Being a mother is not for everyone. Once upon a time, I was convinced it wasn’t for me. What did a girl from a broken home know about being a good mother?
Before you think I’m disparaging my mother, think again. My mother worked herself to the bone to make her marriage to my father work. She loved my sister and I through the divorce.
Single parenthood wasn’t her thing, so she remarried. It took me a long time to stop resenting her for that. In my mind, our life in those months of fatherlessness was better than anything I’d experienced for many years.
Blended families are difficult. Add to the mix the fact that my mom returned to college to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse around the same time and things get ugly.
My mother graduated to heaven in January of 2014, fighting cancer to her last breath. This year, I will celebrate the ninth Mother’s Day without a mother.
We learn mothering from our mothers (aunts, grandmothers, sister). The way we see them act shapes our idea of what a mother is supposed to be like. Good and bad, we absorb it all.
In the end, we decide how we will mother our children. Through diapers, chicken pox, broken legs, moving, homeschooling and a myriad of other events, we exhibit our ideal of motherhood. Or not.
Here’s a list of things I learned about mothering that are worth passing on:
- Admit when you make a mistake. We’re only human. We will mess up. Don’t let your children think it’s okay to brush aside errors without apology or accountability.
- Set an example. The thing is, you ARE setting an example. Your kids will watch you and mimic you. Believe me, when you see your actions and hear your words from them, it’s an eye-opening moment. If you want them to be hard workers, work hard. If you want them to attend church, take them to church.
- Don’t make comparisons. I got good grades and my sister was great at sports. I wished I was better at sports, and she thought I was a genius. If I got an A minus, I was grilled. How did that make my sister who got a C feel? This is a difficult thing, but every child will have different strengths. Praise their strengths rather than criticizing the weaknesses.
- Hug your children often. This was easy when they were little. There were some years of eye-rolling when I hugged them as teenagers and college students. Doesn’t matter. There’s no such thing as too many hugs. Now that we’re all adults, sometimes my sons even instigate the hug.
- Choose your words wisely. Words cut. Words spoken in anger can scar a formative child. It took me too long to learn to button my lips when I had critical things to say. Accentuate the positive. Data shows humans are created to remember the negative (survival instinct), so try to eliminate negative words.
- Teach them independence. In order to do this, you have to give them freedom to make mistakes. No mother wants to see her child fall down and get injured. I decided I didn’t want to be cleaning their rooms and doing their laundry when they were 18 either. Give them responsibilities and reward them with freedom of choice when they meet them.
- Listen to them. Hear what is beneath the words. Most women are more discerning about the emotional state of other people. When a teenager slams their bedroom door and yells at you, their anger probably isn’t even about you. Don’t get angry. Make an opportunity for them to talk.
The list of advice could go on, but studies show the attention span wanes at around 500 words. For more wisdom on the subject, God gives a great example of motherhood (womanhood really) in Proverbs 31:10-31.
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed” (Prov. 31:28a). I’m waiting, but I can look at my successful sons and know I must not have been too horrible as a mother.
What tips do you have for being successful in motherhood?