Being a Mom
Three Parenting Principles for Moms
By T. Suzanne Eller
Before I had children, I had a “good mother” list. You might have one as well. Mine read like this:
When I become a mother, I will love my children.
When I become a mother, I will not physically harm my children.
When I become a mother, I will have a peaceful and loving home.
This list was born out of my own experiences and hopes. I was raised in dysfunction and vowed not to repeat harmful actions I went through as a child. I had no clue how I would make these qualities transpire though I was determined to try.
When my first child was born, I thought I was the world’s greatest mother. She slept only a few hours each day, but when she was awake she was playful and observant. But when Leslie was barely 10 months old I found out that I was pregnant. Then we found out it was twins! I was two months shy of my 24th birthday when Ryan and Melissa were born. The title of the world’s best mom was stripped away as soon as the doctor snipped the umbilical cords and I began to juggle four parenting balls: love, colic, sleep deprivation, and guilt.
I loved my babies, but as they grew up “my good mother list” was redefined. I discovered that a list simply wasn’t enough. In every stage of my children’s lives, there were challenges. In fact, motherhood is downright tough at times.
It is great that I set goals, but I needed more. I needed to know what to do. So, I threw out my “good mom list” and turned to these principles.
Three Principles Every Mom Should Know
- Moms can’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Moms will sometimes make mistakes, but we can learn from them.
- Moms must nurture the nurturer
Ask for Parenting Help
Because I didn’t have a wealth of parenting knowledge, I sought help. I read parenting books and magazines. I asked questions of women whom I trusted, and whose children showed the fruit of a gentle and nurturing home. Susan Yates, author of And Then I Had Kids, says, “Not only do our children need good role models, though, we need them too. Like them, we need to be exposed to other adults whom we admire. We need older Christians that we can look to for encouragement in our faith. We need to know older parents who will be examples for us and who can help us with our questions about raising children.”
My mother-in-law became one of my role models. I could call her when my kids were teething and cranky. She would pray for my children when they were older and driving or dating and making critical choices. Asking her for help wasn’t easy in the beginning, but I could pretend that I had it all under control or I could be honest. She shared her stories, as well as advice, and I grew to understand that if my mentor had once struggled with bad days, then it must be normal!
Moms, Learn from Your Mistakes
We can wallow in our failure, blame it on our children or others, or we can learn from our mistakes. When you find yourself becoming the parent you don’t want to be, you can ask four questions:
1. What prompted this action or response?
Knowing this helps you to identify triggers. Was it because you were tired? Is a parenting method creating more harm than good? What is the underlying reason that things spiraled downward?
2. Is there a better way to handle the situation?
In my childhood, anger was a parenting tool. It would be easy for me to yank that out of my parenting baggage and try it on my own children, but is it the best tool? Since yelling or humiliation doesn’t work (and it never does), what will work? Consider alternative methods such as reasonable and consistent consequences, encouragement, and communication.
3. What can I learn from this?
I can continue to punish myself when I mess up, or I can approach it as a student and learn from my errors. Becky Tirabassi, author of The Burning Heart Contract, says, “If you are hiding or covering up your weaknesses and flaws from others, you are simply protecting your freedom to relapse.”
What lessons are there to be learned from your mistakes? What do you do well? What worked, and why?
4. Did I resolve the situation with my child?
When one of my children was in high school, I lost my temper and handled a situation badly. My child is quick to say that we were all in the wrong, but also says that it is a minor blip in the memory bank. What this child remembers more is our conversation that afternoon as we worked through the problem together.
Our children know that we aren’t perfect. But let them know that your relationship will always be strong because you won’t leave situations unresolved.
Nurture the Nurturer
The last key to providing a loving home is to nurture yourself along the way. It’s not reasonable to expect that your goals will fall into place when you are sleep-deprived, guilt-ridden, and overwhelmed. When I had three kids under the age of two years, I learned that if I kept juggling balls they would eventually come crashing down on my head.
In the beginning, I tried to do it by myself. I was not only taking care of the house and kids, I was never alone. I shopped for groceries and necessities with three children in my stroller that looked like I was pushing a small train. I walked the floor with a colicky baby until my hair stood on end, trying to be patient.
I needed help. I enrolled in a low-cost program called Mother’s Day Out at a local church. It was a reputable program with caring professionals who gave mothers of small children a break for a few hours a week. Moms could grocery shop or run to the mall for a couple of hours or even do something as luxurious as have a manicure.
But I did none of these things. Once a week, I deposited my children in capable hands and turned right around and drove home. I climbed in bed for a heavenly two-hour nap. From that time on, if I felt overwhelmed on Wednesday I knew that on Friday I would be able to take care of my needs. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough.
I still nurture myself in small ways. I can’t afford a spa and I can’t splurge on expensive treats, but I can go to bed at the same time every night. I can eat healthy (most of the time), and walk every day, even if for only a half hour. I not only do this for myself, I do it because I live in a stress-filled world. I need to take a few moments each day and nurture myself, because I’m the nurturer in my family.
Remember Moms, It’s An Ongoing Process
Your child may be snuggled in the bassinet or spiking his hair as he gets ready to take a girl out for a date. In either instance, these three principles can help. But remember, parenting is a process. Every day we have an opportunity to review our goals, and even our mistakes, as we continue to learn and grow as a parent and as a person, as we influence the children in our heart and home.
T. Suzanne Eller is an author, freelance writer, columnist, and national speaker. For more information about Suzanne, check out her official website.
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