To All Imperfect (But Awesome) Mothers This Mother’s Day
It’s Mothers Day this weekend and hopefully my four children have remembered (with a little reminder from their dad) to at least get me a card. But as I reflect on this day dedicated to celebrating motherhood, I can’t help but think of the less important lessons I’ve learnt since I became a mother seventeen odd years ago. Here’s seven of the most valuable.
Lesson #1. Ditch the super-mother cape!
Too often we mothers beat ourselves up with the guilt-stick, in our efforts to be a perfect mother all the while keeping the perfect house and raising perfect children (and that’s without even starting on what you want to do outside the home!). But here’s the deal – you are not the perfect mother. Neither was your mother. But hey, you turned out okay… didn’t you? Sort of? So ditch the idea of living up to some idealized image of a perfect mother and just be a really great one. Focus your efforts on making sure your kids know they are loved, listened to, and don’t need to be perfect for you to love them just as you don’t have to be perfect to love yourself!
Lesson #2. Lighten up and laugh… a lot.
Every busy home will have many moments of stress when plans for apart, homework gets lost (or stolen… yes, would you believe there are “strangers” who love to steal math homework?!) and everything descends into chaos. Adding a big dollop of humor to such occasions can diffuse tension like a magic wand and make all the difference in the world, particularly on those days when the kids want to strangle each other, or you want to strangle them.
Lesson #3. Encourage non-conformity (in doses).
I’ve always drummed into my kids how important it is to be polite and respectful. However, as I wrote Brave, if you place too much emphasis on ‘what others will think’ you set them up to have others opinions run their lives. In the end, it doesn’t matter what others think as much as what you think about yourself.
If we are going to teach our kids to follow their dreams, we have to first teach them to move beyond fear of criticism and rejection – it starts with encouraging them to express their individuality and engage with those around them from a place of self-confidence, rather than self-consciousness.
Lesson #4. Share your struggles.
Life can be hard and helping equip my kids with the life skills and resilience to bounce back from setbacks is one of the biggest responsibilities of any parent. We help set our kids up to navigate it’s disappointments, failures, hardships and heartaches better when we have been open about our own. While I try to be positive, denying life’s realities and painting the world with rose colored glasses doesn’t serve my kids in the long run. In sharing my struggles and sorrows with my kids as they’ve become old enough to understanding them I hope I have helped them learn how to be more resilient for those they’ll one day face themselves, learning that we must never let our hardships define us, and to always look for the opportunity in adversity.
Lesson #5. Be the first to apologize.
As fun-loving as I try to be, at the end of the day when I’m totally spent (as I was last night having flown in from the other side of the world), my patience and humor can wear thin. So thin in fact that I have been known to yell at my kids for simply leaving a plate in the sink, rather than putting it in the dishwasher. Yes, bad mother – I should be encouraging any responsibility at all! I’ve also been known to forget picking up my kids from basketball practice, dropping them at the wrong soccer field, double booking a special assembly and buying the breakfast cereal they’ve specifically told me never to buy again (major drama!) On these occasions, I’ve learnt there is no better response than to simply fall on my sword, apologize for my failings and ask for forgiveness. It’s my hope that, over time, they will learn that it’s okay to mess up. It’s how we ‘clean it up’ afterward that matters more. Oh, and not making that same mistake twice.
Lesson #6. Allow them make their mistakes (small ones).
There’s a lot of talk these days about helicopter parents. I’m not one of them. That doesn’t mean I’m not involved in the truly important things, but I have no idea what project’s they have to do, or when they are due. As I tell their teachers, if they get an A, it’s all-them. If they get a D, it’s all-them too. Of course sometimes there are tears because I haven’t helped them like “all the other mothers (who love their kids) do,” but it’s my hope that in the long haul, they will be able to manage their lives much better than they would have otherwise. As I said above, I don’t care so much if my kids win the prize for ‘best project’ (which is lucky, they rarely do.) I do care that ten years from now they can be discerning in their decisions and willing to put in the effort and take the courageous risks needed to succeed in the bigger game of life.
Lesson #7. Hug hard and hug often.
Children learn to be emotionally and physically affectionate by experiencing it. Of course with three teenagers, and one twelve-teen year old, I’ve come to accept that they don’t necessarily love hugging their mother as much as I love hugging them. That said, I often just wrap my arms around each of them regularly and let them know how proud I am of them (even if not the state of their bedrooms.) While they sometimes try to wriggle out from my grip, I know they don’t really mind. Just as I didn’t when my dad would hug me when I was fifteen. There’s something special about physical touch – about holding someone in our arms; about being held. In the busyness of our lives, as we race from one place to another, those few seconds of hugging may be the only time we truly connect. And in the end of the day, when we look back on our life, our family and what truly matters most, connection is what it’s all about.
Of course I could keep going, but frankly, I’ve got a lot of other things to do (which don’t include proofing this blog post for typos). Such is a mother’s lot right? And let’s face it, we wouldn’t want it any other way!
So cut yourself some slack, pat yourself on the back, and never doubt for a minute how much impact your efforts make ( even if you’re kids rarely think to thank you for it.)
Happy Mothers Day!