As I find myself droning on and on about sleepless nights and moving my family and my girls’ massive Barbie collection across the ocean, I realize it may sound as though I’m not enjoying this moment of motherhood. Sleepless nights, tantrums, and fake crying aside, I love being home with my girls and boredom has yet to force me to extremes. I was thinking of the three things that have really helped me enjoy being a mother and I came up with three concepts to inspire other moms to examine their relationship with their children.
1. Accept you’re a mom…accept you’re more than a mom.
One of the most important lessons I learned as a mom was from my friend Lisa A., who is not a mother. Gasp! I will give you a moment to absorb this…ready? Lisa and I worked together and share many interests, political views, music, and sarcasm being at the top (is sarcasm an interest? I think so). While talking about some fabulous music one day, Lisa stopped me and gave me one of the most insightful compliments I’ve ever received (it was 3 years ago, so this is approximate): “You know, you’re an amazing mom, E is the coolest kid I know, but you’re not just a mom. I love that you enjoy life and you share that with E.” Wow. Still feel’s good…thanks Lisa!
As a Mom it is so easy to slip into mommy mode 24/7. At this time I was working, Tom was deployed (surprise!), and most of my closest colleagues were not parents or were parents of much older children and this may have made it easier to not share E’s latest toddler quirk (though I could have easily segregated myself and slipped into the “no one understands what I’m going through mode”). On the other hand, I really embraced my love of music, literature, design and great food at this time. I didn’t (and still do not) have a single kid’s CD in my car, E gobbled up Thai food, and to this day wants to be a house builder (though she recently changed this to a home renovator since my earth-friendly self rubbed off on her and she decided it is better for the earth to fix old buildings…seriously, came up with this on her own).
Even if you’re a stay-at-home Mom, find what you love and don’t feel you have to keep it from your children. It is a part of your life and should be part of theirs. If there is something your child likes that drives you crazy, try something new (i.e. switch out TV shows, get rid of the insane CD, throw out the Moon Sand). It doesn’t need to be a negative, just choose some music you LOVE, turn it on and sing at the top of your lungs. I promise your kids will join in. If you do the switch with enthusiasm, they will take to it. That said, most kids easily adjust and welcome something fresh, though this doesn’t always work if it is an absolute favorite, like E and her Barbies.
When you begin incorporating your own personality and loves into motherhood, you will begin to enjoy little everyday moments (imagine that commute without “Old McDonald’s Farm”). More importantly, your child may take an interest in concepts beyond the everyday monotony of a young child’s life. Music, books (especially any picture book that has ever been censored), and time spent exploring our backyard have prompted endless conversations between my girls and I. Television, do-it-all toys, and childhood songs? No, not much inspiration there for me.
2. Say yes when you can.
A couple of days ago I was desperate to get some writing done and sat down for a few minutes while my girls were preoccupied. Immediately they came over, asking me to show them how to blow bubbles (I was entertaining them with my bubblegum blowing skills while Tom was changing our flat tire). Of course I said, “Not right now, I’m busy.”
They asked again, but not in a whining way, and I said no. They asked again and I thought about why I was saying no and didn’t come up with a fabulous reason, so I said yes. They had a great time popping bubbles and spitting gum into my poorly placed diaper bag when they tried their own bubbles. They even learned a little bit about patience (I have to chew the gum to the right consistency) and I learned how time is one of the best things shared with others.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in busy-ness and obligations. When simple childhood requests get a no or are met with annoyance, it’s time to reassess. Try saying yes to some things, especially when it means giving your time and attention. Saying yes and taking the time to play with your child or teaching her something new, is never wasted. This is a simple way to gain happier children without spoiling them. (Wouldn’t you rather say yes to bubble-blowing than yes to a new toy?) If you share and enjoy your time with your children, they will learn important lessons about sharing, respect, and love.
3. Love your home and make it peaceful.
It took quite awhile for our current home to become our home. Tom deployed right after we moved in and I was soon hit with winter and holidays. The girls and I spent a great deal of time at home, E went to preschool two days a week, but that was about the extent of it (except mindless shopping trips). The layout of our house wasn’t working for me and I could never relax and enjoy my children. When March came and I still hadn’t tackled taking down the Christmas tree, I realized change had to happen. I took a deep breath, admitted Tom was not here and though I hated to do it, I had to change things in my house, by myself, again (love you, babe!). I hung pictures, I created a final play area (this was the fourth time I moved their toys around), I said yes to sheet forts and indoor beach parties and in the end, the house became our home.
If you and your family do not feel comfortable in your home, figure out the cause and change it. Hang your pictures, rearrange furniture, or even use your unused dining room as a playroom…whatever it takes to make you enjoy your home, do it. This doesn’t require a kitchen overhaul (though if that’s in your budget and it makes you happy…), just some changes to make your home accessible to your family and supportive of your activities. It is so easy to think of what you’ll do different after a move or after the kids grow a bit older. I urge you not to wait.
A supportive physical environment will lead to a supportive, more stable emotional and mental environment for your family. Wanting to stay home and having access to activities or comfy chairs to snuggle in are essential in building a happier relationship with your children. If you enjoy staying home, you will be more willing to share your time and interests with your child and experiencing the first moments of a happier, more fulfilling relationship.