I Was a Great Mom

Ever heard the saying, "I was a really good mom, before I had kids..."? Yep. Guilty. I was the person looking down on other harried women at the grocery store, thinking if only they had some solid parenting techniques...

I was even a really good mom when my kids were babies. Seriously. They slept half the day! They couldn't say "no". I was a great mom.

And then came the slippery slope. Learning new ways to protest. Potty training. Skipping naps. The end of nap time altogether. Refusing to sit in the shopping cart. Running away.

You know that's just the tip of the iceberg. Moms around the world begin to lose their grip on perfection.
Begin to question themselves. Begin to feel guilty. 
Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile wrote a superb book on the topic, entitled {can you guess?} I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids. {Bargain price on Amazon right now!} =) They describe tired mothers as follows:
"We are overwhelmed.
We feel guilty for everything that we don't do or could have done better.
We feel out of control.
We are struggling to find balance {if it even exists}.
We've lost sight of our identity.
We feel alone because no one talks honestly about how they really feel."
Can you relate?

I have had a ton of growing up to do as a new mom. Starting out, I got so much fulfillment from being the quintessential Mother Who Sacrifices Herself -- being all and doing all for everyone. And I completely lost touch with myself in the process. I didn't know who I was, apart from the titles of wife or mother, and I didn't know what I liked to do. Given a free moment, I would feel like a tower-locked princess, given the key. No clue what to do with freedom.

And I was resentful toward the people who I felt took all that freedom away.

It's been a journey for me -- discovering hobbies that I enjoy, finding creative outlets, learning ways to incorporate "me time" into every day. Learning to be human again.

We want to feel better about our lives, we want to be happy, but we don't want to let anyone down
"Taking care of Mom can feel strange and counter-intuitive, because Mom came into being for other people, these little people that we love. But for everybody's health and sanity, Mom needs to stop thinking of herself as a needless, tireless dispenser of food and care."
So I make a list of priorities {time with God, time with husband, time for fun with kids, time for learning, time for myself, time with friends, time for exercise, time for service} and start plugging in activities in each category. And I block out plenty of personal time without guilt. 

Because for me to be a good mom, I need time alone. I need deep conversation with friends. I need motivational exercise.

Everyone's list [Things I Need To Help Me Be A Good Mom] will be different. Remember MotherStyles?

But discovering what your needs are is deeply important. And tied directly to your personal happiness and ability to be a good mother.
"Wouldn't we rather our children model themselves on mothers who pursue their own dream, take care of their bodies, nurture their own relationships, have positive energy, and are present for their husbands and kids?"
So don't feel guilty! Recognize your personal triggers -- do you have a short fuse when you are tired? When you need some alone time? When you haven't had adult conversation for a day or two?

Speak your personal feelings and own them. Tell your kids you need _____. Tell them they need to wait for you to _____.  Tell them how _____ makes you feel. {"I feel scrambled and anxious when I have to put up with this much noise and chaos."} This encourages empathy in your kids. They need to learn to be aware of how others feel and what they can do to help.

Things have really changed for me since I read this book. I used to feel anxious, frustrated, out of control, invisible. My husband would get the brunt of it when I would let all these emotions out on him when he arrived home. "Nobody cares about ME!" "I take care of everyone and get nothing in return." "I don't even know who I am anymore." "The constant banter is making me crazy -- do I have to answer him every time?"

Now I don't feel guilty for taking time out to write. For taking my camera along on walks. For quilting a bit. I certainly try. At least I have personal interests now. When I {hopefully} recognize my need for a sanity break, I have something to do that I know I'll enjoy. That's freeing.

"You Know You've Lost Yourself Completely When...
   You introduce yourself at an important business meeting as "Andrea's mom."
   You can't remember the last time you showered without two {or more} eyes on you.
    It's normal to leave the house with Barbie stickers plastered to your thigh.
    You reflexively refer to the bathroom as "the potty."
    You get competitive about winning Chutes and Ladders.
    You ask your children questions like "Do these jeans make my butt look big?"
    You find yourself rescuing a tiny LEGO man from a poopy toilet.
    You drink from a sippy cup in public.
    You catch yourself humming a Raffi song under your breath."