Momfidence Principle 2: I Am Proud To Be a Work in Progress
How are you feeling about your mothering? Are you having a great day? Are you feeling good? Or are you feeling not so great? No matter how you feel. I'm glad you're here to get a little boost and head in the right direction.
Today we're working on principle number two, which is I'm Proud to Be a Work in Progress.
Are you though? I have a hard time with it. I want to be complete. I want to already be my best self. I don’t want to have to work to improve.
Isn't that true with anything though? It's a little like wanting to hit a goal weight, or wanting to hit that place in our career, or learning a new skill. Whatever it is, we want to be at the finish line. The progress part, not so much.
Frankly, I think it's really, really hard with being a mom because for years, decades, since the advent of the first women's magazines and then TV, we have been handed the idea of maternal perfection constantly.
It isn't entirely bad to want to be an ideal mother. I'm not putting down any of those articles or even those TV shows that often inspired a lot of people. Our children are a gift from God. They deserve our very best. But that ideal can seem ever-changing and unattainable.
In addition to the perceived ideals, there is actually a built-in snag that comes with motherhood itself because by its nature parenting is ever-evolving. We can't just do the same things day after day and have it work perfectly, because our children change daily.
What works on day one with your precious new baby may not work as well, or even at all, on day two because your baby has grown and developed in that 24 hours and has a whole new set of needs and skills. And certainly, those same things definitely won't work when baby is 1100 days old and is a busy three-year-old, and those same parenting strategies that were used on day one, or even on day 1100, are definitely not going to work when your child is fifteen-years-old.
Since our children constantly grow and progress, we as mothers must grow, adapt and change. This can feel very disconcerting, especially in our goal-oriented society. We usually feel better knowing what to expect and having a plan in place. But as moms, we often find that the moment we feel like we've hit our stride and have a real handle on this mom thing, we can pretty much guarantee is the moment that our child will change again and we will have to adapt and change as well. It’s a lot to cope with!
In an attempt to find our footing on this rocking boat of motherhood we often look to our own mothers, our friends, or someone we admire for answers. They have experience or seem to have it together. Maybe if we just do what they do, it'll all click into place for us and then we won't feel so seasick.
Now, we might get some great ideas from these wonderful women, but since none of them has ever parented our exact child at this exact moment, their advice or example will still probably need to be adapted to our personal circumstances or may not work at all in our situation.
So how can we ever know what to do?!
Well, there are two important guideposts that can help us be stable yet adaptive, and help us to be a more ideal mother for our particular child.
These two guideposts are prayer and virtue.
Let's start with first things first. Prayer will save us from so much of the disequilibrium that causes that seasickness of parenting. Certainly, there's the “God help me. I'm losing my mind!” kind of prayer. But beyond that there can be the prayers that acknowledged that each of our children belongs foremost to God. He created them and has a plan for them. He gave them to us to form and raise and he isn't going to abandon us, especially if we make it a practice to come to him each day and ask Him to help us to be the best parent we can be, and to help us be attentive and receptive to His guidance in our parenting. When we do that, we're opening our hearts to parenting together with God and quieting our own egos and fears that so often lead us to say and do things we regret as moms.
Additionally, bringing our daily activities and struggles and joys to God, through short prayers throughout the day with a listening heart, helps us to keep balanced and reassures us that we don't have to do this mom thing all alone. Simple prayers such as, “Lord, this is what I have to get done today. Help me prioritize what you would have me prioritize, and help me to recognize your direction in my day. Help me to love with your love and follow your wisdom.” can bring us so much peace, and help us experience small miracles in our motherhood all day.
Of course, we can also bring our struggles to God immediately as we experience them, even aloud when appropriate. “Lord I'm feeling angry, (exhausted, or concerned), Please help me to know what to do in this situation so that I can be the best mom I can be right now for my child.”
This kind of prayer can change a difficult situation radically, and if your child is there when you're praying, it can allow your child to hear you turn to God for guidance and help when you're struggling, even with difficult feelings. This is wonderful modeling that can help your child learn how to reach out to God in their own lives.
You can also ask your child to pray aloud for you in their own words, if they are able, when you are struggling. Asking your child to ask God to help you to be the best mom you can be when you're struggling can be a beautiful and relationship benefiting experience for you both. It can truly help your child experience their own power in pray when they see their prayers help you parent better in the moment.
We don't have to parent alone. God wants to be there for us and guide us every step of the way. We just have to ask him how.
The second guidepost is identifying and applying virtues.
One of the reasons we can get tossed about when taking in the behaviors or advice of other mothers is because we see something good in their parenting that we wish we had. It can be anything - an orderly home, a child who seems successful or advanced in some way, a child who sleeps through the night, a child that doesn't seem as fussy or frustrating as ours - can all lead us to believe that if we just did what this other mother does, all our problems would be solved.
But again, they are not us. We need to look not at the techniques others use. But instead, ask ourselves what virtues do I need in this situation to help my child and me become more of what I value in what I'm seeing in this other family’s situation?
All our children need guidance and teaching. So we have to ask ourselves:
1) What is it that I find that is good or true or beautiful in this other person's family?
2) Is there a virtue I can practice or practice with my child to bring that goodness into the life of my family?
Let's look at some examples.
Perhaps we're impressed that another mother's child asks for things politely and gratefully instead of being whining and demanding.
First we can thank God for giving us a desire for that by allowing us to see it in this other family. Then we can ask him to show us what virtues we need to practice to help form these skills in our family. Do we need more attentiveness to the first cues of our child, thereby allowing us to attend to their needs and moods before they devolve into demanding whininess? Or maybe more patience, pausing and teaching and practicing with our child how to ask politely for their requests. If we see a more orderly home, do we need more diligence in creating routines for cooperative work rituals so that the family can maintain a tidy peaceful space together? Or perhaps, we need more humility so that we can admit that we need help from family or advice from someone more skilled so that we can achieve that orderly home that we find desirable because it gives us more peace in our family.
Pausing, when we have a frustration or desire to change something, and reflecting on and naming what virtue we need to actively practice in the situation, gives us a much clearer and more powerful direction than randomly acting or trying different techniques based on our feelings.
You can find many ways to use virtues, to become closer to your family members, God, and your best self in my book Parenting Your Kids with Grace in which you’ll find many examples and steps that you can take to address your concerns.
You know, too often society makes us believe that as soon as we're handed our child, we're supposed to be bopped on the head by the “Perfect Mother Fairy” and if we're not perfect from that moment forward that fairy must have passed us by, and we are doomed. Nothing could be further from the truth because when we use prayer and a virtue-based approach for ourselves, and for helping our children develop, we can flow from situation to situation and stage to stage with far less jostling of our sense of self or wellbeing.
If you need more personal guidance feel free to call into More2Life: https://www.christiannetcast.com/listen/player.asp?station=wdeo-fm
For more ongoing coaching for you or your family contact https://catholiccounselors.com