Being a mom is tough nowadays. Even if it’s not said out loud, we’re expected to be perfect. Our kids need to eat the right things, watch the right shows (or not at all), behave properly, and of course as moms we must nurse until the “right age,” lose the baby weight as quickly as possible, and drink green juice instead of eat croissants. And that’s just a short litany of the pressure we feel, not inclusive of our own personal and professional accomplishments that we ourselves dream of.
My own desires for perfection manifested in a slightly different way this past year by an over reliance on childcare and a blatant fear of taking care of my two kids (one four year old and one six month old) solo for more than a few hours. Ultimately, I was afraid of the ugly moments (tantrums, crying baby, lack of sleep, the strategy to get everyone fed, bathed, and to bed at the right hour) and the things I must turn toward to get through or avoid the frightful moments (bribery, unhealthy food, screen time). The epiphany came when we parted ways with our nanny and summer was upon us. I wanted to be at our home in the Hudson Valley and my husband had to work in the city. Like it or not, I was going to be on mom duty for the summer and I had to face it with a softness and an ease or else no one would have any fun.
I write this as summer unfolds into August, so I’m sure I have some more moments to overcome and lessons to learn. But so far, I’ve realized a few key truths that have lightened the pressure for perceived perfection when it comes to time with my kids, at least for this perfectionist mom.
Good food isn’t about one meal, it’s about the big picture!
Summer time is a time for popsicles, chips and ice cream cones, whether we are happy about this or not. Summer camp days conclude with the garbage side opening of the lunchbox, followed by a sinking mother’s heart when the the same stack of carrot sticks and grapes that you lovingly placed there earlier, stare back at you, untouched. Don’t fear! Your kid’s nutrition doesn’t rest upon one meal or moment (thank goodness). I’ve learned to keep packed lunches super simple and not to stress if they aren’t quite as wholesome as I’d like. Instead, I focus on dinner having a good, balanced approach inclusive of veggies, proteins, and wholesome grains. Health is based on a bigger picture and I’m convinced that simple fun also contributes to an overall sense of wellness. Which leads me to my realization that…
Sometimes fun outweighs the rules
We are a very scheduled family. Bedtime is always within 20 minutes of it’s set time and our baby’s nap takes high priority. But sometimes you have to let it go for the overall state of mind. If friends are visiting from out of town, let the kiddos play an extra hour! If all the families are going out for ice cream, don’t be the bummer mom and refuse to go, just because he had ice cream yesterday. Let go, relax and live a little. The rigidity of perfection is not only a buzz kill but I think it teaches your kid how not to enjoy the sweet moments of life (no pun intended).
Screen time isn’t always a bad thing
Ipads, Iphones and TV shows get a very bad rap and have resulted in an overall sense of failure if you rely upon it on any level. Way too many sentences start with, “I was a bad mommy last night, I stuck the kids in front of the Ipad so I could make dinner.” I have decided to reframe this conversation completely. My son is busy all day at summer camp and in the fall, at kindergarten. He is tuckered out, mentally and physically. Dinner needs to be made and my baby has to be bathed and nursed to bed. Is an hour or two of screen time really that bad? Or is it a way to do things peacefully for ME as well as a way for my son to chill out? And is that really such a horrible thing? I say no. There’s a time and place for everything. So why beat myself up for it if it quite simply…works.
Pick your battles!
Choose the fights that are truly worth fighting- I put those in the categories of safety and respect. Small things I sometimes need to let go- it’s just not worth the energy expenditure to nag 24/7. If we’re considering the overall experience of parenting here, we want something that feels positive and upbeat. Believe me, my son is trouble and way too smart of his own good and when I feel like there’s just too much scolding going on I actually talk to him and say, look I’m not having fun. Either it’s time out in your room or we figure out another way to spend time together. I notice that my child does a better job slowing down when I stop threatening him and have a THIS or THAT type of conversation. Either we do THIS or we do THAT. Less nagging, more directive. I’m no parenting expert but I’m noticing where I make the most headway.
We are usually our own worst critics; I know I am. But I’m learning through some tough moments that I’m more in control of my experience with my kids than I think I am. If I lighten up a little, I’m usually more in the present moment and when we’re in the present, we actually get to enjoy our kids. And isn’t that what we really want most of all?
Thank you Egg Baby by Susan Lazar for featuring this piece on your blog on 8/15/16.
Randi Zinn is the founder of Beyond Mom and BeyondMom.com. Born from her own experience of motherhood, and the desire for a more connected community. Randi is publishing her first book in 2017.