I ask myself this question a lot. Here I am writing articles and books about parenting and teaching parenting courses, yet I still find myself in situations with my kids where I am at a loss. My kids and I look pretty happy in this photo, but often I’m too busy, too stressed, too impatient, and I definitely do not always say the “right thing.” Just ask Macy & Charlie!
So what does it mean to be a good mom?
I spend a good deal of time researching the pros and cons of every strategy of parenting out there. I have realized that there is no magic bullet. All kids are different, and all moms are different. Within the same family a tool that works for one child may fail miserably on the next.
The list below is not meant to be used as a tool to judge yourself, or anyone else. Quite the opposite actually (see number 6 about embracing your mistakes). These are just some tried and true tips that I find, when I commit to them, make me feel much better about my parenting.
1) The best moms take care of themselves first.
This is probably the most important, and the most difficult (especially for moms who are genetically predisposed to taking care of everyone but herself).
It doesn’t matter how much you do for everyone else, if mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy. You can’t take care of your kids if you don’t take care of yourself. We actually have mirror neurons in our brain that reflect the emotions we witness around us, so when you feel restored and refreshed your kids feel that too!
2) The best moms are not too busy, overcomitted & stressed out.
Read that one again. When was the last time someone asked you how you were and your response was not “I’m really busy”?
The ability to be present and engaged with our kids is totally compromised when we are stressed out, racing from one place to the next and our mind is always on what we need to get done next or circling back to what we forgot to do. And as we mentioned above, your stress is literally contagious!
Don’t say yes to every volunteering opportunity or bake sale, especially if it’s making your life crazy-busy (emphasis on the crazy). Have the kids choose just 1-2 enrichment activities rather than packing the schedule until it’s over capacity. Be sure to plan some “down time” with the family that isn’t structured, hectic and on-the-go.
3) The best moms decompress in a healthy way that rejuvenates rather than depletes them.
When you’re feeling like you really can’t slow down, be sure to use effective stress management techniques (unfortunately, two of my favorite past times, Netflix and Chardonnay, aren’t currently considered effective stress management techniques). A few of my favorite, effective and healthy stress busters are: exercise, mindful breathing, girl’s night, yoga, snuggling with my dog, dancing, laughing with friends.
4) The best moms create fun family rituals and routines.
This is not a recommendation to go on Pinterest and find the most creative, beautifully photographed and perfectly executed family fun activity. Please do the opposite, the less perfect the better!
Fun family rituals should be simple and easy. Family dinner is at the top of this list. Family rituals evoke positive emotions, strengthen family bonds, and decrease risky behaviors in adolescence. Again, just having dinner together is one of the best things you can do for your kids.
More examples include:
- Practicing gratitude
- Having a bedtime routine that promotes connection between parent and child regardless of your child’s age
- Milkshake Friday
- Mornings that do not include yelling
- Family adventures
- Holiday traditions
5) The best moms hang out with their friends…
Human beings all thrive on connection. Social connection is a major predictor of health and life expectancy. Low social connection (i.e. not having good friendships) is worse for our health than smoking and high blood pressure. Women are inherently relationship people. We are hard-wired to crave nurturing in-person relationships with others. Yet women, when stressed, still take care of their careers, their homes and their families, while giving up their friends.
Prioritize girls’ night, date night, poker night, your tennis league, or some kind of regular social gathering every week. Studies show you’ll live longer and be a whole lot happier.
6) The best moms embrace their kids’ mistakes and make mistakes too…
Kids need to be given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes when the stakes are low. Rescuing, protecting, and hovering will not help them develop the skills they need to become resilient, persistent, hard-working adults.
Let your kids know that moms make mistakes too. If we never show our kids our own imperfections, we end up raising anxious little perfectionists who live in paralyzing fear of failure.
If you need lessons in how to embrace your own mistakes, read Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Carry on, Warrior: The Power of Embracing your Messy, Beautiful Life. It’s hysterically funny and she shows us that when we have a sense of humor about our mistakes, forgive ourselves and give ourselves the gift of compassion, beautiful things can happen in our families and in our lives.
Warmly, Kristen Race.