Motherhood is hard work without a doubt. Whenever I run into friends or family members who are new moms I remember my struggles adjusting to the many changes and challenges that come along with the role. There are a few rules I have learned over the years that help keep me sane, or weather the extra stressful times. While each Mom’s circumstances are unique, these are my top 5 tips for building confidence and finding balance as a Mom.
- Lose the Expectations: For women, seemingly from the minute we are born there are all these competing expectations placed on us. Our exposure to other mothers through our own upbringing, things we see in the media, or overall values in society prior to becoming a parent have created an image in our minds of what we feel we “should” be, do, look, act, or parent like. When we actually become a parent though a lot of these ideas are confronted by the reality of child rearing. I’ve always heard the saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” There is no faster way to unhappiness than to constantly compare yourself, especially to unrealistic ideals.
These daunting ideas lead to negative thinking, stress and feeling overwhelmed. Getting rid of expectations allows you to set standards and values for yourself based on whats important to you. I have always wanted to have a perfectly organized and stylishly designed home but with children running around all day some design items were just unsafe or impractical. Accepting that with children comes mess(and chaos) I was able to let go of those expectations of have a perfect home 24/7. For me that helped minimize the self judgements about how I felt my home “should” look and beating myself up about all the things that I wanted to improve. I can focus my energy into making the improvements that matter most and let go of unnecessary stress.
- Trust your Own Instincts: One thing I noticed right away when I became a parent is how many people feel the urge to give unsolicited advice about what and how you should handle your child. Complete strangers would stop to give me tips, or suggestions and that was something totally unheard of prior to having children. I remember one time I was walking down the block with my husband carrying our first baby and a lady walking past us was like “You should put a hat on her.” I was baffled and a little offended at the time, thinking “who is this random person and why do they feel the need to comment on what I’m doing?” It is hard enough as a new parent trying to figure out your new role, your child, and the daunting task of making decisions that affect someone else life! I would be angered, upset or doubt my choices based on things people said but by the time I welcomed my second baby I had learned that there is no perfect way to parent. There are no one size fits all remedies that will solve all my problems. I had to learn to rely heavily on my own knowledge and follow my own instinct about what was best for me, my child, and my family. Over time the more I trusted myself, the more I found I was capable of the task at hand and the more natural it became. The confidence I had in my abilities was projected in my demeanor and I found I was more immune to the criticism and judgements of others. Ironically enough, people also felt less inclined to impose their opinions when they see someone who looks like they have it together.
- Build a Support System: This is something I feel is taking for granted way too often. In other cultures its common to have a community or family structure to rely on. Many countries young families still live in one home with the parents and extended family. Here in America, the “glorification of busy” has created the problem of isolation, especially for homemakers. This one for me is still a constant struggle because the pull of that never-ending to-do list can distract me from taking the time to cultivate those relationships like I would like to. Making time for old friends, taking time to make new ones, or even keeping up with family members are activities that often fall by the wayside under the current of motherhood. Having people you can rely on for support with childcare or emotional support a critical to keep good mental hygiene and a strong family unit.
- “Me Time” is MandatoryThis one is pretty self-explanatory especially if you are a parent. The endless mundane task and constant giving of yourself can leave you absolutely depleted if you are not making time for yourself. This I would say is something that never goes away and it’s not even unique to parents. I am a person who pushes myself constantly and in the past I have invested too heavily in others before investing in myself. I have learned how to monitor myself and my needs to make sure that I at least get some time for myself. It’s so easy to over look but its a costly mistake. Whenever I start feeling in a rut or like I’m gonna choke somebody in my house it’s usually because I have been neglecting myself in some area. I will another post later devoted to this subject alone because I feel this is one of the most important but often the most overlooked area of motherhood. Taking time out doesn’t require a lot of time or money. Some of the small things I do is taking a bath(and using my soapy smell goods), leisure reading, watching a favorite show alone, or taking a neighborhood stroll. When I am energized I know my family will get the best of me, and that makes me happy.
- Always Hold on to your Sense of Humor: Ever laugh to keep from crying? That saying definitely can ring true for motherhood. Murphy’s law is somehow multiplied when it comes to parenting. Wearing your cute new top for an outing? Your kid will get sick and throw up on you. Perfectly on schedule for a family trip? Your child will have a diaper explosion that requires a full outfit change and bath. Life with kids is so unpredictable, even with a pretty consistent schedule I can say each of my days is not identical. It’s on the job training and when I laugh at the crazy situations that only children can create it makes things that could be stressful quite entertaining. In the early days I’m sure I shed plenty of tears over a ruined dinner, or last second change of plans but I have learned over the years to loosen up and find the joy(and funny) in the struggle. All of these things have been part of what makes these child rearing years so special and one day when I look back with my husband, we will have all these funny, crazy, interesting stories about how we met and overcame all obstacles in our way. Life is what happens in between your best laid plans, so best to enjoy it all.
What are your motherhood”Holy Grail?” Any great Murphy’s Law stories? I have a ton!