New Year, New Mom goals
Someone once said don’t wait for a new year to start resolutions, start making goals today. I mean, isn’t the stat like 90% of New Year’s resolutions don’t make it to February? I don’t know. All I know is that there were like 10 ladies in the fitness center during my workout time that I’ve never seen before… I’ll come back in February. Totally kidding, I hope they reach their goals.
While I believe in that statement wholeheartedly, it’s hard when a new year comes around to not reflect on the past and plan for the future and, ultimately, start New years resolutions.
One of my “goals” this year is to exhaust more effort into my kiddos. Now I’m not saying I don’t give them all the love and care they need each day, I do. But I often catch myself doing the bare minimum of keeping them alive. And I’m in no way saying that’s a bad thing. We all have days, weeks, months, maybe even years where it seems the best we can give is simply keeping them alive. Life is hard, having kids is hard. Keeping them alive is good. I totally get it. I get a lot of anxiety when it’s just me and the kids and I often get depressed so for a while the bare minimum was what I could do. However, I feel like I’m in a place right now where I can give more, and I want to.
I’ve been asking myself, How much time and energy am I devoting to my kids vs maybe other not so necessary things? Often I feel obligated to read that book, play that game, or go to that place. I want to replace obligation with opportunity.
Here are some Opportunities I thought of:
1. What activity can we do together that we both enjoy?
2. How can I turn this activity into a life lesson or teaching moment?
3. I have 15 minutes at least one evening a week to plan a craft, or a preschool lesson instead of thinking I’m busy or tired.
4. What can I research to learn how to teach my kids patience, responsibility, and love? I’m certainly no expert.
5. Can I take time to cuddle for 10 minutes instead of thinking of my to-do list?
6. Instead of me doing all the shopping, planning, and preparing for dinner, I could get my kids involved. It’ll definitely take longer, but worth it.
7. I want to sit and talk to them at least once a day.
8. Listen more and yell less.
9. Have more patience especially on my impatient days.
10. Have less impatient days.
I’m not saying I want to lose myself or overwork myself, but I want to discover myself through my kids.
Those that know me well know that I struggle with being a stay-at-home mom and the baby stage. I want to look at my kids more like opportunities to learn, grow and love. This year I’ll be working, so it’s an even better reason to start anew.
Here are some New Year’s Gifs for your viewing pleasure:
These are my own highs and lows of being a mother. It’s so good, but comes with some challenges.
Lonely. I have had some of the loneliest days being a mom. I never knew just how much I relied on adult interaction. It can be so hard to not talk to anyone all day but a baby, or a 4 year old. You really have to put yourself out there and get out everyday to talk and be part of the community. It can be really hard at times. I’ve gotten depressed over being lonely.
Getting ABSOLUTELY NOTHING done. Some days are just spent keeping the kids alive. They always need something from you. ALWAYS. even if you’ve gone out of your way to make them comfortable before you sit down and start working in that scrapbook that you’ve been trying to finish for 4 years. You might get lots of things started, but nothing seems to get finished. And if you do start something your children need to be in your lap at that moment. It’s also hard feeling productive. Some days are completely dedicated to your kids and even though you’ve cleaned noses, wiped butts, picked up toys, made dinner, started laundry, started a project, changed clothes, gave baths, read a story, played hide-n-seek, gave hugs, cured boo-boos, and wiped tears, it seems unfulfilling and repetitive.
Speaking of in your lap, Space. Oh my gosh. I’m excited for my kids to go to bed just so they’ll stop touching me. No matter where I am, they find me, and sit on me. If I’m on the couch they are right there! Every time. I mean, I love my cuddles, but I hate being climbed on all day. I am not a jungle gym. Every room in the house seems to belong to them, even if you didn’t intend it that way. Somehow your very nice ________ (everything) becomes theirs. They always find me when I have to go to the bathroom. You just want some space.
Messy. Everything is messy, all the time. They are so destructive. Destroy is their motto. I mean why do you need to beat the DVD case against the TV? Or tear all the ornaments off my tree? OR empty the box of Cheerios all over the floor. Nothing is safe. And you always think “they can’t hurt that”…..oh, but they can! I clean the house 5 times a day, and if I don’t it looks like I haven’t cleaned it in a week. Asking them to pick anything up is just as exhausting as doing it yourself, but you want to teach them good habits so you involve them anyway.
They’re MINE: They love me more than anything (right now). They come to ME when they’re feeling down, hurt, afraid, and tired. That makes me feel so special. I am their number one. I created them and brought them into the world. That’s magical stuff right there!
Discovering yourself. My kids have taught me so much in the 4 years that I’ve been a mom. I’ve learned service, and what it truly means to put someone else’s needs before your own. I make sure everyone is fed before I start eating my dinner sometimes, and boy can I get Hangry!
I’ve learned patience. So much patience. I’m still not completely patient. There is soooo much more patience to be had. But I’m learning it….that’s for sure!
I’ve learned Humility. There’s nothing more humbling then a 4 year old putting you in your place. How are kids so smart? She humbles me everyday.
I’ve learned how to be the person my kids need to be even if it puts me outside my comfort zone. I also want to be the person that my kids look up to and see as their hero or example. I’ve tried to emulate that person through prayer, scripture study, and being a force for good and optimistic.
Love. You learn so much about love and how much your heart can love. With each addition to my family I have that much more to lose in life. I love them more than anything. I would do anything for them. My heart aches when they are hurting or frustrated or can’t understand something. You just want to do everything for them, but teach them how to do it on their own at the same time.
Cute. They’re cute. So much cuteness. I love hearing my daughter talk to me about her day in complete sentences. Or how she asks me questions about life. I love to watch my 1 year old push toys around the house and learning what to do when he hits a wall, or how he watches Rae with the expression “what the heck are you doing”?
I guess I’ll keep them. 🙂
The Best Parenting Advice. . .
While I was pregnant with my first, I was told by many, many people that, “Children are the greatest joy.” I was also told repeatedly that, “Life would never be the same.” Or even, “Say goodbye to your freedom.” Let’s just say that the moment that strip turns positive, suddenly all sorts of mixed advice comes from everywhere and everyone.
All of this random and conflicting advice was so hard to understand at the time. How could my kids be the best thing ever, but also destroy parts of my very being and life? It didn’t make sense then, but it definitely does now.
You know Forest Gump? Well, I’ve never seen it. But, I do know that Mr. Gump believes, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” Just like the contradicting advice that I got while I was pregnant, every morning I wake up as a Mom, I’m not sure what my day is going to be like. Some days, it seems like I am raising cherubs sent straight from Heaven; other days, I wonder what evil creature took possession over my child’s body the night before. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” has never made more sense until becoming parent.
Cleaning up spilled orange juice for the third time in a row, listening to my children scream at each other over toys, waking up to change sheets in the middle of the night for various bodily excrements, feeling so isolated from regular human society while I pick up toys and wipe snot all day long — the worst of times.
Listening to my children say, “I love you, too, Mommy,” watching my babies fall asleep while I rock them and sing songs in my arms, licking the brownie batter off of the spoon together, squeezing their chunky, dimpled bums, hearing their excited laughter when we talk about visiting grandma’s house, trick-or-treating in their sibling-coordinated costumes — the best of times.
I think I stopped hating myself so much when I realized that it was okay to sincerely loathe this parenting thing one minute and then fall back in love with it the very next minute. It’s absolutely impossible to explain this emotional whiplash to an expectant mother, but for all those who tried, thank you. Now that I’m a few years in, I know that all of the ups and downs are normal and to-be-expected. I believe that is what everyone was trying to teach me when they gave their advice to me as a wide-eyed newbie. It’s okay to love it. It’s okay to hate it. It’s okay to miss parts of who you were before kids. It’s okay to long for graduation day. It’s also okay to cry at night because of how fast your children are growing up.
My advice? You’re doing okay Your kids are okay. It’s all okay.
Motherhood is filled with stories.
There’s stories of the amazing, unequivocal joy of raising children that might send you running for the nearest available method for obtaining a baby. There’s also stories of struggle and total complete meltdowns that might make you think twice before throwing away the birth control.
And of course, motherhood is both. You might not hear about all those ups every time, or all the downs every time, but they’re there. And somehow, even with all those downs, motherhood does what little else can: it grows and grows, filling our hearts with love and worry and joy and sorrow, which is all part of life itself. Motherhood simply magnifies it all.
So here are some of my personal joys and struggles of motherhood:
Bad news first: What tests me about motherhood
1. Broken sleep
I’m a heavy sleeper and heavy dreamer, from eyes closed all the way to my vibrating (or shouting children) alarm. The only times I used to wake at night were when I was on my period, sick, or uncomfortable for some reason. So when I’m waking multiple times at night, every single night for weeks and months on end, well–cue monster mom.
2. Leaving the house with kids
Gone are the days when I could grab something from the store in a heartbeat, attend some event without scrambling for a babysitter, or do something spontaneous. Now before heading out the door I first must feed, clean up, and dress four people; make sure I have all the kid stuff to keep everyone happy; and strap three kids into car seats. (Takes longer than it sounds.) And once we’re there, I need to rein them in the whole time. The entire shindig is exhausting. By the time I get home, and unbuckle the kids from their car seats, I can do nothing but enter my house and collapse on the couch . . . and then it’s lunchtime!
3. Cleaning certain bodily fluids
Between a shag carpet and tile flooring, cleaning up Number 1s and 2s is one of my absolute least favorite things in the world. An accident here and there, you know, I can handle. But if the child is regressing and unloading her night’s worth of liquids onto the bathroom floor morning after morning, it takes all I have not to explode and confine the child to the bathtub all day long. Instead I have to steer my anger and grief into furious texts sent to my husband at work, even though I know he can only respond with sympathy and sad emojis.
4. The lack of an emotional and mental break
Rest is important, but quite often, the physical break alone isn’t enough. I need to do more with my brain than answer need after need, pick this up or clean that, or referee little ones, all day long . . . how do I find the balance between kid time, hubby time, and “me” time? If I had just two hours a day free from my kids, I would exercise, write, or organize something without interruption. I would take myself to a quiet spot to be alone and just think. When my kids are in school, that time will come–but I may just lose my mind before then.
The good news: The best parts of motherhood
1. Freakin’ cute little kids
Kids and babies dish out cuteness in huge doses. From their babble and toddler speech to their innocent little ways, they are adorable. Even though I’ll never remember every cute thing they do (except what I catch in pictures and video), they melt my heart every day. God made babies and little humans cute for a reason, and all I can say is–thaaaank you!
2. Being their mom
I love having a baby to call “mine.” I love being the one whose lap my girls always want to sit in, the one who can always get all three kids to smile. I love being the one they hide behind when we meet new people–I am their comfort and protection. I love being the one who understands their needs. While my wonderful husband has the job of providing financially, my day job is a SAHM who provides security and guidance–which is my night job too, only my husband is also there to help with that. 🙂
3. When my children are happy
Baby giggles, playfully wicked chuckles, tickle laughs–I will treasure these moments forever. They’re happy when they’re playing, when their mommy or daddy snuggles them into bed, when they do something hard, and when they do something new all by themselves. I know now why parents wish they could take away their childrens’ struggles, and the hurt they’ll feel throughout their lives. Thing is, we just can’t. But I sure hope, no matter what happens in the future, that my children will always know the sheer joy I feel when they’re truly happy.
4. Seeing my children grow
Witnessing firsthand the development of babies and children is fascinating. It can make my day just chilling on the couch and listening to my four-year-old’s imagination run wild. I smiled as my 18-month-old imitated everyone and everything, and I smile now at a two-year-old experimenting with pretend play and her own personality. And nothing unites the family like cheering on the baby when he achieves his next milestone!
There’s this thing called “mommy guilt.” Google this phrase, and you’ll find blog posts and books galore on the subject. No mom is alone in feeling this, and no mom will make it very long unscathed once a child enters her care.
(Except, of course, the moms who abuse, neglect, and harm their children. They don’t seem to feel any guilt–at least not enough to stop their horrible behavior towards their children.)
So let’s start there: mommy guilt means you care about and love your child. Congratulate yourself for doing so. Seriously, do it.
Now then, what causes mommy guilt? A lot of things, but here’s one of the culprits:
With no roadmap for parenting, how do we know we’re making the best decisions for our kids? There’s no one way to do things. No one way to potty train, get your kids to eat, or even to feed your baby. Breastfeed? Formula? Pumped breastmilk? ALL OF THE ABOVE IN ONE FEEDING? (Yep, done it.)
How do we know that, as their mother, we’re doing, thinking, and feeling all the right things? What does “right” even mean in these situations?
To help us navigate this parenting maze, we turn to the voices–voices that come from TV, the Internet, friends, family, and even strangers at the park. Other voices can lift us up, and grant us strength. They offer direction.
Unfortunately, other voices can also have the opposite effect: they can crush us. They tell us we’re not doing or feeling the right things. I’m not talking about, like, simply telling a parent that they’re not strapping their kids into their carseats properly–this is universal among our nation.
I’m talking about those paths of motherhood that are NOT universal, yet are believed by others to be so. These can be the paths that we feel unsure about, and hearing that our way is the wrong way can lead to even more uncertainty. If we’re already feeling insecure, depressed, or exhausted–all of which are seeds for growing plenty of negative thoughts and feelings–then those voices can also make us feel guilty.
What do we do? We can’t get rid of those voices because we’re not the only people on this planet. However, when we’re feeling low, we can turn them off for a time.
Turn off the voices you read online
The Internet can be a great resource. We can search online at 3:00 in the morning to confirm that our newborns won’t suffer permanent damage from twenty-minute-long hiccups. (I’m not the only one who did this, right?) We can read experiences just like ours. We can find support.
But there’s also a lot of criticism and opposing opinions. Comment sections, articles, companies pushing their products at us–there can be a lot out there saying that our way isn’t best, that our way is lacking. We can often be the victims of bad timing if we’re struggling with some aspect of parenthood, and then we hear or read something online that makes us feel totally guilty about it.
The good thing is, these are the easiest voices to turn off. Disconnect from it all–from the opinions, from the strangers on Facebook judging parents who have tragically lost their children, from those who insist that there is only one way to do things. Turn them off for a while.
Turn off the voices that criticize or speak without thinking
When friends or family give unwanted advice, criticism, observations, or speak without thinking, sometimes their voices can sound as loud as bullhorns blowing your failures in your face.
They say: Oh, I think anyone could give birth without an epidural.
Mom who got an epidural every time: I must be a total wuss.
They say: Well yes, fed is best, but breastmilk will always be superior.
Mom who always used formula: So my children are inferior?
They say: My child never did that.
Mom whose child is doing that: I’m a failure.
None of those statements were probably meant to be insulting, but neither were they spoken in consideration of someone else with completely different experiences. They send the message, “You’re not doing the right thing.” Such voices can be crippling if we’re already feeling vulnerable.
Since we can’t mute people, or undo their words, you can do the next best thing: make time and space for yourself later when the opportunity comes, and turn their voices off. Replace the stinging words with the smiles of your happy children. Give those voices the benefit of the doubt: maybe they didn’t realize how their words would sound. Remind yourself that even though some people are bad at putting themselves in other people’s shoes, everyone DOES have a zillion different experiences and perspectives.
Most of all, think of your giggling baby–all he or she asks of you is food, sleep, some good cleansings and diaper changes, and love. I bet you’re already doing it.
Turn off the negative voice in your own head
Only we can navigate the complex maze that is our own strengths, weaknesses, and ability to make decisions. A guilty voice can motivate us to change, and even help us teach our children about making mistakes and forgiveness. But if that guilt starts to eat you up inside, and steer your life into a downward spiral, then turn your voice off. Listen to those who say you’re a good parent. Listen to your children telling you they love you, even if they can’t talk yet.
The hard moments will happen, simply because that’s life. Being a mother will lead to hard moments. But the key is to not let those hard moments define how you see yourself, or how you see your children. Turn the voices off from time to time, see the awesome that is you and the amazing children you get to raise, and smile away that guilt.