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There's No Such Things as a "Perfect" Mom
Just for a moment, take this in fully, and say it to yourself: “I don’t have to be the perfect mother.” How many times have you carried the burden of thinking you have to live up to some ideal “fairy-tale” image of a good mother? One who is relentlessly kind, patient, wise, nurturing, good-tempered, inexhaustibly energetic, a fine cook and homemaker, a multitasker — that person few of us have ever actually met who “can do it all”? That’s not to say that, as mothers, we shouldn’t strive to be the best examples for our children that we can be, but we do them a disservice when we hide our mistakes, don’t allow them to see our flaws, or don’t apologize when we’ve been wrong. We need them to see the world as multi-dimensional, and that means the people in it, as well. Give yourself permission to be authentic and to express yourself completely as a mom. When we do so, we relieve not only our own stress to live up to impossible standards, but we help our kids to see that they don’t have to be perfect, either. When we make space for imperfection and mistakes, we give our kids a chance to deepen themselves and to become more true to themselves and real as they grow up. Abandoning perfectionism is such a relief for us, and them.
One of the ways in which we can show our humanness is to own our mistakes and bear witness to humility. If you hold yourself too high on the proverbial pedestal, not only do you alienate your kids, but also it can be a long way down when you fall. If, on the other hand, you admit to your errors or become more transparently yourself, you not only avoid a fall but also teach your kids important lessons. Many times, we make excuses or blame others when things go wrong instead of accepting responsibility for our shortcomings (and I emphasize “short”-comings). Transparency allows your children to see you exactly as you are, and promotes the deepest kind of connection. It is also a show of true self-confidence and self-love that you accept yourself as you are, in all of your humanness.
Oftentimes, when our kids push the limits of our patience, we blow. Whether we are dealing with a toddler or a teen, as parents we set boundaries for our kids, and when they cross those boundaries we issue consequences. But sometimes we get so caught up in the moment that our anger or frustration overwhelms our sense of perspective, and we go too far. We say things like “You are grounded for the rest of the school year.” When dealing with children, especially teens, it’s very easy to overreact (although I had a few quarrels with my little ones, too). Once we’ve cooled down, we see it, but we’re usually too embarrassed to make amends, to say that we spoke thoughtlessly or even cruelly or to roll back a consequence that really didn’t fit the crime. We fear that we’ll look silly; that we’ll lose our authority and that our children won’t respect us again. But there is a better way. You can admit to your kids that you lost it, and say: “I’m not apologizing for giving you a consequence but I am sorry for how I lost my patience and for what I said (or the severity of the consequence).” You are showing your child that life is filled with mistakes and imperfection, and that we don’t always learn from the things we do right. Oftentimes, we learn from the things we do wrong. Maturity is about taking responsibility, and knowing that no one is perfect all the time, and that we can always come back from a mistake. Teach them that all perfection really means is that you’ve recognized an opportunity to take steps to do or be better. In the real world, that’s truly all we can do.
Richard and I use to joke together: “I’m not okay. You’re not okay. But, it’s okay.” As we show our kids that we are infallible and willing to make amends for our mistakes, we show them a vulnerability that aligns us with the rest of humanity. What a relief! Shed your cloak of invulnerability today. Doing so will let your uniqueness as a parent shine, while giving your kids permission to be human, too. It’s a great feeling to know that we are all perfectly imperfect, just as we are.
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Nourishing your Spirit First
“Take time for yourself” may seem like an old adage, but it’s never been more necessary than for today’s woman, as we often juggle a busy schedule that includes a full-time career and an intensely structured family life. If you’re anything like me, you’ve asked the question, “Where do I fit into this picture?” more than once since embarking on this family journey. You are where all things start in your family. While it may take some ingenuity to create the space in your day, taking time to nourish your spirit is the single most important thing you can do for the well-being of all.
There is no job that fits the term “overworked and underpaid” more than that of being a parent. Our commitment is boundless, and we carry our responsibility 24/7. Then, too, we are trying to be loving partners and competent employees. We’re firing on all cylinders, and it’s a marathon. Raising children will occupy a full quarter of our life expectancy. These are also our best years — when we have the most energy and our capacities are at their peak. You want to do it all, and to do it right — to be the best you can be in every role you have. To do this, you need to create the space to nourish and take care of you, and to make sure that becomes a valued part of your day.
I’ve always believed that the very early morning hours are a woman’s best time. That time of day before the house starts moving, when the light is pink with the sunrise and the air fresh with dew, belongs to you. There is nothing better than to get your day off to a peaceful start. No matter what ages your kids are, you can create a few minutes of time and space for yourself for meditation, walking, reading the newspaper over a cup of freshly brewed coffee, or just watching the morning sun burst into day. It will carry you through the hours ahead and nourish your spirit. A practice that works well for me includes waking up at least one hour prior to my family. I sit quietly while sipping fresh coffee or tea, and take in the stillness. Then I always do ten minutes of stretching and inspirational reading. Sometimes, I turn on soft music as part of my meditation. I also spend some time thinking about the things I am grateful for. Then, I pull out a notepad or my laptop and make notes for the day; this clears my head and helps me to feel calm before I begin it. What lies ahead is on paper; my mind is uncluttered. Sometimes I will journal at this time, too. Mostly, I spend some time noticing the peaceful place that exists within me, a place that sustains me all day long. I breathe in sunlight and breathe out tension. Breathe again; sunlight in, tension out. Nourish, nourish, nourish.
An early morning ritual reminds you that the day is buoyant and full of possibility. Anything wonderful can happen as light chases away the dark night sky. It is a reflective and contemplative time when you can do your best thinking and feel the peace that can ground you while you move through your day. Then, when your family rises, you can be present with a positive good feeling and an attitude of gratitude. Remember that loving yourself and nourishing your spirit is loving the family you care for, and there is no better way to start your day than connecting with the beauty inside you.
From DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF FOR MOMS: Simple Ways to Stress Less and Enjoy Your Family More by Kristine Carlson. Copyright © 2012 Carlson LLC. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive