I read something the other day about all of the pressures that are put on us as mothers. The woman spoke of the bull shit expectations from breast vs formula feeding to fundraisers and being the “team mom.” My initial thought was, “wow, motherhood really is exhausting… no, actually LIFE is really exhausting and these expectations are freaking ridiculous.” Then, as I continued to read on through this mom’s incredibly true rant, I found myself agreeing with her and giving her that virtual high five one minute, only to “judge” her the next minute. She let her kids cry it out!? That is NOT okay in my book, right on into the next part where she talks about believing in grace and forgiveness with kids where I imagined having a glass of wine with this woman, aka my new “bff.”
And that is when it hit me: everything comes down to your core parenting values.
There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of ways to do things and it is so easy to get wrapped up in finding the magical answer to everything. You can read all of the studies, all of the product reviews, ask all the pediatricians, and join all of the mom’s groups. But if you don’t get real with your personal values, you’ll never feel at peace. Here are 6 ways to determine your values and guide your parenting.
My 3 almost 4 year old son asked me today, on the way home from school, “mom, who made my bones?” I stumbled over my words, trying to decide whether I should answer with “God” and dive into that conversation, or go with the biological response of “well, mommy and daddy did,” ultimately leading me down the road of the “birds and bees” talk, which is essentially every toddler parent’s worst nightmare. I opted for a confusing and unsatisfying combination of both, forcing me to evaluate my stance on all of this. So, while I am not in a place to give anyone advice on the topic of religion, I will suggest this: Figure out where your religion or spirituality fits into your life. If you are a religious person (or spiritual person, as I’ve dubbed myself), hone in on what that means. What do you love about the higher power or organized system that you follow? What do you want your kids to learn from this belief? Get in touch with your higher power, pray, meditate or do whatever it is that you do and project this practice onto your children. I am not saying that you have to go to church every Sunday morning, but I am saying you have to get real with your beliefs (or non-beliefs) and be proud of where you stand, regardless of where that is. You have to prepare yourself for questions like the one I was asked. Kids will inevitably question their existence in the most bizarre situations, catching you completely off guard. Good parenting centers on solid beliefs which will guide you to appropriate answers.
Think about what health looks like in your family. Health consists of so much more than just what you’re eating and when/how/if you exercise. Your family doesn’t have to eat wholesome organic meals to have values in health. Health encompasses things from organic foods to the taboo topic of vaccinations. Consider your thoughts on the importance of sleep, nutrition, movement, illnesses and medications. Do your research, decide what it means for your family to be healthy and advocate for your family’s health and wellbeing. If you’re stumped with this one-and I cannot stress this enough-start creating a plan to integrate health and wellness into your family structure. Start with brief evening walks or ensure a veggie is served with each meal. Maybe health to you means less television and more books, or, even an earlier bedtime for everyone. These can be small, simple changes, but it will make the most amazing impact when you start focusing on the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of your circus.
Figuring out the role of education in your home is an integral part of parenting in the 21st century. Will college be a requirement or are you comfortable with your child pursuing other dreams? I’d be hard pressed to find a parent who said education wasn’t a value in their home, however, I’m sure that people have different views with regards to things such as public versus private schooling, the importance of extra-curricular activities, parental involvement in the classroom, etc. Consider your family’s stance on education and prioritize accordingly.
4. Your Likes
With regards to time with your kids-do you like sports time with them? School time with them? Family time with them? What lights your heart on fire? Pick that and stick with it. Don’t feel the need to go on all the field trips if you don’t like going on field trips. Yes, your kids want you there for the field trip but they want you there for ALL of it and the harsh reality is, that probably isn’t possible. They can smell a fraud from a mile away, so if you’re not into it, let them grow and become independent in the activities that aren’t your cup of tea. Whether you’re an overprotective helicopter mom or a laid, back “I let my kids figure it out” mom, there is no denying the fact that parenting is hard and requires an insane amount of commitment. Still, part of that commitment involves teaching your kids how to function once the cord is cut. Be there, and live for the things you love, but don’t for one second feel guilty about letting your babe “do them.”
5. Parenting Style
It is okay to be a mixture of a few! Are you a baby wearing, co sleeping machine? GREAT! Do you believe in raising an independent individual? Fabulous… figure out your style and stick with it. Don’t justify yourself to anyone. When you’ve nailed these values, so much will click in to place. You love breastfeeding but need to incorporate a few bottles at night to keep your sanity in the form of sleep-perfect! Stop obsessing over being one thing-you can have your cake and eat it too when it comes to parenting. You are in charge, not Nancy from next door, with the cloth diapers for days, saving the environment with one load of shitty laundry at a time, but YOU. You and only you get to control and dictate your style.
6. Your Kid’s Style
we have been adamantly trying to get our 3 almost 4-year-old son interested in soccer, primarily because it is one of the only “sports” offered year round and available for young kids, but also because my husband is an avid sports fan and it is essentially what we are “supposed” to do. However, when I tell you soccer practice is painful, I mean painful-no one enjoys it and we all typically leaving feeling defeated. WHY do we do this? Our kid is smart, fun, outgoing, occasionally well-behaved and is clearly going to find his own path. There is no doubt in my mind that he will find his niche with athletics, it just might not be soccer. So, despite our numerous attempts, we are most likely throwing in the soccer towel after this season and opting for a new choice, when options open once he turns 4. The point of this rant is to show you that your kids have individual styles and interests. Tune into what they like and dislike and let them find their path. While it is essential that we help carve that path, especially for the super young tiny humans, breathe and believe in the fact that they are just that-tiny HUMANS, with increasingly growing personalities, hopes, dreams, and interests. It really is a beautiful thing to see them figure it all out.
Finally, I’ll end where I started….
Put down that parenting book and reflect within.
You created the miraculously crazy little babes that have overtaken your life and you get to decide how this is all done and what is best. Get in touch with your beliefs and values, like really, seriously, and honestly in touch with them. Be raw and open with yourself and then live and breathe to uphold those values. Your kids don’t want a perfect parent… they want their parent. So be THEIR parent and wear that shit like a badge of honor because just like their is one and only one mini you, there is only one person made to be their mama (or papa). You’ve got this!!!!