Momfidence Principle 1: I Make Affection My Number One Job
Updated: Apr 5
Welcome to Momfidence. It's my hope that you'll find rest, refreshment, new skills and a better sense of how wonderful YOU are by spending time here.
There is so much beauty and power in motherhood. From the moment we bring a child into our lives, through labor or the rigors of adoption, we become EVERYTHING to someone, and we grow every day in strength and wisdom from all the exertion and perseverance of motherhood.
We can easily feel so depleted, and so racked with self-doubt. That’s why I want to spend the next several episodes going over the 10 Momfidence principles to help you have a stronger sense of the beautiful, powerful woman you are.
Principle number one is: I make affection my number one job.
Now that can sound a little strange. There are so many jobs to do in motherhood. But affection, when put in primary place, can change everything for the better and make all the other jobs easier.
There are a lot of scriptures that can help us understand the importance of a mother's love and affection, and the way God models that for us. One of my favorites is Isaiah 49: 15, “Can a mother forget her infant or be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she forget, I will never forget you."
Another of my favorites is first Corinthians 13:13 "and now these three remain faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
This is the first principle because there's no earthly thing more powerful than a mother's love and affection. We are there to reflect God's love to our children. It's consistent presence can help to form and support a child in becoming a secure, loving, emotionally intelligent, moral, happy adult. If you want to read more about the science behind this, The Science of |Parenting by Margot Sunderland is a great resource, as well as the books I wrote with my husband, Parenting Your Kids with Grace and Parenting Your Tweens and Teens with Grace, that more thoroughly cover many topics I cover on Momfidence. But we're not going to talk about the science so much right now. I want this to be a place for you to get the confidence boost that you need in your life as a mom.
So what does affection have to do with that?
Well, in all honesty, it's your superpower!
You have the power to light up your child's heart and brain when you are affectionate with them. When you hug them, or you cuddle your tired, cranky, or sad child, you exercise your ability to reset their whole nervous system. That's amazing! In those moments, when you feel like the world is telling you that you are unimportant, or the moments when you feel tired and weak and run down, you still have that superpower.
Not only that, but the affection you share with your child will actually help you reset your physical and emotional health as well. Those moments of affection and connection are like charging your batteries. Sure. Sometimes we can let those really hard feelings drive us to frustration or anger. It happens to everyone. But if we can remember our superpower we can choose to pull our child into a hug before trying to fix the behavior. We can choose to lay down for a nap with that over-tired toddler that's driving us crazy, letting us both reset and change our moods. We can choose to sit on the couch with an arm around our grouchy teen to help them calm down and only then work through their feelings and help them problem solve.
We will be amazed at how we're able to transform even really difficult situations through our motherly affection. What our affection can do for our children’s wellbeing (and our own) is beyond what most of us realize. When we share moments of affection with our kids, our levels of oxytocin, often called the love hormone, actually rise.The benefits of oxytocin are a greater sense of love and wellbeing, and often a decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression.
We all crave affection, not because we're needy or broken, but because we're created to function optimally when we receive healthy, appropriate affection. So when we create a pause from all the toil and intensity of our lives, and create an oasis of affection for our children and ourselves we are accessing and exercising our superpower. In moments we change the brain chemistry of both our child and ourselves for the good. Once we begin to change that, we then have more ready access to all the virtues and graces that help us to make improvements in our attitudes and relationships, as well as the atmosphere of our home, and the wellbeing of our families.
Often we're tempted to hold back affection until everyone behaves well (including us) or until we feel affectionate. If that's the case, we are rarely going to be as affectionate as we need to be. Instead, we need to prioritize and practice affection, as we would any skill that we want to develop.
Start by practicing habits, such as beginning every day with some form of affection. Spending a few minutes holding your child after you wake them, while you talk about how their night was and make plans for the day. Those moments can mean so much and change the start of the day into something far more positive than an alarm bell and saying, “You're going to be late for the bus!!!"
We all do better when we jump-start our brain with those moments of affection at the start of our day, and then continuing to look for moments throughout the day to add in more: a hug or a hair tussle, maybe with accompanying words of affirmation acknowledging something good about our child or their behavior, perhaps a deep calming hug with some deep breathing together if your child or you are feeling overwhelmed, cuddling up on the couch to share a book together. This works at any age by the way.There are wonderful stories for all ages out there. I know of people who have read to their children right through high school and college, and it's become a real moment of connection for them.There's a story of one dad who promised to read to his child every day untill she graduated college.When she went away to college they would get together at night over the phone and he would read her a chapter of a book, and they'd have a little time to talk to each other. She made it through college so well because she knew she could count on her dad and that wonderful tradition that let her experience his affection even far away at college.
Also, remember to give that big hug when you get back together at the end of the day. Remember to say how much you missed them and love them. Research by the Harvard school of public health says that only 6% of children get the affection they need to function optimally. That's a very small percent. We all want to help our children to be their best and we want to be our best. More affection is an easy and very rewarding way to encourage that.
Now, if affection doesn't come easily to you, don't just avoid it by thinking that's just the way you are or that's just how you were raised. Both science and Catholic theology teach us that we are made for, and thrive with, appropriate affection and connection.
By practicing small intentional acts of appropriate affection every day we wire our brain to become more affectionate, and we function better physically, spiritually and emotionally. So moms, don't be afraid to tap into that God given super power, and do things to strengthen it every day, just as you would, if you were training to lift weights, or run a marathon, or do anything else that was really important to you. You and your children will be happier, healthier, and more connected if you do, and you will feel a whole lot better about the mom you are.
Give it a try and let us know how you're doing on Momfidence on Facebook and Momfidenceofficial on Instagram.