I was a mom twice over and I was not feeling like I was “supposed” to feel. Our family schedule had fallen into place, both of my boys were healthy, and my work was back on track. Yet, I couldn’t get over the sense that I wasn’t doing things correctly. I felt out of sorts. Everything should have been a certain way, and it wasn’t. And then my very wise therapist said something that has stuck with me to this day: “You have to stop ‘shoulding’ all over yourself.”
By Amy Meadows
Embrace your Own Parenting Style
It was an aha moment. The kind Oprah Winfrey has talked about for years. So much of the pressure I felt was self-imposed—yet based on the way I thought I “should” be parenting because of what I saw all around me. And it was difficult to find my way in a sea of messages about what I “should” be doing. So I couldn’t find a way to really celebrate the mom I had become. Maybe you can relate? Whether you have small children, teenagers or young adults who are getting ready to leave the nest, it can be challenging to embrace your own parenting style. Fortunately, it can be done.
We’ve asked moms in the metro area to share their insights about the most challenging parts of this roller-coaster ride called motherhood. Their stories and revelations about some of the most talked-about topics in mother circles today just might help you find your way to championing the mom you are.
Personalize Your Parenting Style
Oftentimes, your parenting style comes from a combination of sources. And in many cases, you find yourself doing the opposite of what you’ve known or what you expected you would do. The key is to find what works best for you and your family.
“I knew what I didn’t want to do. And I think that’s really valuable. Knowing what you don’t want is often more powerful than what you do want because parenting is always going to be this unknown. We’re parenting our children for a future that is faster than we can even imagine. We don’t really know how to prepare them. We might as well be launching them into space. We have no clue what’s coming up [for them], so we have to give them a firm but flexible foundation. If you’re too rigid, the second there’s a crack, they will tumble.” –Katherine Michalak, mom of three boys, ages 17 and 14 (identical twins)
“My pediatrician gave me the best advice: don’t read parenting books. A lot of it is in you—use your instincts.
Don’t do what everyone else does. Instead, parent by instinct and the reaction of your children. We’re more traditional, so for us, rules are standard. But we see the importance of parenting children differently. There are different ways to handle situations for a social child versus a nonsocial child. Whatever you do needs to fit the child, and you adapt that over time.” –Melanie Frady, mom of an 8-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son
“It’s important to remember that all moms have their own individual struggles and are trying to do their best. Be confident in yourself, have faith in your decisions, and trust your gut. You don’t have to be perfect to be an amazing mom, you just have to love your family.” –Teri Xerogeanes, mom of a 12-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son.
Avoid the Comparison Trap
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of comparing everything you do as a parent to someone else, thanks in large part to the presence of social media in our lives. Yet, those comparisons can be inaccurate and also detrimental to your psyche.
“Everything online is curated. And there are useful and not-so-useful components to comparing ourselves. If the way someone is doing something lines up with your values [and you want to do it too], then that can be viewed as ‘useful peer pressure.’ But the other side of it just feeds into the sense that we’re not doing something right.” –Dana Goldman, LPC, NCC, of Stone Cottage Counseling, mom of a 3-year-old daughter
“I would go on playdates, and I just didn’t connect. I would come home defeated every time. I would look at people who were doing things like making homemade bread every day, and it felt like such a competition. I cut out mom groups and playdates. As a mom, I had to stop comparing myself to everybody else. It’s still hard to this day. But I read a lot of self-help books to help me find my inner strength. I have to look at what makes me and my family strong.” –Melanie Frady
Tackle Mom Shaming
The idea of “mom shaming” has come to the forefront in recent years, with the term becoming a very common one as women discuss their parenting choices with others. It’s important to know how to deal when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
“At first, I did attach myself to a [child-rearing] philosophy, which is very natural and child-led parenting … But [I found that] any group attached to a certain way of doing things will have a group mentality that says, ‘We all do it this way.’ You’ll contend with judgment. If you’re not ‘doing it correctly,’ someone may reject you or shame you or correct you. I was at a playdate, and [my son] was upset. I wanted to leave, and a mom came to me and said, ‘You should stay and allow him to cope.’ The way she delivered her message was so undermining to me and my instincts. I knew this [playdate] wasn’t crucial. And I immediately knew that I couldn’t be part of anything that makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. So I separated myself from that.” –India Powell, mom of a 4-year-old son
“I think it’s OK to engage someone if it’s personal. If someone is speaking in generalities, you can roll your eyes and walk away. But if they look at you directly and say something about you as a parent or about your child, you have—and maybe I’m feisty—an obligation to you and your child to validate your point of view. If it’s online, people feel emboldened to say something using a keyboard that they would never say in person. I’ve found that it lessens the older [your children] get. Moms are more active and vocal in the toddler, elementary, and early middle school years. But
puberty becomes the great equalizer. Nobody makes it through puberty unscathed. We’re all in the trenches. People learn slowly but surely to keep their own counsel. If you’re online, you’d better be ready. Karma will keep you in check.” –Katherine Michalak
Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself as a mother can mean so many things, from taking time out for yourself to chasing your own dreams. Whatever it means to you, it’s actually a key element of motherhood.
“For many parents, being told to make time for yourself can increase anxiety. You’re already feeling behind and there may be real barriers and challenges to making time for yourself. It’s easier said than done. But I always think about when you go on a plane with a child, and they say to put your own oxygen mask on first. We have to provide ourselves enough oxygen to be present for our kids. For those parents who feel guilty about making time, remember that tending to our own needs can actually benefit our children.” –Dana Goldman, LPC, NCC
“You need to spend 30 minutes a day finding a way to understand yourself. That’s one of the most important parts of parenting. And it’s whatever that means to you—exercising, journaling, meditation, prayer. Just 30 minutes. You won’t solve world problems, but you’ll be checking in with yourself. You have to have something for yourself before you can share it with someone else.” –Katherine Michalak
“Studies show that the more time working mothers spend taking care of themselves, the better their children are both emotionally and physically. Moms are the motor that keep the family machine running smoothly and that’s why it’s so important to make time to take care of yourself. Whatever it is that makes you feel good—do it! As the saying goes, “When mama’s happy, everyone’s happy!” –Teri Xerogeanes