Our kids don't always need us.
"But I came to the humbling realization that there are times when our kids can and will make it without us - even should make it without us. It is tempting as mothers to step in and solve all of our children's problems, thinking we are the only ones who can. The truth is that our children need experiences that teach them to cope without us. If we take care of every need and are present in every situation, how will our children learn dependence on God?" (13)
This is one that is going to difficult for me to learn and while Ava is so young right now, it is something I will definitely need to work on as she gets older and more independent. We want to raise independent kids who love and lean on their parents, but who also are able to live their own lives, make their own decisions, and accomplish goals without mom helping them every step of the way. Whether we like it or not, our kids are going to grow up and it is up to us to allow them the room to grow.
We need to stop comparing ourselves to other moms.
"Often, however, we are tempted to compare ourselves to other women, and we forget that God has created us as unique mothers designed with exacting care to benefit our unique homes and families...Other families and other mothers may look like they have it all together, but in reality they, like us, have their good points along with their flaws, their challenges, and their regrets." (22)
This is one that so many moms struggle with and I point the blame on social media. There is nothing wrong with social media and, in fact, without it, I wouldn't have a job. As a blogger, social media is my job. But in life, we like to portray the happy moments in our lives and would never even think to post a photo of our kids in the middle of a tantrum. And there is nothing wrong with that either, as we don't want to come across as complainers! But just remember that just as your life may look perfect from the outside to others, those other moms and families are struggling in areas as well. We are only human and every human struggles.
And the point that I loved most about this, is the idea that you were created as a mom for your family and your family only. God gave you the perfect child for you - that child was chosen for you specifically and that is what makes being a mom so special. You may be able to handle your own struggles, where another mom may not be able to handle them as you do. And so is the same with you being placed in their shoes. So just remember, that you were imperfectly created as the perfect mom for your family.
You don't need a full schedule in order to be a good mom.
"Is there anything on the list you don't need to be doing? Is there anything on the list you sense God telling you to stop doing? You and I must reexamine our activity load on a regular basis, asking ourselves these important questions, making adjustments and gaining control of our calendars. Although we may think and overflowing plate of activities and interests makes us "well-rounded," the truth is that it i more likely to stress us out and make us ineffective in our areas of primary responsibility." (24)
Now this one is huge for me as my daughter is only three months old and I have already taken on a new blogging venture (this one), joined 2 mommy groups, started a mommy-kid play date once a week at our church and joined a small group. And as Ava gets older, I am sure I am going to want to volunteer for everything and anything at her schools and sign her up for every activity and sport there is out there. I mean, I have the privilege of working from home and creating my own hours, so it would be terrible for me not to take on those tasks, right? Well that's what I always think and I don't like to say no. And while I am not overwhelmed by the activities I have taken on at the moment, I am sure they will continue to pile higher, leaving me burnt out and unable to tend to my core responsibilities as a mom.
Keeping my responsibilities outside of the home to a minimum so that they remain manageable, will enable me to be effective in other areas of my life but will also allow me to focus my attention on being a mom over everything else. And more than anything, THAT is what will make me a good mom....not taking on every other responsibility outside of the home.
Moms need a break.
"Our cell phones are a vital part of our daily lives - we would never think of leaving home without them, right? Unfortunately, they always need to be recharged. Many times I've had to make an important callor find directions, only to see the display on the phone blink "low battery." Cell phones may be a great convenience when they are fully charged, but they are useless if they run out of battery.
The same is true for mothers. We become drained too. We get tired physically and emotionally from the constant effort to discipline, entertain, and care for our kids....We all need a break, a respire, a safe haven in which we can re-energize from the cares of motherhood." (28)
While we are on 24/7 as a mom, we need our sleep and we need a break. During those breaks, we are still mom and are still going to be on call but we need to find time for ourselves too. I know that I need to work on taking a nap, sleeping in once in a while and even going out to get my nails done alone or grabbing a drink with friends. Those moments don't make us bad parents because we need a break from our kids, but they give us a way to re-energize and re-charge that battery FOR our kids. So those breaks, while they are for us, they are positive for our families as well!
Our kids need constant encouragement.
"One of the greatest investments we can make i the lives of our kids is to give them sincere and specific words of encouragement. It costs us so little in time and effort, but the rewards are priceless. When our young people are reminded of their God-given value, they receive deposits of confidence, security, and well-being in their emotional bank accounts. The begin building on their strengths, knowing the have something to contribute to this world. On the other hand, when our children have nothing positive to believe about themselves, their emotional bank accounts can become bankrupt - overdrawn by the negative comments and disappointments that occur every day in the world around them." (36)
I think this one just takes a constant reminder over time. We get so deep into our every day busy lives that I can definitely see myself forgetting the need for constant encouragement in my child's life. So for this, I think I need a post-it note on my mirror to remind me each morning. And in addition to encouraging our children, I think we should add encouraging ourselves to the daily checklist too!
We cannot make our kids want what they want.
"As mothers, our affirming influence is like that breeze that firmly sends the sailboat of our children's lives across the water of life. Helping our children reach their destination - to achieve the fullness of their God-given potential - is one of the most rewarding aspects of our jobs as moms. But we must be careful. It is tempting to impose our own expectations on our children, to try to push them in the direction we want for them rather than the direction God has planned for them since the beginning of time. Our challenge is to learn how to be the wind in their sails without blowing them off the course God has set for their lives." (51)
Just like a rebellious teenager, kids are going to love what they love and will be good at what they are good at. I find myself in conversation with my husband asking, "What sport should Ava do so she can get a full-ride to college?" Instead of remembering that God has designed a plan or her life, we begin to plan it out at such a young age. Of course, the activities we place her in are going to direct her, but what if Ava doesn't like sports? It's crazy to think since we are both sports families and even more difficult to actually type and publish those words but no matter how much we push her in one direction, she is who she is and is going to follow her own path in life.
And so, as a mom, I need to encourage her where she needs to be encouraged. I need to allow her to try out different sports and arts and music so that she can find what she loves, rather than becoming a competitive gymnast because that is what I did and what I want her to do. I need to encourage her and be her biggest cheerleader in whatever she chooses.
A smile goes a long way.
"A smile speaks volumes to our children. When a mother smiles at her son from the audience of a school play, she tells him, "I'm proud of you. You're doing a great job." When she smiles as her daughter comes in the door after a difficult day at school, she reassures her, "It's okay. Everything will be alright." (66)
"We don't have to wait to have "happy feelings" before we smile. Think about it. Most of the actions we take in life are not based on a feeling, but on a deliberate decision. You don't wait for the feeling to hit you before you do the laundry, do you? I hope not - otherwise you'd have piles of dirty clothes ling around just waiting for you to get a warm, fuzzy feeling about doing the wash. For most of us, I think, those piles would simply keep growing! No, you do the loads because they need to be done. It's not a matter of feeling like it; it's a matter of choosing a course of action. Smiling, too, is something we can choose to do whether we feel like it or not. It's an act of kindness - sometimes a sacrificial one - extended to those around us." (67)
We all know that there are studies after studies that prove the power of a smile not just in others, but in ourselves. So why not make ourselves happy while making our kids happy too? It's a win-win for everyone and is something that is so simple (and free!). And that's another post-it I think I should add to my mirror. If I do nothing else in life, a simple smile every single day will definitely make me a better mom.