August 3, 2020

Motherhood at a Glance: How to Be the Parent Your Children Need

This week on Motherhood at a Glance, my sweet friend, Leah, will be talk to us about how to be the parent your children need - not the "perfect" parent that doesn't exist. But first, let me introduce you to this amazing human! Leah is a mama of two, Margot (2) and Knox (4.5 months)! Their little family has spent the last several years moving around the country but currently live in Saratoga Springs, UT. A few years ago, Leah became interested in photography and has loved it ever since! In her spare time, she shares her motherhood journey through instagram and enjoys eating good food, binging tv shows and spending time with her family!

Leah shares with us a little bit of her journey into motherhood and how it has taught her to focus on her children's needs and avoid attempting to be a "perfect" parent. I hope you find power in applying the tools suggested to find your voice as a mama and be the parent your children need!

Shortly after we brought Margot home from the hospital, I found myself doing some serious Googling during our middle-of-the-night nursing sessions. Those first few weeks home with a brand-spankin’-new human are rough, and I was practically holding my eyes open with clothespins to prevent myself from curling up and sleeping for about ten years straight. To keep myself occupied while my husband snoozed peacefully with his useless nipples, I asked Google all of my burning questions. I would google about baby poo: is it ok for breastfed babies to have green poop? I would google about infant sleep: how long should a newborn stay awake? What do I do if my baby won’t sleep? I’d google about postpartum healing. I’d google about screen time for babies. And as my daughter grew older and we later added our son to our family, I got stuck in a steady rhythm of seeking out advice from everywhere I possibly could: Instagram, Google, friends, family, you name it. It was making me pretty miserable, and that was because I was losing my own voice as a mother.

We live in a world where we have almost every answer in the palms of our hands. And while that may come in handy (no pun intended), I realized that I had become way too reliant on the voices and experiences of others and I wasn’t allowing myself to come to my own conclusions or make my own mistakes. There is a time and a place for advice, but sometimes all of that noise from external sources can drown out our motherly intuition. When we focus so much on what everyone else does we don’t end up doing anything. I am nowhere near perfect at it yet, but by cutting back on seeking out parenting advice , I’ve found myself in a much better place mentally. I feel like I’ve noticed increased patience within myself as I’ve given myself more room to make mistakes.

I think I had become so obsessed with being the “perfect” mother that I wasn’t focusing on just being the mother that my kids needed. I didn’t want to make mistakes, which I think was the root of my problem. I wanted to bypass all the trial and error and just get to the part where I could fix the problem that was in front of me. But by not allowing myself to make mistakes, I was missing cues from my kids, my husband, (and myself) that would help me find solutions to future issues more quickly. 

We need to find our own voice as parents because that voice is the one that our kids need. Our two-year-old doesn’t care that we read a hundred parenting threads about toddler behavioral issues. She just wants you to play with her outside. She just wants you to see her. By using external sources as a support rather than the solution, you’ll more than likely find the answers you need.

Listening to your own voice as a mother doesn’t mean you have to throw your phone in the garbage and live like you’re in Little House on the Prairie. Making sure you have phone-free time everyday is a great start if you find yourself overwhelmed and unsure where your voice starts and someone else’s stops.

A lot of my personal anxiety stems from researching too much about a particular topic. Milestones, food choices, sleep schedules, etc. Not everything we perceive as a problem is actually an issue, and by giving things some good-ole-fashioned time, those issues can often resolve themselves. Save yourself a bit of anxiety and unplug for 30 minutes a day. Turn your phone off, leave it upstairs, whatever you need to do to turn your attention elsewhere. I try to spend my phone-free time playing with my kids at their level. Although it might be tempting to do dishes instead, this time with my kids has been so valuable because it’s helped me learn so much more about their personalities. Seriously, phone-free time has helped me feel so much more in-tune with myself as a mother.

It seems like everyone these days has perfectly curated houses with oodles of Montessori toys and kids that eat more vegetables than most adults. And while that might be excellent for some families, that might not be what your family needs. So in those panic moments when you get worried that your toddler is only eating fruit snacks for what it seems like three meals a day, I’ve found that it’s helpful to change how I am seeing that certain situation. Instead of asking, *ahem,* googling something like: why can’t I make my toddler like vegetables?, I’ve started probing a little deeper and asking myself where the “problem”is coming from. Is it actually an issue that needs my attention? Or is this issue coming from a place of comparison? Am I truly wanting my child to eat healthier for her benefit, or am wanting her to eat the same food that Jane’s kids eat?

Although I of course want my child to eat balanced meals, maybe she likes fruit snacks better because she loves seeing the different colors. Although the sugar definitely might be part of it, how can I work with her and respond to what she personally needs? Maybe I can help her see that fruits and vegetables come in different colors too! Just turning that negative panic thought around a little bit can change your whole perspective.

Eliminating comparison is definitely easier said than done, but by keeping it a goal, I’ve found that I’ve not only been more compassionate towards myself, but I’ve been more compassionate towards others.

You are a good mother. You are a competent mother. You are a loving mother. Say that again three times. Find that voice within yourself. Acknowledge and accept that you will make mistakes as a mom. It’s literally impossible to never make a mistake, and I promise you’ll feel a lot better once you let go of that “perfect mom” ideal. Additionally, acknowledge that you have the tools within yourself to problem-solve. I am in no means eschewing the fact that it definitely takes a village to raise a child, so 100% lean on your support system when you need it. But remember that your support system doesn’t replace your inner voice. By trusting yourself, I promise you will become empowered. And empowered mothers raise empowered children. 

Thank you so much to Leah for sharing such wonderful insights on her strength of finding her voice in her motherhood and being able to focus on being the parent her children need. What an important skill that can ultimately help us in all areas of our lives! Especially right now when there is so much commotion and stress in the world, we need to learn to focus on our four walls and our family's needs.

As a recap, Leah's tips to be the parent your children need you can: 

Unplug for [at least] 30 minutes a day to have one-on-one time with your children to connect

Eliminate comparison by focusing on being a better version of yourself, not someone else

Remember that being human in expected and empower yourself in that truth

No comments: