As a parent, we’ve all felt inadequate at some point in time. We muddle along in a half daze improvising and making do with what we know and have learned along the way. Sometimes it feels as if we are making a bigger mess of things because there is no prescribed way of parenting to fit every child. Within the trenches of parenting, it always helped me to get another mom’s perspective.
Tips from the Trenches
There was always something powerful about a lunch date with moms who knew because they were right there with me. When I was able to share lessons learned, heartbreak endured, and vent frustrations with my friends, I seemed to walk away feeling better about myself and my parenting abilities.
As the mother of four, I’ve collectively spent 85 years raising children. It has not always been pretty, and quite often the lessons have been hard. Having survived the trenches, I offer some hindsight from my time spent muddling through motherhood.
Don’t Do it for Them
It seems like a logical idea, but how often do we think “I can get this done faster” or “They won’t do it the right way.” I know it’s true! But our purpose as mothers is not to get through things as fast as we can or do everything the right way. These little people are trusting us to teach them all they need to know to be responsible and reliable adults.
It feels like there will always be another opportunity to show them later, but those “laters” are quickly gone and well…you know all of the clichés. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can just do it this one time. Take advantage of every teaching moment and help them learn to do it for themselves.
My kids thought I was a dictator. They were independently cleaning bathrooms at 8, doing their laundry by 12, and cooking for the family by 14. I dodged looks from other moms and heard endless complaints about how “their friends didn’t have to do this.” Just keep reminding yourself of what you’re doing — raising competent adults.
Here’s the Reward.
Years later, my daughter thanked me because she knew how to do laundry when her roommate didn’t. My son can help around the house and cook for his family. During a summer lifeguard job, our daughter’s boss was impressed he didn’t have to teach her how to clean. Once they have mastered a task, it is one you no longer have to do. Bonus!
Don’t Forget Your Talents
We are each blessed with unique gifts and talents. Nurture, develop, and use your talents. They are what make you the best mom for your kids. It is your style and will make the greatest difference in their lives. My biggest mistake was comparing my abilities to what I saw another mom doing. I was looking at their strengths and comparing them to my weaknesses. Don’t try to mimic someone else’s style. Embrace your own!
I wasn’t the mom putting together a big production to entertain her kids every day of the summer. I was the mom who listened, who knew how to encourage and help her children work through their feelings. Did I feel guilty for not doing both? Maybe for a minute, but I learned to be okay with it. I embraced what I could do well, and focused on my strengths.
Here’s the Reward.
My example has taught my kids how to use their talents and make them their own. They value my strengths and know they can depend on me. Life after the kids may seem like an eternity away. Learning to embrace who you are and what you do well will give you an identity for after the kids are gone.
Don’t Let Lists Get in the Way
I get it. I’m a list maker driven by tasks. The problem is the lists of tasks will never end. I had to teach myself to be flexible with my “to-do’s.” They would always be there but the opportunity to read a book or play a game would not.
Someone once told me Time = Love, and I snidely wrote it off. My love language is to do things for others. A clean house tells me I love my family, but these little ones speak only the language of “time”. Our undivided attention will mean more to them than folded laundry or a clean bathroom.
Give yourself permission to stop washing the dishes to help build a Lego tower. Put aside the laundry to have a tea party. Take the time to stop and give hugs and make sure you don’t let go first. Our love should not have a timer, and our actions should reflect our love.
Here’s the Reward.
My kids look back on their childhood and know they were loved. They felt it then, and they still do today. I’m still obsessed with lists, but they also know I will stop what I’m doing to be there for them. Each of my kids has a story of a time when I stopped and made an impact on their lives. I get a little emotional when they recall these memories because I remember them too, and feel grateful to know it made a difference.
Don’t Discredit Dad
I know. We’re talking about motherhood, but Dad is pretty important! Sure, he might have been a little uncomfortable when the bundle of joy first came home from the hospital, and maybe he wasn’t a natural during the toddler phase. But dad speaks a special language when it comes to your kids.
I remember asking and reminding a child to clean their room only to have the request fall on deaf ears. Suddenly dad walks in the door, and things start to happen. He speaks the language of fun, making the most tedious tasks more enjoyable.
Raising these little people is not your responsibility alone. Make the job a team effort, learn to use his insight and advice to work through the difficult times, cry on his shoulder for comfort and reassurance, and take the time to love him.
Teach your little family about love by loving their daddy. They see an example of what expressing love looks like. It builds security and confidence in their role. Make date night a priority and nurture this relationship above all the others. He is the one you will be living with when they all leave home. Love him now, so you will enjoy him later.
Here’s the Reward.
I still like this guy I’m married to. I think I’ll keep him around for a while!
Here is the most important thing you can learn today. Life is never perfect, and we will never be the perfect mom. Our kids will make choices that disappoint us, and ones to make us proud. It may often feel like we’re muddling our way through motherhood but remember: doing the best we can is good enough.
What tips have you learned while muddling your way through motherhood?
This post was originally published on Midday Mornings.