What Moms Need To Know

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Time sure has a way of letting us see things more clearly. This is as true for parenting as it is for anything else. Being a mother is a role that we grow into–none of us start out knowing what the heck we’re doing. Mistakes are made, and even the best among us are humbled by the process. And sometimes, it’s not until long after the fact that we realize we were paying too much attention to the stupid little things that didn’t matter, instead of the other ones that really did.

So with that in mind, I offer my humble thoughts on what I know now, and what I wish I had known then. Well, some of it I actually did know then, some of it I learned on the job, and some of it, truth be told, I’m still working on.

1. Learn early how to say “no.” Not to your kids so much as to the millions of people who want you to bake cupcakes, drive on the field trip, host the class party, volunteer in the art room, run for PTA president, organize the Book Fair, take the class pet home for the holidays, be a Room Parent, check the entire second grade for head lice, organize the end of the year party for the teachers, work in the library, come up with a cure for cancer. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not telling you not to volunteer!  Just pace yourself or you’ll burn out before your oldest hits third grade. Trust me on this one.

2. Learn early to say “yes” to opportunities that help you find out who you are. Being a mom is a wonderful, fulfilling experience but your children will eventually leave, if you do your job right. Along the way, it’s important to have other things and people in your life that bring you satisfaction and joy. Develop a hobby, take time for a few good friendships, nurture your relationship with your sweetie. By investing in yourself, you’ll become a more interesting person and have more to offer your family. And your children will thank you later for continuing to grow as a person, in your own right.

3. When your kids start to shout, counter by using a softer than normal voice. This tactic has a magical effect on keeping things from escalating. It also keeps you from going hoarse or turning into a 13 year-old yourself.

4. When your kids are sick, keep them home, cancel their activities, take the day off from work or other obligations and give them a lot of TLC. They will recover much faster, remember your kindness and concern when they grow up, and love you all the more for doing it.

5. Recognize when you need to take a break and get away for a night or a weekend. Again, this job goes on FOR A LONG TIME! Make sure that you teach them how to take care of themselves by actively taking care of YOUR self. Nobody likes a martyr and a cranky, burned-out mother doesn’t do a particularly great job anyway. You will have more patience and be a better listener if you get a little time off every once in awhile.

And keep learning how to take care of yourself. If that means you start exercising after a lifetime of being a couch potato, great! Or maybe you need to back off on the smoking or drinking. No time like the present. Did you get your teeth cleaned? Have your mammogram? Get to bed at a reasonable hour? Just remember, we’re all still “growing up.” And just because you have developed some bad habits along the way (and who hasn’t?) doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for trying to change them.

6. Make up some tender, sweet phrases that you use when you tuck them in or greet them in the morning or afternoon. My kids will kill me for spilling this one but I used to (still do, actually) say goofy things like, “There’s my little Honey Bun!” when they walked into the room and although they would blush and shake their heads, we both knew they loved it.

7. Keep all the letters, postcards, Mothers Day cards and drawings that they give you. Just get a big box, stick them in, and shove it under the bed. You will never regret it.

8. Learn how to say you’re sorry, sincerely and without excuses, when you do something mean or wrong. This is as much about self-preservation as it is about good role modeling, integrity, and developing trust. Kids have memories longer than elephants and unless you want to live with constant reminders of your pride and stubbornness, get comfortable with “I’m sorry.”

9. Nourish and nurture your soul as well as your body and mind. Connect with whatever you perceive “God” or “Higher Power” to be, whether it’s Nature, Beauty or the Buddha himself! Don’t take anyone else’s word for proof of it’s existence. Find out for yourself. It will help to give your life a deeper meaning. And besides, life tosses us all around in the storm from time to time and it’s best to have been working on addressing those big questions before the lightning strikes.

10. Enjoy yourself. Laugh as often as you can–at yourself especially. And give yourself a break. Don’t compare yourself to the other moms around you who seem to be so much calmer/smarter/thinner/happier/more domestic than you. They can’t really walk on water. They just know where the rocks are.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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One response to “What Moms Need To Know”

  1. Danielle

    These are great reminders! Thanks Ellen!

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