There it is. I said it.
I love my kids more than anything in this universe and yet sometimes I feel like they are literally sucking the life right out of me. I mean, it probably isn’t as bad now that they are teenagers as it was when they were toddlers (thankfully they no longer need my help to go potty) but still…I find myself giving so much of my time, energy, emotions and MONEY to my children that I often feel like I have little left over for myself.
The crazy thing is though–I almost feel like this “Martyr Mom” syndrome is something that we moms wear as a badge of honor. I’ve been to playgroups where it felt like there was some kind of twisted competition going on to see which mom was the most exhausted, overextended and frazzled and then for some insane reason, that mom was dubbed the winner because obviously she was the one sacrificing the most for her beloved offspring.
Hello?!? Exhausted, overextended and frazzled ARE NOT FabYOUlous. Exhausted, overextended and frazzled SUCK.
Yes–being a good mom can voraciously consume every spare ounce of our energy and time..if we allow it to. However; we can also make the conscious choice to not allow motherhood to become a total immersion experience from which we emerge eighteen years later, bleary eyed, dazed and clueless as to what our own dreams and passions are.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting that we neglect our children. I’m simply suggesting that we not neglect ourselves either. Our children grow and thrive because they receive our love and attention. Let’s stop considering it selfish to spread a little of that love and attention to our own dreams, desires and self care. Instead, let’s consider the fact that it just might be healthy and empowering for our children to see their mothers as capable, accomplished women who value their own physical and mental health and who understand that the only way to truly care for others is to first care for one’s self. Let’s (as the trusty flight attendant always tells us) make sure that our own oxygen mask is firmly in place before we attend to our children, because let’s face it–what good are we to our kids if we’re slumped over, deprived of oxygen, rest and rejuvenation?
We must begin this quest for balance by getting smart and strategic. We must develop strategies to help us better manage our children so that they consume less of our time and energy and yet still get every bit of what they need from us. In order to help us accomplish this goal, here are Four FabYOUlous Tips for Nurturing Your Children and Your Dreams
1.) Fool them with FUN: It’s no surprise that 80% of parental energy goes into things like nagging children to finish their homework, get dressed for school, clear the dishes, feed the dog etc. However; just as we can often fool our kiddos into eating their veggies when we combine them into other tasty dishes; we can also fool our kids into doing their required chores if we get a little bit creative and add some fun to the mix. For example, I used to have a terrible time getting my youngest son to cooperate in getting himself dressed for school. This all changed one day when I decided to time him to see how fast he could do it. Something about turning it into a competition suddenly spurred him into action and he got himself dressed faster than I even dreamed could be possible (I later discovered that his speediness was due in part to the fact that he would just skip putting on his underpants–but that’s a story for another time). Then, each consecutive morning, I would challenge him to see if he could beat his previous record. This simple, silly tweak turned our grueling morning routine into something fun and filled with laughter. It also helped to ensure that he was sent off to school with a smile on his face while I retained a small portion of my sanity.
Though they will never admit it, children secretly crave management that holds them to a higher standard. They need rules and consequences in order to gradually build a framework for self management. Adding an element of fun to the mix is a great way to ensure that this foundation for self reliance is being laid in a manner that is enjoyable for everyone involved.
2.) Make your passions a regular part of the routine: I’ve discovered (through a lot of trial and error) that if there is something that is important to me and I make a regular and consistent time for it in my life, my children will eventually learn to accept it as a normal part of our routine. Whether it is working out, writing, studying or simply enjoying a luxurious bubble bath; consistently scheduling time for ourselves can work as long as our children’s needs are met, expectations are made clear and we are consistent both in our scheduling and our expectations. It’s crazy, but I’ve learned that when there is simply no other option other than to cooperate–my boys cooperate. Maybe not at first, but with enough consistency and reinforcement, I have been able to establish set blocks of time that are my time to do my thing with limited interruption. Now that my boys are teenagers and much more self sufficient, this is no longer an issue. When they were younger however, routines and consistency were a key component to me being able to progress on some of my key goals and aspirations.
3.) Establish a Kid-Free Zone: It used to drive me CRAZY to enter into my at-home work area (at the time it was just a corner of a room where I had my computer set up and a small bookshelf) and step on a lego or find candy bar wrappers on the floor (especially when there was a waste basket less than two feet away). So, to combat the crazies, I made a rule that no kids were to enter mom’s “office” without her consent. Of course I made exceptions for emergencies (after clearly defining what exactly constituted an emergency) but for the most part, I wanted my work area to be kid-free. In order to make this edict more palatable to my boys, I also encouraged them to have a mom-free zone (a corner of our basement that they turned into a clubhouse of sorts). They liked the idea of having an area where they could go to be boys (mind you–they were four and six at this time so I didn’t have to worry about them doing anything too outrageous) and I enjoyed knowing that my paperwork wouldn’t be covered in chocolatey fingerprints–it was a true win-win scenario.
4.) Have easily enforceable rules: Even though I had my “office” that was a kid-free zone, this became a more difficult space to manage as my boys got older. Often, they would need to go online for school and our only computer was in my “office”. In order to maintain some semblance of order in my area, I created a list of rules that my (now older) boys needed to follow in order to make use of my space. These rules can vary depending upon each person’s preferences but I especially disliked dirty dishes and litter in my space so that became a part of my rule system. I also established limits for non-school related computer use. In order to make these rules seem more credible to my boys, I typed them up and posted them where they would see them each time they entered my space. I also made it clear what consequences would result if the rules were broken and I was consistent with those consequences. Now that my boys are older, they both have their own laptops and rarely need to use my computer. I know though that they still think twice before interrupting me if they see me working in my space.
By establishing clear parameters and expectations with my children, I have been able to advance my own passions and ambitions a great deal while still maintaining a loving and nurturing relationship with my boys. I don’t feel as though this makes me selfish at all. Instead, I have seen the benefits that my boys have been able to reap as the result of having a happy, well rested and passionately engaged mom. I hope that they have also learned the value of following one’s bliss and working to achieve important goals so that they will be able to continue doing so once they themselves become parents. It’s a delicate dance and it doesn’t always go as planned but it is possible to nurture your own FabYOUlous dreams and desires while also loving and nurturing your family. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the Martyr Mom trap–make self care a priority as you learn to cultivate your own FabYOUlousness.