There are several times a year when we seem to stop and make new plans. September is certainly one of those times. Whether or not we have children in school, the shift to fall and the patterns set through years of our own academic schedules kick in and cause us to pause and ponder a bit, or to dive in and create new plans. When our children are school age it is more likely the latter, due to dealing with new schedules, activity choices, obtaining supplies and figuring out how to meet the demands of the new school year.
Often it all seems daunting or overwhelming, especially if we are planning around what I call the “shoulds” that lurk in the corners of our minds telling us all the things we MUST do if we really want to measure up as moms.
But measure up to whom? The “shoulds” come from lots of places, such as past expectations of our parents or teachers, other mothers at school or our place of worship, social media, books, or any place that sets a standard we tell ourselves is desirable in some way. They can affect every area of our lives. How we dress. How we keep our homes. The activities in which we participate, or in which we enroll our kids. They can even come to bare on our spiritual lives. But are those standards right for you and your children?
This September I invite you to take a moment and ask yourself: What are your true ideals?
This can be a really hard question to answer. After all, we seek and absorb all those ideas and resources in an attempt to clarify what’s best for our families. But that often leaves us feeling like we’re playing the childhood game of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”. You know, the one where we are blindfolded and someone spins us around until we’re dizzy and have lost our sense of direction. Then we’re supposed to march forward and pin the paper tail in the correct spot on the donkey. Then, we take off the blindfold to see how close we’ve gotten to that goal. Whether we had gotten close or ended up across the room from the donkey, we were usually astonished and wondered, “How in the world did I end up here?!”
Without a sense of direction, and a vision to aim for, it is very difficult to hit the mark.
So to help us clarify our own unique ideals, let’s work backwards a bit by asking - What kind of mother do you want to be remembered as being? Imagine a scene of a future Thanksgiving, or other family get together. Your children are all grown and they’re sharing childhood memories. What warm recollections do you wish for them to have of you?
Stop yourself from running scenarios of all the things you’re afraid they’re going to say based on all your difficult days. Think instead of what you really wish they will remember, even if you haven’t achieved, or even attempted, those ideals yet. Again, this is what you want your children to remember about you and life in your home. Not what you want them to achieve. Not what you want the other voices in your head by which you judge yourself to eventually acknowledge and approve of about you. Every one of us will have a different list, and that’s great because we’re each unique and unrepeatable people with unique families. God gave you to your children because you have specific gifts He wants you to share with them, or at least the ability to develop the gifts he places in your heart.
Next, make two side by side lists. On the left, list all the “shoulds” that run through your head of what you should be, or should be doing, to measure up as a mom. On the right side, list all the things you would love to do as a mom, that would give you joy now and a thrill in your heart when your kids remember the mom of their childhood (or their adulthood if your at that stage. It’s never too late to transform into the mom you want to be).
Compare your lists. Are the plans you’ve made for this year or season leading toward your ideals? Are the daily strivings after your “shoulds” leading you closer to your children or are any of them putting emotional or time wedges between you?
With your lists and these questions in mind, evaluate what has to change to move you closer to your ideals. Begin to surround yourself with messages (through social media, books, even one new personal connection) that support your ideals, and take steps to sift away those that don’t. Ask yourself what’s one small thing you can do right away to take a step toward who you want yourself, and your family, to be. It doesn’t have to mean reworking everything. Just list one or two little changes that would bring you joy and help you feel closer to your family. Hush the voices that say, “The kids won’t go along with it”, or “You shouldn’t make the change because…”. You’re the mom. You can make any changes you believe will benefit your relationship with your kids. You get to set the tone and atmosphere of your family life.
Next, ask yourself- what are 1-3 things you want to plan differently in the future (next week, next month, next holiday, next vacation, next summer, next school year) that will increase the warmth and connection between you and your children? Don’t take it all at once. Just go with where your heart leads you. Write you ideas down. None of us can remember these things in the midst of our busy lives. Revisit the list every day. Make note of your successes each day, no matter how tiny, and right down one thing you want to do together tomorrow to help your family create a warm memory, or atmosphere, that supports your particular ideals.
Finally, after you’ve given yourself a chance to process your new ideals, desires and plans. Share them with your family. It’s ok to tell them you love them and want to be the best mom you can be. Let them know what you want to work toward, and ask them if they have any ideas of little things you can all do to make you feel closer to each other and create warm memories together. Letting them know you love them enough to grow and develop into your best self as a mom, allows them to know they are safe to grow and change and strive to feel good about who they are too.
Step by step you can become the ideal mom you want to be.