Why does our culture think that it’s inevitable to be a miserable mother?
Today Lisa Hensley from Delighting in My Days is here to give us a pep talk!
I do a lot of reading about motherhood. This is both because I am a mom and because I write about motherhood. However, if I believed a lot of what I read before I had kids I would have run as fast as I could from being a mama. There are some scary stories out there. Once you get past the worst-case scenario labor stories you start in on the I-didn’t-shower-for-two-months-and-didn’t-wear-real-clothes-for-two-years stories. None of that sounds appealing to me.
I don’t want to be the woman who is so consumed with surviving her children that she forgets herself, her relationship with God, or her husband. I don’t want to be the woman who cloaks her sob stories about how miserable life is with “but I’m so grateful for my children.” Of course you are. We all are. But wouldn’t it be better if we weren’t miserable mothers?
There are miserable days, miserable weeks, miserable months even. But just because we feel miserable doesn’t mean we have to act miserable. We don’t have to put on a show to get the sympathy of the world. I’ve been told “good luck!” just leaving the doctor’s office with my three kids. Is that what we want to tell the world about motherhood?
I’m not so far ahead that I look back on mothering small children as being all giggles and baby kisses. I have three boys. My oldest will be six this spring and he has a rare metabolic disorder. I’ve been through a lot of twists and turns in mothering. But overall I enjoy it and I think people can tell. My kids aren’t perfect and my mothering certainly isn’t but I do love our life.
How to Not Be a Miserable Mother:
1. Keep the right attitude about motherhood.
Motherhood is not martyrdom. Mothering is hard work and sometimes it seems like menial work but it is not the hardest thing that anyone has ever done. I realize that we tell our society this in an attempt to elevate the efforts of motherhood but it’s backfired because now we believe it and we feel sorry for ourselves. There are a lot of jobs that I wouldn’t trade for even on my most trying days as a mom.
Motherhood is also not all we are once we have a baby. At no point does the Bible make motherhood the supreme achievement of womanhood. A blessing and a work, yes, but never all we are. When we lose everything else to mother, we sink into misery.
2. Be a woman first.
You can take time to fix your hair and not be a bad mother. You can teach your children to play quietly while you talk to your husband and not be a bad mother. You can teach your children to get their own cup of water while you call your mom and not be a bad mother. It’s not wrong for you to paint or read or write or build alongside your children or even away from them. When your children have grown up and left you will still be stuck with you. Grow during those years so you don’t bore yourself.
3. Have a plan.
Working different jobs and going to college before I became a mom helped me so much. I learned how to manage my time and plan out my days. Have a plan for what you’re going to eat. Plan out what days you’ll go to the grocery store or run errands. Plan out when you’ll bathe the kids and what time you’ll start on dinner and when you’ll pick up toys. Keep books in the diaper bag to read at the doctor’s office. Learn some fun games or songs to occupy them while you wait in line. Your kids will learn your rhythm and know what to expect.
4. Get up before the kids.
Now this isn’t always practical. If you have a newborn you sleep as much as you can. But as soon as you are sleeping more, get up. Give yourself some time before they get up to wake up and pray and prepare for your day. Read your Bible. Do something that fires you up as a woman. Be ready to greet them with a smile instead of wishing that they wouldn’t bother you.
5. Dress for work.
Treat this mothering as work. Show up to your days as if you were filling the position of the President or the Prime Minister. If you slouch around in your sweats you’re going to feel like sitting on the couch all day. Dress for the day you want to have.
6. Train their behavior.
Of course this is a never-ending project; none of us ever “arrive.” But start somewhere. Teach them to stand in line, to speak kindly to one another, to be nice to you. The cooperation of your children will go a long way in making your days brighter.
7. Don’t mix work and family if at all possible.
I blog and stay home with my kids. It is a rare occasion that I try to do anything with the blog while my kids are awake and not in quiet time. Attempting to do quiet work that requires thought while chaos erupts around me is my ticket to becoming a crazy mama. This might not be possible for your stage of life but if it is, try it.
8. Start earlier than you think you need to.
Getting out the door with little kids can be a circus performance. Give yourself more time than you think you need to do it. That buffer in your schedule will be a sanity saver. Start breakfast earlier. Pack the diaper bag the night before. Lay out their clothes and socks and shoes. Do as much as you can beforehand.
9. Practice gratitude.
We see what we look for so often in life. Look for the beautiful parts of motherhood and your days. Thank God for the child that whispers, “I like you, Mommy” and the growth that your children are showing instead of concentrating on what’s not happening or what goes wrong.
10. Mind your friends.
If you have hang out with women who don’t appreciate motherhood or who complain about their children all the time your attitude will be colored with their negativity. Cultivate a group of friends that can share the problems of motherhood without dismissing the importance of the work. Be that type of friend for someone else.
Please don’t think that I’m never stressed out. I don’t lay around on the couch drinking coffee while my children play quietly at my feet but we do laugh. We do get places on time (most of the time). I am wearing real clothes and a real smile. I enjoy being with my boys.
You don’t have to be a miserable mama. Show the world a different version of motherhood!
Let me know: What did you do to overcome the tendency to be a miserable mother? Let me know in the comments!
Lisa Hensley is a wife, mama, and creative who helps other women know Christ and embrace their work so they can live with purpose and passion. She blogs at Delighting in my Days when her three boys are sleeping. You can also find her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.