Keep those lines of communication with your kids open- even when it's tough!
We started the year by talking about the new year not signaling the need to transform into a whole new you. From there, we focused on accepting where you’re at as a mom, learning to recognize the strengths you already have and considering the source of those negative “shoulds” you have about yourself as a mom. Hopefully you’ve tried out some of last weeks’ time-saving life hacks, so you have a little extra time and mental energy. So, you’re now at a great place to start focusing on something else…something really important…like you.
Self-improvement is all about enhancing yourself- learning, developing skills, improving on your character, and generally becoming a better, more skilled and able person. Self-improvement is also a term that’s a little bit cringeworthy that makes people feel bad, not unlike New Year’s Resolutions. It may bring to mind the Self-Help section at Barnes and Noble. It may remind you of the times a friend recommended a particular life-changing book, but you never got around to buying it. It may remind you of the times you’ve in fact bought one of those books with every intention of reading it, only to leave it on the shelf because you couldn’t find time to read it.
For those of us who struggle with setting and sticking to our modest goals, who juggle too many balls and desperately try not to drop any, “self-improvement” may conjure up images of that mom. The one who’s so disciplined and together that she’s never focused on just keeping her head above water. The one who seems to effortlessly evolve into an even better version of her already amazing self. Since most of us are lightyears away from being that mom, the idea of self-improvement may make us feel guilty, overwhelmed or just plain not good enough.
We are going to share a couple of things that will (hopefully) be a HUGE relief. First, that mom is likely not balancing her life with ease and evolving into a goddess. She’s probably working her butt off to appear that way and she may just be able to project confidence to mask the fact that sometimes she’s just surviving too. So, stop comparing yourself to her because she probably doesn’t exist! And, if she does exist, good for her…but being her just isn’t realistic or necessary.
Second, we are all a work in progress, which is a good thing. Think about it: do you want to be a person who’s already peaked in life? There’s nowhere to go but down…no, thank you. Or, how crummy would it be if you reached a point in life where you thought, “Yep, I’m done…I’m the perfect version of myself…” What the heck would you do with the rest of your life? Life doesn’t need to be a constant steep uphill climb. But, hopefully, like a fine wine, we’ll keep getting better with time. So, there’s no need to feel guilty about not being exactly who you want to be.
There’s this great metaphor that is used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy* about “going west.” If you walked out of your house, you could head west. At the end of your street, you could keep going west. Once you hit the city limits, would you be done going west or could you still head west from there? What if you got lost and started going north for a while…could you get back on course and go west again? Our life values are like that- for the rest of our lives, we can move toward or away from the things that matter to us. We will never finish working on what matters, so (get ready to breathe that sigh of relief) we can never completely fail at what matters. We can always redirect our effort and work on being the people we want to be.
So, self-improvement isn’t something to dread or fear. Now, let’s apply this to parenting. This week think about the kind of mom you want to be and why. We aren’t asking what kind of mom you already are or what kind of mom you likely could be. And, we aren’t asking what goals you want to accomplish; don’t think in terms of things that can be checked off a list.
Imagine that you could be any kind of mom you want to be. Think about the qualities and characteristics you want to have/show as a mom. Then, use sentence stems like “I’d be the kind of mom who…” or “My kids would say I’m…” and fill in the blanks with the qualities or characteristics you want to strive toward as a mom. Notice what values you are already pursuing, since you undoubtedly do possess some of the qualities already. These values can also help guide your future actions. Remember that at any given point, you can do things that will get you closer to or further from being the mom you want to be. So, every day, every hour, every minute, we get a new chance!
*For information about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, check out the self-help workbook, Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life (Hayes & Smith, 2005) or go to https://contextualscience.org/act
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Welcome back! Last week, we talked about accepting yourself for the mom you are. Hopefully, you’ve been tracking your Momcomplishments and are starting to give yourself credit for all the ways you’re a great mom. This week, we’re sharing some ideas to help you free up some time and play to your strengths.
Have you ever wished you had more time in a day? We’ve all been there, some of us many times each week. Sadly, we only get 24 hours in a day and we are under constant pressure to fit it all in. When we can’t, which is often (because we’re human), we feel like failures.
We’re not going to tell you stop trying. Instead, we suggest that you embrace the idea that good enough is good enough. You don’t need to be perfect or put in heroic effort for everything you do.
You play a lot of roles in life – mom, wife/partner, coworker/employee/manager/CEO, daughter, sister, friend, classroom parent, neighbor, carpool driver – the list goes on and on. Let’s do some math. If you feel pressure to be fully present, involved, and putting in your all for each of these roles, how does that add up? Giving 100% to 100% of your roles 100% of the time equals exhaustion, resentment, anger, disappointment, and eventually, you falling apart.
Today, we’re talking about some areas where it’s 100% ok to give waaaaay less than 100%. Guess what? Some of those areas involve your kids. Shocking, we know. Here’s the thing, if you stay up all night baking 500 cupcakes and frosting them to Pinterest perfection for your child’s bake sale, what’s going to happen? Is your child going to sing your praises to anyone who will listen? Will this go down as the single greatest day of his life? Will the PTO hoist you on their shoulders and parade you around the school as their hero? HA! Yeah, right.
Here’s what really happens: You’ll start the next day sleep deprived, kicking yourself for staying up so late. Your child may notice the cupcakes and be really excited, which will make you feel great for about 10 seconds, until you look at the clock and realize you’re all running late. You’ll then start shouting at the kids to hurry up. You’ll race them to school, shove the cupcakes into the teacher’s hands and race to work. You’ll show up late, get yelled at by your boss, then feel guilty enough to stay late. By the time you get home, no one will be done with their homework, dinner will be late, and things will be in a state of chaos. And that sweet, sweet child you stayed up all night making cupcakes for will have a tantrum to end all tantrums. At that point, YOU. WILL. LOSE. IT. This will include lots of yelling, your kids going to bed upset, and you feeling resentful that nothing you do is ever appreciated while also feeling guilty for losing it, then telling yourself that you’re the worst mom ever. Yikes!
Now, hopefully it won’t be as bad as all that, but at least some of those elements probably sound familiar. So, were those 500 perfect cupcakes worth it? If you said yes, then you can stop reading here. We probably can’t help you. But, if you’re reading this and saying, “500 cupcakes?!! You’re out of your mind!” - keep reading because we’ve got something for you.
It’s time to start thinking about some life hacks. We’re not talking about slacking off and not caring. We’re talking about figuring out when good enough is good enough. Remember our equation? You can’t do everything to the best of your ability all the time. So, why not think of ways to save yourself time and energy and, more importantly, give yourself permission to stop being Superwoman.
Sticking with the 500 cupcakes example, there are some ways this task could be easier. First, does it have to be 500 cupcakes? Could it be 50? Also, do you have to bake them yourself or could you just pick some up from the supermarket or local bakery? If you’re having a particularly stressful week when the cupcakes are needed, do you have to bring anything, or can you just donate money? If you don’t have time to bake, but you can free up time in the morning, can you help with set-up? See where we’re going here? There are always alternatives.
It’s ok to find more efficient ways of doing things. This applies to parenting, but also to other areas of your life. Remember, it’s all about making your life easier so you can show up for the things are truly important to you.
Start looking for the easy way! You've got this!
Reach out and tell us about your life hacks by clicking the link or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Click here for a printable version of this post.
Twenty-five years ago, Jon Kabat-Zinn first published his seminal book on mindfulness, Wherever You Go, There You Are. Today, we’re drawing inspiration from this idea and applying it to parenting. No matter what kind of mom you want to be in the future, it’s okay to start from wherever you are as a mom right now. There is value in what you already do as a mom.
Let’s back up and consider a situation that could seriously test this idea. You made it through the holidays relatively unscathed, your kids are back in school (hooray!), and life can settle back into its normal, albeit chaotic, rhythm. You’re feeling okay. You go on Pinterest for some school snack ideas and are overwhelmed by the artistic lunchtime creations and colorful lunchbox notes. And, you see what “picky eaters” apparently enjoy in their school lunches and are horrified that your kids won’t even try any of those foods. You share your concerns about your kids’ eating habits with your husband, who tries to help by telling you “don’t worry about it.”
When dinnertime rolls around the next evening, one of your kids refuses to even touch the food. You. Lose. It. That night, you close your eyes and cringe at how things went. You just wanted to add a little variety to your kids’ lunches. You had good intentions but now feel like an underachieving mom and you’re upset with yourself for the evening’s epic parent fail.
Sound familiar? Being a mom is not easy. Even when we have the best intentions, things don’t always go as planned. So, it’s important to go out of your way to tune in to the strengths you already have and be a little more forgiving of your weaknesses. No matter what kind of mom you are and what kind of mom you want to be, you already have some things going for you! It’s just hard to remember those things when you’re only focused on your mistakes.
Now, take a moment to think about your expectations about how a mom should talk, how a mom should behave or what a mom should do for her family. Our ideas about how moms should be come from our own experiences as kids, from our own personal ideals, from seeing how other moms speak and act, from TV and movies, and from things our significant others, children, parents, friends, and, yes, even strangers convey.
Some, but not all, expectations are explicit. While your kids have undoubtedly told you at some point that you’re mean (at least we assume they have), it’s less likely that they’ve told you that “good moms never raise their voices or use a harsh tone with their kids.” You may still have a belief that “good” moms never yell, so you get mad at yourself whenever you do.
As we emphasized last week, the new year isn’t about being a whole new you. There are a lot of things about you as a mom that you wouldn’t want to change and that your family and friends wouldn’t want you to change either. Maybe you’re good at walking away when your teenager is trying to pick a fight. Maybe you’re great at lightening the mood in tense moments. Maybe you love coloring with your kids. Maybe you can see when your husband really needs you to tag in. These are the kinds of strengths that you may already have as a mom.
Moms have an uncanny ability to identify even their tiniest flaws but this week, notice some of your parenting strengths. Notice something positive about yourself as a mom on a daily basis and notice what it feels like to see the good that’s already there. Try to keep track of your Momcomplishments (parenting wins). If you find that you’re beating yourself up or having a strong reaction to something you’ve said or done (or something left unsaid or that you didn’t do), see if you can identify the “should” that’s under the surface. You don’t need to change negative thoughts or feel bad about the fact that you have them! Just start thinking about where your negative thoughts come from and why it’s so easy see your faults and so hard to give yourself the credit you deserve. We hope this week’s blog will help you develop a more accepting, balanced view of yourself.
You're amazing! You've got this!
Reach out and tell us how it goes by clicking the link or emailing us at email@example.com!
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Feel free to peruse our blog and see what Sarah and Lisa had to say about topics related to your needs as a busy parent. We will talk about everything from parenting values, to life hacks, to realistic self-care.