As moms, we can sometimes be our own worst critics. We reprimand ourselves when we mess up. We idolize seemingly perfect moms and cringe at our flaws. We lie in bed at night feeling guilty of all the things we shouldn’t have said, shouldn’t have done. We worry about the hard days that haven’t happened yet and the perils our children might never face.
And then we wonder why we can’t sleep.
Meanwhile, we forget to recognize all the good that we’ve actually done. Instead, we buy into the many myths of what it means to be a “good mom” or a “bad mom” — and we let self-deprecating thoughts convince us we’re the latter.
But the truth is, all this succeeds in doing is sabotaging our own happiness. It’s time we quiet the voices in our own heads and stop believing the straight-up lies we keep telling ourselves.
Allow me to run down a few of the most flagrant ones we’re all guilty of thinking …
Lie #1: She’s a better mom than me.
It’s difficult not to compare ourselves to other moms – especially those who look like they have it all together. You know the ones I’m talking about: They look happy all the time; their children are always smiling; there’s no public tantrums, no whining, no little arms flailing around. We’re so engrossed in watching them blissfully stroll down the grocery store aisle with ease that we almost don’t notice our own child has angrily thrown his shoe (probably in Aisle 2) and is screaming for no apparent reason. But of course, we notice. And we’re embarrassed, thinking maybe we’re doing something – everything — wrong as a mom.
Reality Check: If you continually give yourself “mom grades” by comparing yourself to others, you’ll never think you’re a great mom. It’s true what they say — appearances can be deceiving. Every mom has her own battles. Don’t compare, don’t compete. We should be learning from one another, cheer each other on. Sometimes the most put-together mom who looks like she has the most put-together children is the one who secretly feels the most lost.
Lie #2: If I let my kids fail, then I’m not setting them up for success.
I know more than a few moms who actually do their teenager’s homework for them. They explain it’s because if their kid’s project doesn’t get an “A” or they don’t turn in homework, they’ll fail. I also know others who rage if their son or daughter doesn’t receive a trophy, and then make it their business to ensure they always do.
Reality Check: I get it; this all comes from a good and well-intentioned place. But ironically, preventing kids from “failing” in the short-term or experiencing feelings like disappointment or regret only helps them fail in the long-term. Research shows that helicopter parenting has its downsides – kids with parents who tend to hover are less likely to develop basic survival skills or coping mechanisms, and more likely to experience incompetence and higher rates of general anxiety. “Elevator parents,” however, equip their children with tools to go up and up – even if it means letting their children get knocked down a few times so that they learn firsthand how to get back up.
Lie #3: My mistakes will scar my child for life.
Many newbie moms start off with a ton of high expectations and/or rules for themselves:
Thou shalt not expose thy children to too much television.
Thou shalt never yell or cry in front of thy child.
Thou shalt never quote thy own mother.
Thou shalt never drive thy kids to school whilst wearing a bathrobe.
Thou shalt never take thy children through the fast-food drive-thru simply because making a nutritious dinner after a long day is too exhausting to think about.
Thou shalt be a really cool, calm, and super-successful mom. And hip, too.
Reality Check: Even the most determined mom effs up — sometimes multiple times a day. And instead of forgiving herself and seeing that mistake as an opportunity to learn, she worries that her child’s life was wrecked by a nagging, moody, unfair, unsuccessful, and definitely unhip mother. Stop fearing and dwelling on your mistakes. Instead, find the lesson, apologize, grow, and forgive.
Lie #4: The more I do, the better the mom I am.
I used to believe that the more “mom things” I did, the better mom I was. And so for years I built up my professional mom resume, which mostly consisted of volunteering for anything and everything that concerned school committees, classroom tasks, sports activities, or parent-related social events. I was snapped out of that one evening when my son asked me, “Can you read me a book?” Initially, I shook my head, and told him, “I can’t right now; I’m busy trying to organize all these school art folders for your classroom.” Seeing his disappointment as he walked away, I couldn’t help but ask myself: Was I trying to be an over-achiever mom for him … or for me?
Reality Check: Sometimes when it comes to your child, quality is just as important as quantity — maybe even more so. I try to continually remind myself that being a mom is less about doing and more about being. Children don’t grade you on all the committees you belong to and all the things you achieve in a day; rather, they love you for all the minutes you were mentally and emotionally present with them, even if you physically achieved nothing at all.
Lie #5: If I take time for myself, I’m being selfish.
For some reason, many moms struggle with this idea of taking time for themselves without feeling guilty. In fact, I know some that have literally put off the idea of returning to work, pursuing a career, enjoying a weekend with girlfriends, or even getting a massage because they fear this means they’re selfish. They tell themselves their own needs, desires, or dreams just aren’t as important – and that they must therefore sacrifice themselves for the good of their children.
Reality Check: Our kids want to see us happy and be proud of us — independent of them. When we’re inspired or excited or relaxed or just content, our children notice. And frankly, for busy moms, that sometimes means we need to rejuvenate on our own, in our time. That could mean going to the spa every now and then. Or, scheduling weekly date nights with your partner. Or, signing up for an educational class. Or, saying “no” to some of the daily tasks or responsibilities and just spending a few hours doing absolutely nothing.
In short, the sooner you flip your lens, change your life’s filter, and focus on all the positive things you do every day, the sooner I promise you’ll notice yourself feeling a whole lot lighter.
After all, we’re all riding this crazy roller-coaster called motherhood together — and we haven’t fallen off yet.More On