Truth: I don’t always like being a Mom. I’m thankful, blessed and so fortunate to be a mother. I adore my children and couldn’t imagine my life without them. I’m so fortunate to be a mother, but still, I don’t always like being a Mom. Call me self-absorbed or ungrateful, but for a woman who didn’t plan on having kids, I think I’m entitled and certainly not alone in my thinking. It’s not that I didn’t like or want kids, but it was never on my radar. I was going to be that girl that just never got around to having a family and that was OK. I liked my carefree life where all I had to do was take care of me.
Then BAM! Two surprise pregnancies over two years – yeah, I’m that 1% they mention on the birth control pill warning label – and suddenly I’m a full time working mom of two toddlers with zero recognition of my life and limited time or energy to figure out how to be a mom.
I’m an over-achieving, extroverted only-child who loves to engage in any challenge; but I also like to choose my challenges and have an opt-out clause for things I’m just not digging or that I can’t seem to do consistently well. And you know, parenting is not optional even if you feel like you’re faking it – Every. Damn. Day!
Part of my problem, aside from that small little detail about not being the “motherly-type,” is I tend to be routinely unrealistic as a mom. I desire a state that can’t exist when kids are in the picture. I live in a state of denial given I continue to seek structure, order, and even that ever “bad” word, control.
With kids – with anyone! – control is never a good approach. You might be familiar with the “controlling” parent. I don’t want to control my kids. I would just like to feel like I’m in control, like I know what I’m doing, and I’m not going to flip out because my son ran through poop in the yard and unknowingly crawled all over the car with it stuck to his shoe. True story.
And I also would be beyond glee if for even a portion of the time my kids would be mindful – to listen and not always do the very things that drive me into a tailspin. And yet, chaos seems to be a constant, never-ending state for me.
I know I’m not alone and I’m basically preaching to the choir. I also realize being a parent means accepting that kids test boundaries and with a little tough love and consistency they will be mindful 90% of the time. I’ve read it, I’ve observed it, and I do believe it to be true. But try telling a 41 year old to learn more patience and consistency when the majority of her life she’s only had to manage herself!
I realize I’m part of the problem. I keep putting the blame on my kids for the chaos, the dislike for my role and all it entails and that’s simply not right. I so wish I had a magic wand that could take this tired, stressed and edgy mom and give her some sense of calm so that instead of getting impatient or snappy with her children, she could calmly redirect undesirable behavior.
I’ve read one too many parenting books and devoured parenting articles, blogs and tips. I’m like a machine when implementing what I’ve learned. However, I focus on the approaches and techniques, not the participants; and when the participants don’t respond as anticipated, those approaches and techniques are forgotten.
Thankfully there are no hidden cameras to capture my less than stellar techniques:
- Bribery: if you get dressed, I’ll give you a treat
- Wrestle Mania: chase child, gently pin and complete task (brush teeth/hair, put on shirt/shoes, etc.)
- Scream Fest: think out of body experience where you don’t recognize your voice but your kids are no longer ignoring you
- Sob Fest: mommy sobbing, not the kids.
In recent weeks, as I’ve taken the time to reflect and write this post, I realize I’m not a bad mom, but a mom who is very hard on herself (see over-achieving only child) and has unrealistic expectations for her children. As a result, I’ve been focusing less on parenting approaches and more on my kids.
Instead of being all about keeping to a rigid routine – getting the kids fed, dressed and out the door – I am now relaxing, being more realistic and focusing on my kids and enjoying myself. What?! We still have to get to school, but I’m less rigid and more tuned in to how they are feeling, what they are saying, and so on. At night, we still need to eat, bathe and get to bed, but I can talk to them without multitasking and play with them instead of doing the dishes. You know, have some fun. Parenting fun? Whoa!
Basically, I’m being more present and engaging in my kids and establishing better relationships. For the most part, because I’m not just a squawking head barking out commands or reprimands, we’re relating better to one another and actually finding some common ground. As with any relationship, if you build some rapport and trust, you’ll find a connection that leads to respect and understanding.
I still have those moments that I regress – instead of negotiating, I might have snatched the back of my son’s shirt just as he tried to hightail it from his car seat to the front seat in his “catch me if you can” game – but for the most part, I’m finding my way and being much more relaxed and realistic with my parenting. And when all else fails and I feel like I might explode, cry or run (!), I just start singing one of their favorite songs:
“Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake it off, I shake it off…”
This might be a new parenting approach… or just me being routinely unrealistic!
Have you been unrealistic in your parenting? If so, what have you done to shake it off and find a better path?