A lot has already been made about the Time magazine cover. See the link list after this post for my favorite blog responses, and one great diagram and other posts that came out before all this brouhaha.
It’s all too easy to fall prey to the demons and the media that tell us that we are failing as a mother because look-y at what this mom over here can do. There are piles upon piles of parenting books that suggest we are inadequate therefore we need to search for wisdom in their pages. There are so many things by which people can be split into camps: breastfeeding vs. formula; babywearing vs. gadgets; washing your own diapers vs. throwing them away; making baby food vs. buying pre-packed food...and the list goes on…and on.
I feel like its time to stop looking around and feeling guilty or defensive. Choose to be the best mom that you want to be. You are enough. You are capable. You are the right mother for your child(ren). You are on a journey together. I say God, maybe you say a Higher Power; anyway, someone put you together for a reason.
As it is the eve of Mother’s Day in the United States, I wanted to share thoughts for mothers here, or wherever you are in location, and along your journey of motherhood.
To you beautiful mamas, and to the people who support them – here are some mothering lessons I have learned along the way – only consider the lessons that work for you…
Books are tools, not Bibles. About those parenting books – there is some valuable information in them. However, if just one book applied to all people, there would not be hundreds of them out there, written about the one subject of parenting. Read the ones that you think apply to your situation; think about the suggestions or draw from their inspiration. I always go back to the La Leche League analogy of the buffet – only put what appeals to you on your plate, leave the rest on the table, or the bookshelf, so to speak.
Choose for your family and embrace your choice. Only you can decide what works for you. You do not need to explain or defend the choices that you are making. “This works for us” or “This works for our family” is enough. If someone persists, you can always use my favorite ICAN quote, “Do you really think I would make a choice that I thought would harm my child?”
Be okay with experimenting. Does something look interesting? Does something sound like it might work? Can you implement it safely and without long term damage to yourself of your child(ren)? What do you think about trying it? You can try things with a timeline – try it for a day, or for a week…or however long you think is reasonable. You can even announce to your kiddos, “this is just a trial – let’s talk about what we think in a couple of days.” If it works, great! If not, now you know it’s not the right choice for your family.
Be okay with changing your mind. So, what if you tried something and it didn’t work? What a great lesson for our children – it’s okay to be flexible. It’s okay to admit a goof. It’s okay to change course and try something else. Most of us have figured out that the one constant in life is change. We can show our child(ren) how to be masters of embracing change, rather than running to hide because something is new and uncertain.
Know who you want to be. Ask yourself what you want your children to remember about you as a mother. Strive to fill their memories with those actions or emotions. You can always start over; there are do-overs if you make a mistake. Children are resilient and they are forgiving – I have been blessed by their grace many times.
Ask yourself what you want your partner (if there is one) to remember about your motherhood. Strive to be the person you want them to see beyond the perfect house or the messy house, or if you haven’t taken a shower yet or if you’re sparkling. When I remember to take a deep breath, the reminder that I want Bruss to be proud of me helps me get through most of the chaos. (Yes, I am a messy house, no shower mom!)
Humor is your ally. One of the best ways to diffuse tension is to find something to laugh about. Make crazy faces. Make up a silly song. Our kiddos find it especially hysterical when I sing in my “opera voice”. A shared laugh doesn’t hurt or leave scars. It will make everyone smile and serve as a springboard to happier choices.
“Make it a YES.” That has become one of my favorite phrases lately. I have no idea where I picked it up. (Know the source? Let me know!) Children all learn along the way to say no. Instead of getting into the back and forth of an argument, or escalate to a stand off, this simple question asks them to take action towards the request you made.
I have also made it my mantra. Our children have requests on a daily basis…can we bake cookies? Can we go outside? Can we ride our bikes? Can we play Legos? Instead of saying no because I have a million things on my to-do list, I try to say yes to the things that are reasonable. Or even if they are unreasonable, they are worth saying, “yes” to. I figure if I want to hear more “yes” when I make a request, then I need to be good at saying “yes”, too. If I’m tight on time, I say, “Yes, for (time) minutes.”
When I know I have a crazy busy day or week coming up, I make it a point to ask the kiddos, “What do you want to do (today)?” And then I do my best to honor them and their choices, because they have no idea what is in my head. That little effort goes a long way when it comes to filling their Happy Tank. Life is so much smoother when the Happy Tank is full.
Trust your intuition. You know that connection you think you have? It is real. You have the unique opportunity to have carried this growing life from your child’s inception, through their birth, and now you are watching them grow.
If you listen to your inner voice as it relates to your child, you will ask the right questions, you will follow the right course. I have never heard anyone say they wish they had ignored that voice. I often hear, “I should have listened to my intuition” or, “I just knew something was wrong.”
For a reminder of just how connected you are to your child(ren), look at their belly button. The belly button is a great reminder of the umbilical cord; in pregnancy you made all decisions for the two of you. That was their lifeline to you, and you will never lose that special “just the two of you” bond.
You are unique and you are loved. On the days when you are feeling overwhelmed, take the time to remember that you are also unique and cherished. Take a look at your belly button! I think that sometimes we forget that we were the sparkle and special to someone else once upon a time. If our mother’s are still living, we still remain children in their eyes.
My mom always tells me this when she is going to tell me something she thinks I probably already know, and it is, “I know you know, but I have to say it because I cannot stop being your mother.” Even as I roll my eyes (only sometimes, Mom!), I love the reminder that she still adores me and wants the best for me. As daughters, I will bet many of us still call our mothers, or our mother figure, when we need a recipe or a word of advice, a word of comfort, or a sounding board.
Take heart in that adult relationship, and use it to re-charge your battery and face your day with renewed optimism. It will not always be making dinner, or cleaning up messes, or doing laundry. Eventually children grow up, they go out and make their own way in the world. You will become their friend and confidante, and you will be fielding the calls from across town, or maybe from halfway across the world. The circle of life is a beautiful thing.
Wherever you are, whatever you choose for your family, I wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day. May it be filled with your favorite things as you celebrate your motherhood with the people you love.
The word MOTHER is many things to many people. You are the original earthly source of life. You are the person who nourishes your child’s soul. You are the original source of comfort. You are the protector and the teacher.
What else would you add to the list of “A MOTHER IS…”?
*Anthropology of Breastfeeding http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-05-11/breastfeeding-rates/54909940/1
**Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding http://skinship.typepad.com/skinship/2007/07/extended-breast.html
**Diagram of a Breastfed Toddler http://www.thealphaparent.com/2012/03/diagram-of-breastfed-toddler.html
**Breastfeeding A Toddler “Myths” http://thestir.cafemom.com/toddler/116520/5_Toddler_Breastfeeding_Myths_That
*Ask the Right Questions
*Celebrities Who Breastfed Toddlers http://www.bestforbabes.org/celebrities-who-breastfed-toddlers-but-not-on-the-cover-of-time
*MY FAVORITE RESPONSES TO THE TIME COVER PHOTO
**OTHER COOL INFO
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