I have been reflecting a lot lately on where my mom guilt & “good mom” rules come from. This past year has been a time of really taking stock of the ways I live, that deplete my joy unnecessarily. I decided to share with you some of my recent thoughts, in hopes that you will share yours with me as well! Here are 5 “good mom” rules I had to break to be a better mom:
- Reading to your kids: ..yup, the holy grail of parenting. One that everyone agrees helps with brain development, and probably with keeping your kid out of prison, or something. Anyway, I realized that the proverbial bedtime story came at a time when I was utterly exhausted. I also felt my brain go numb with the stories I was reading my kids. So what I did was read them magazines, cookbooks, the yoga journal etc. They loved it and so did I. I got time to read a little, and they learned about downward dog, vegan cookery and mindfulness. It turns out that kids benefit from being read to, no matter what the material is! When I felt up to reading to them, I did, but only when I felt up to it. They are both voracious readers now. Go figure.
- Always being emotionally available. I am a big fan of attachment parenting….and I also feel that I was not able to allow myself time to shut off emotionally – a huge need for me as an introvert. By the second kid, I was able to shut off and let others take care of the emotions and needs that came up for my kids. When my bedroom door is closed, I am taking time for myself….please go find daddy, write in your journal, do some kids meditations etc. I can’t be there right now. This has made me so much more authentic when I do respond emotionally – and that’s what everyone really wants – authentic caring. I had to overcome my own worries that I was damaging the attachment relationship by not always being there. I hope it also teaches them that they can have healthy emotional boundaries with people in their lives.
- Making my kids sleep on their own AND allowing my kids to sleep with me: It seems you can’t win when it comes to sleep. For my first, she slept with me because it was easier, and she slept better. This was 16 years ago, and it was definitely against the norm. I did it anyway. By my second, I didn’t sleep well with her in my room, and I allowed myself to move her into her own room (before the recommended guidelines – gasp!). I felt less on edge and overall happier. She loved her crib, even though my eldest called it “baby jail”. Guess all kids are different.
- Sending my kids to childcare, even when “I don’t have to”: Many moms lament about not being with their kids all the time. I had a rule that if I wasn’t working, I had to be with my kids. I lugged them to my dentist appointments, to meet with my friends etc. I was afraid to take the time I needed to feel like a human. The guilt was huge. I think it’s awesome to be with your kids for just the right amount of time for you. This will change depending on your stage of life, your health, how rested you are etc. I trust now that even though I could have them with me all the time, I also really do benefit from the breaks, and they do too.
- Letting them work things out with dad and not stepping in to rescue them all the time: As a mother, the desire to protect is extremely powerful. Combine that with my love of learning about brain and child development, and I can turn into a lecturing, worry wort with my husband. Like many partners, he parents with instinct and common sense. I tend to worry more about doing it right (although much less now). Now, when my kids are upset about something dad says or does, I send them back to him to work it out or share their feelings. If they need help with ways to express, I do that, but I don’t talk to dad on their behalf . This has made him an even better dad, and way more aware and sensitive. I needed to get out of the way. By the way, this phenomenon is called “maternal gatekeeping”. Kids need their fathers (or other parent) to help them take risks and gain confidence through trial and error. Many moms find it difficult to allow for the possibility of danger, emotional upset or harm to their children. Partners can be a good balance to this.
What’s on your list? The things that you found the courage to do, or not do, that have made you a better mother? Drop me an email or respond here. Let’s give each other permission to mother outside the lines. If you feel stuck in a cycle of shoulds, and need help figuring out how to take some steps into making your own rules, read this article! Or reach out. Let’s talk. I promise you will feel better and your family will thank you!