The Messiness of Motherhood
By: Amy Meadows
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 ‘should-ing’ all over yourself.”
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.
“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 15-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son
“No matter how many books you read about parenting and pregnancy, nothing can determine your parenting style until your child is born and starts displaying their true selves.” –Joyce Brewer, mom of a 10-year-old son and creator and host of Mommy Talk Show
“My top advice is to be bold and be brave. Live out loud! Be your child’s hero and embrace the fact that you are raising the next generation. Lift them up to be the good in the world. Take every bit of parenting information and transform it into something that works for you and your family— even when it is not popular. Some situations are purely trial and error. But when all else fails, COMMUNICATE! Having a big family is difficult with boundaries, basic ground rules and consequences being different for every child. So what works for me is communicating. Our children need to hear ‘job well done’ as much as they need to hear ‘I am sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.’ By verbal, nonverbal, visual and written communication, we not only stay connected, we can teach them by leading them.” –Bridgitte Hatfield, mom of six biological children, ages 22, 20, 18, 16, 13 and 11, and five foster children, ages 6, 5, 4, 3, and 1 and a half.
“Often, we feel pressured by culture, friends or even our own family to parent in a particular way, but I’d argue that you know your child better than anyone and that knowledge is greater than any trend, book on psychology or outside parental advice. Trust yourself and your abilities as a parent to know what they need and be flexible enough to change when their needs change. We are far too hard on ourselves as parents, especially in times of struggle. Accept that you are enough and that your children do far better when their parent is making decisions from a place of love instead of fear.” –Liz Carlile, mom of two sons, ages 8 and 6
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 so if you compare yourself to what your friend or neighbor says or shows on a social media post, you’re really comparing yourself to a totally incomplete image of someone else’s life. We don’t usually share our hard moments online, so social media can exacerbate our fear that if we’re struggling there’s something uniquely wrong with us. But struggling is normal – especially right now! It’s important to be savvy when we look at social media and to remember that posts do not necessarily reflect reality – and if they make us feel worse, we should explore whether our social media habits are still serving us.”
–Dana Goldman, LPC, NCC, of Stone Cottage Counseling, mom of a 6-year-old daughter
“I’ve learned (the hard way) that the most important thing you can do as a parent is be as compassionate and nonjudgmental with yourself as you possibly can. The world and other parents will always provide you with countless yardsticks to hold yourself up against, but YOU and the other parent of your child are the only ones who know what is right for your child because that knowing comes from the heart connection and not the mind. Parenting from a mental space of right/wrong and self-judgment passes on fear-based projections and wounds to the child. But parenting from a place of heart connection, self-love and inner-child nurturing infuses the child with the confidence and freedom to be who they truly are and contribute to the world the gifts that only they can.” –India Leigh, mom of a 6-year-old son
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 Leigh mom of a 6-year-old son
“Every person is trying their best and fighting battles we know nothing about. When I’ve received criticism for my parenting style, I understand that the person wasn’t necessarily putting me down, rather standing up for their own belief on the best course of action based on their past life experiences. To concern yourself with the opinions of others is really a waste of your precious energy. Do your best and smile knowing that everyone has a right to their own opinion and that it actually has very little to do with you.” –Liz Carlile mom of two sons, ages 8 and 6
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.
“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 keeps 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 mom of a 15-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son
“It is BEYOND important to take care of yourself. After having my first, I never figured out how to give myself a real break or how to prioritize myself, and it left me feeling depleted, tired and uninspired. Once I had my second, I realized that me-time must be scheduled! Now I plan at least two exercise classes outside the house each week. I keep bath salts infused with essential oils on hand for luxurious baths, and I try to get together with girlfriends once a week for bible study or “The Bachelor” viewing. Me-time will not just appear, it must be purposeful! I sit down on Sundays and look at the week ahead and find two chunks of time where I can potentially just focus on myself.” –Carly Milyo mom of a 3-year-old daughter and an 11-month-old son
Parenting During a Pandemic
Throughout 2020, parents across the country were faced with challenges no one ever could have expected. We were faced with lockdowns, online learning, canceled playdates, seemingly endless screen time and so much more. And we are still in the trenches. We asked Michelle Taylor Willis, mom of four boys (ages 22, 14, 12 and 9) and author of the new book “Raising Significance: A Guide to Raising Independent, Well-Rounded and Confident Kids,” to share her thoughts on parenting during the COVID-19 crisis. Here’s what she had to say.
“During this time, we can learn where our kids’ passions and talents lie, how they learn, and how they feel and emote. We can truly relearn these little beings, inside and out, if we ask questions and pay attention. Our kids will tell us a lot about themselves. We’re getting an ample amount of time to spend and learn from our children now, so we can see where their strengths and area of opportunities lie. We can then use this info to develop their strengths and show we’re interested in the things they are. It might also spark some independence in them!”
“We are our children’s leadership team, their CEOs. The best leaders develop the best leaders. So if you aren’t developing your children into the best leaders, start now.”
“Train your kids to listen to you. Teach your kids to work independently of you but under your management. Teach them how to think, not do.” She adds, “We have a unique time to really lean into our kids right now. Once they go back to school and we go back to work (if that ever happens), we’ll think of all the time that we had with them that we wasted. You often hear older parents talk of the times they lost when their kids were little and they were working. How awesome is it to be able to have the opportunity to reverse that trend? To say you had years to wake up, have breakfast with your kids and help them with schoolwork while they were in the room with you or near you … we can’t squander these moments.”