They Don’t Have it All Together, But They Do Have Healthy Patterns
The following is a list of things I’ve picked up from parents I really respect over the years.
I don’t claim to do all of them all of the time, but it is a list of what I aspire to in my parenting. On good days, I probably do about 6 of the 10. For me, it’s not about perfection, but it’s about aim- and this is where I’m aiming to be as a mom.
1. Plan Personal Downtime.
So easy to say, so difficult to do. The reality is, now that you have children, you are going to be tired. Often.
It’s taken me years to learn that I need to schedule rest time on my calendar before I get to the tipping point. It might be a weekend away with my hubby, a shopping trip with a girlfriend, or a pedicure. If I don’t schedule it at least a couple of weeks in advance, it won’t happen.
2. Don’t Compare.
Another doozy! It is so easy to fall into the comparison trap in every area of life.
I’m much more content when I don’t play this game. Activities, clothes, vacations, children, athletic accomplishments, body type, weight loss, etc… these are all traps that you can fall into and end up trying to please others rather than discerning what really makes you (and your family) happy. Be confident in who you are. You will save so much time and energy!
3. Have a Few Close Friends.
If you have found these, you are blessed! Someone that supports you no matter what craziness life throws at you is invaluable. If you haven’t found “your people” yet, keep looking. They are out there. Some parents find each other through local parenting groups. Or join the PTO or a parents’ group at your local church… there are others out there waiting to connect with you but you do have to be brave and initiate.
4. Treat Each Child as an Individual.
Have a conversation with each child each day on their terms. Celebrate what that child is good at. Avoid comparing siblings and pitting them against each other.
I am often tempted to see “who can cleanup faster” because it is an efficient way to get the house cleaned up, but I have stopped doing this because I don’t want to have a competitive atmosphere between my children. Instead, now we race the clock together. We do team room “blitzes” where I set the microwave clock for five minutes and we see if we can get the living room cleaned up in five minutes. We race the clock rather than each other. It’s a team-building type activity and get us working together. And my house still gets cleaned!
5. Emphasize the Importance of Family.
Kids need the balance of belonging to a family. What does it mean to be part of family? Having your child pitch in on family workdays or service projects helps kids know they are part of something bigger than themselves.
6. Get a Mentor.
Who do you look up to in the parenting realm? It’s hugely beneficial to have someone with older kids to talk with.
These mentor parents give the gift of perspective along with friendship and can be invaluable in troubling times. And once you have a bit of experience in the parenting world, be available to parents with younger kids. I find it very satisfying to be able to share my experiences with other moms.
7. Know the Difference Between Taking a Break and Quitting.
Here’s the situation: my two older kids resumed piano lessons at the start of the new school year. What we didn’t anticipate was the level of homework the kids would have this year. So now, a month into school, we are struggling to get all of the assigned reading, math, and computer work done. There is just no time to practice piano at the moment.
We decided to table piano lessons until we can get a handle on the homework and get into a healthy routine with those obligations. Once upon a time, I would’ve thought that we were quitting and that we can’t quit because that’ll show the kids they don’t have to finish what they started. Today I realize it’s not so black and white. We had a chat with the kids about why we were pausing piano lessons and what needed to happen before we could resume them. I’d like to think we’re teaching them discernment.
8. Stick to a Routine.
There’s a reason school teachers have a daily routine with their students – kids want it. They may say otherwise, but kids with a routine are generally happier than those without. Just think about nights when your kids stayed up too late or didn’t eat regular meals. I’m not saying you have to be rigid with your routine, but have expectations and let your kids know what they are. Right now we are working hard on our after school homework routine at our house (more on that to come in an upcoming post).
9. Say Yes.
Once again, we need balance. It would be very easy for me to take the Routine in #8 too far. I’m a first-born rule follower, after all! I need regular reminders to say yes to my kids. Daughter wants to play a game after school? Why not? Dinner can wait a few minutes. Impromptu trip to the park after getting the groceries? I might not feel like it, but that is how memories are made. I don’t always say yes, but having a “yes” attitude helps balance all of the homework and “do this, do that” orders I find leaving my mouth.
10. Take the Long View.
When my son had colic for six straight months it felt like the crying infant was the whole world. I had no idea if or when he’d ever grow out of it. And he was inconsolable. I felt like a terrible mom (he wouldn’t nurse) and a failure (he wouldn’t stop crying). I was too proud to ask for help, and since I was a new mom I didn’t have a support network for this kind of thing. I was lonely and it all led to postpartum depression. I wasn’t able to see beyond my circumstances, but that’s exactly what I needed to do. Looking back, I wish I would’ve asked for help and opened myself up to others.
Which of these resonate with you? Do you already do some of these without thinking about it? Which of these would you struggle with?