Although feelings of inadequacy are not unique to motherhood, being a mother in our culture can oftentimes feel rewardless and lonely, so those feelings of inadequacy can grow and expand when unchecked. Before I had kids (and in the Toddler's first year), I taught elementary school, and before that, I waitressed (blegh) and coordinated events for a restaurant/banquet hall, so my daily tasks had concrete goals. Not so much with my current "job." I am currently in the business of teaching the Toddler how to share with the Baby, and it requires me to repeat and repeat and repeat the modeling of correct behavior. It can take hundreds (thousands?) of teaching moments before I finally see the fruits of my effort.
|I assure you, it isn't always this precious around here.|
So how do I keep perspective and feel like a good mom?
1. Take Care of Myself
- I can't tell you how many times I have felt that awful mommy guilt while I'm feeling stressed, sitting on the floor with my kids, and I'm still in my pajamas. My to-do list screams from the other room, while my little ones claw and cry on my lap. I feel myself getting irritated at my kids (WHY do you need me to hold you CONSTANTLY?! WHY do you need to read that book I hate for a 7th time?!) because they are the only other human available to get upset with, and I start to feel guilty for feeling irritated with them and for still being in my pajamas and not getting anything "productive" done. There were quite a few times I felt like this before it hit me (gently - God was very gentle with me in those moments): OF COURSE I feel like my kids and house and life are emptying me of everything I have to give when I have't filled myself up with anything!
- I have retrained myself to respond to these guilty feelings like this:
- Get thyself dressed, woman! Let the kids fuss or find something novel for them to play with (Look! It's a clothes hamper!), and do the quick beauty routine that makes you feel ready to leave the house (or have someone (like your husband) see you). Our kids are not only watching how we treat them; they are watching how we treat ourselves. And schedule at least one uninterrupted shower a week (more if you need it!).
- Look at the checklist. I have my daily chores prewritten on pages I print out monthly, and then add the new to dos to as they come up. For daily chores, I have "make the bed" and "make breakfast", so I can see my list and either check something easy off (woo hoo!) or start with the basics.
- Pray and let go. If I have gotten dressed and looked at the checklist and the Baby and the Toddler have not found contentment in anything other than me, I give in. I sit on the floor again, either reading stories or just holding them. I find that when I reach this point, my kids attention fills me up instead of wearing me down.
|Depending on my mood, this face is either terrifying or hilarious.|
- Satisfy the needs of my personality. I am an extrovert, so I need quality time with friends to recharge. Spending time with the Husband in the evenings definitely helps, but I can't put the burden of all my extrovertedness on him. For those of you who are introverts, you will need to make time to recharge alone, with no relationships or interpersonal expectations to cloud your mind (If you're introverted and there is a better way to say this, please tell me in the comments!). It was also important to learn about my love language, and communicate to the Husband about what I needed to feel his love.
- Find something about my new "job" to rock at. Chores can be very boring, so it is important for me to do something I love and am good at. For me, that thing is cooking. I love to cook, and my family thinks I'm pretty good at it. I feel very confident in the kitchen, and the moments to myself while my husband entertains the kids renew me, and give me just enough energy to feed the family dinner and get the kids to bed. On days my husband can't be home before dinner is served, I make sure to make dinner during nap while the kids are asleep. This helps me not get stressed about dinner, and everyone stays happier.
- Flee from guilt, but always strive to be better. I have noticed that if my life gets too easy, I end up looking for a challenge. For example, as soon as the Baby started sleeping through the night, I offered to help train my neighbor's puppy. Seriously. This might make me a bit crazy, but by constantly working to make things better, I help prevent our family from getting stuck in dysfunctional ruts. If we are doing something that is making us crazy, I do my best to not feel guilty about it, but make steps to change it. I have the power to affect change in my family for good!
2. Train My Kids
- Set up a routine that works for you, and stick to it or bend it when you need to. For me, I found that my "job satisfaction" is highest when I keep a daily routine that doesn't last past bedtime. I work hard every day to keep the house clean, and end the "work day" with dinner, clean up, baths, and bedtime. Once the kids are in bed, I either stop all productiveness or finish something on my to-do list that will really make me happy. Note, I really mean happy, and not just less guilty. For example, after being gone most of the weekend, last night after the kids went to bed, I cleaned the kitchen thoroughly. It made me very happy. I did not put my clothes away, because I did not feel like it. Booyakasha.
- If you have more than one kiddo at home with you, keep their routine the same as much as possible. If one is having lunch, both are sitting at the table, even if one is still exclusively breastfed. If one is napping, the other does the bedtime routine even if they just woke up from their own nap.
- Do chores WITH your kids. While they are still young and impressionable, make the daily home maintenance part of your day, as much as getting dressed is (Like days where you just put on new pajamas to go to bed, some days the chores get postponed, too.). The Toddler already puts the utensils away, cleans up his toys, puts clothes (and other items - if it's missing, I check the hamper!) in his hamper, and helps dad in the yard (moving dirt clumps, burying seeds, etc). I also have kid-sized dust pans to keep the Toddler and Baby's hands busy while I sweep and vacuum (Yay for the dollar section at Target!). It's also never too late to start new good habits, even if your kids don't seem so young and impressionable anymore!
|Making a salad! And it doesn't appear so, but Baby was in arms reach and wasn't going anywhere!|
- I have trained my kids that when I'm busy, I can't do what they ask immediately, but that I will meet their want/need as soon as I can. I do my best to not be busy too often (this is being typed as they nap!) as to not use up their tiny patiences, but it is wonderful to be able to tell the Toddler "Mommy's hands are busy (cutting an onion, prepping raw meat, sending a text to Daddy, etc), but I can help you with that in just a moment." Because I don't spend much time absorbed by other things during the day, they don't need to throw as many tiny fits to get my attention.
3. Let Go of Guilt
- When I finally forgive myself and refuse to wallow in guilt, it is so much easier to forgive those around me.
- When I mess up and do something wrong, I am learning to not be afraid to apologize. Saying you are sorry and asking for forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength, maturity, and security.
- See a licensed counselor. Even if you don't think you need to, or even if you feel that it would mean something is wrong with you, just do it. If you can't afford it, get a sponsor or talk to someone at your church about financial help. It is so worth the time and money to get help from someone who is trained at helping people improve their communication skills and interpersonal boundaries.
I hope some of my ideas you can find encouraging. I'm constantly learning new things about being a mom, and love to share my ideas. Thank you for reading!