t pick the easy way in my life, but I want my children to see that going a different way is an option. When I’m done with school, I’ll probably pick something less daunting to give myself a break. 😀
- Sleep: When all else fails and things still aren’t going my way, I like to spring a surprise nap time or an early bed time on my children. Sleep is healthy anyway, right?!
My point is that all of us parents are in this with the common goal of making it out alive, keeping our children alive, and setting them up for the best possible future. It doesn’t have to be back-breaking all of the time. It’s challenging, sure. I don’t have to be selfless to be a good mother. Taking a night out will not scar my children for life. In fact, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to work on secure attachment.
Crazy, sane Mommy.