Motherhood can be a mixed bag of joy, worry, frustration, anticipation, excitement, fear and a mass of other emotions. With all the time and effort one puts into trying to be a 'good mother', you can easily forget to simply relax and have fun with your child.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
There is plenty of conflicting advice in magazines, newspapers, television and the internet. Parents can be competitive. Other people may be critical and mothers often feel under a lot of pressure. Sometimes mothers set themselves unrealistic standards. If I could go back in time and give myself some advice about enjoying motherhood more when I had young children, here is what I would say:
Accept yourself as you are I would tell my younger self that I am okay as I am, flaws and all. In particular, I would say that I was 'good enough' as a mother and to trust my gut instinct. I would point out that I know my young child better than the 'experts' (as well meaning as they might be), and to do what I felt was right for my child.
Try not to compete with other mothers Competing with other mothers, either those we know or the ones we read about in magazines is a serious waste of energy. Other mothers might dress 'better' or seem to have perfectly behaved children but I would tell myself that I was managing fine and not to feel inadequate.
For example, I would say, stop trying to provide all home-cooked food for parties. However, I would still take the time to make that dinosaur birthday cake because it provided me with a creative outlet and my son loved it.
Make friends with other mothers who support you I would tell my younger self to nurture the friendship of supportive mothers, but quickly cut ties with 'know it alls' who were critical and made me feel bad about my mothering skills.
I am so glad I made friends with other mothers who made me feel good about myself. I met one of my closest friends when I was in hospital having my first baby. Our sons are 33 now and they haven't seen each other for a couple of decades, but us mothers are still close friends. I made another wonderful friend when my son started school. She is someone I still turn to for support and encouragement.
Drop your standard of housework These days I rarely iron anything. I use plastic table mats and the occasional lace tablecloth that doesn't require ironing. Why didn't I do this when I had young children? In fact, would the world have come to an end if I hadn't bothered with table mats or a tablecloth?
If I was tired, I would recommend young mum prepare a quick and easy meal finished off with some fresh fruit rather than getting hung up on always having to provide a 'proper' cooked meal.
Now that I am older, I have de-cluttered and only have a few items on display at a time. I should have done this when my children were little. This makes dusting easier and the house looks neater. I would tell my younger self to only keep things I need or love and store things in cupboards rather than on open shelves. tips for de-cluttering.
Stressing less about housework relieves pressure and provides one with a little more time to simply breathe and enjoy the positive things in life.
Marvel at the world with your children I would tell my younger self to marvel at the world more and worry less about trying to finish renovations. I well remember the frustration of trying to paint a door with an active two year old around. What was I thinking?
That time would have been better spent at the park or enjoying the wonders of Nature. My son loved all sorts of creatures and was very gentle with them. He taught me to see snails as delightful creatures, yes snails. As a toddler he would get so excited about seeing snails after the rain. He inspired me to look for them and we would enjoy watching them together.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
Don't read too many parenting guides We can pick up some helpful advice from various forms of media, but taking on-board too much advice is confusing and can make one feel like a 'bad mother'. Child raising theories, like how to get your baby to sleep through the night, change with time. Each child is different so what works with one won't work with another. If something works, keep doing it, even if the child experts don't promote it as 'best practice'.
Let your children run barefoot at home My older son hardly ever wore shoes at home, even during winter. He just didn't like shoes. I now read being barefoot, even on cold days, can promote a youngster's immunity so I would tell myself not to feel guilty.
Aim for balance in your life I can imagine my younger self asking 'How?' if I told her to relax more and get a balance of work and play. Some days it seemed to be all about work, trying to get things done.
I would advise her to ask for help rather than trying to do so much myself. However, at the time I was afraid it would appear I couldn't cope.
As well, I would suggest she take time to look after herself and catch up with a friend for a coffee or to see a movie, without any children. A little bit of 'me time' would have resulted in a lot less stress.
Live in the moment I would tell my younger self to spend more time living in the moment, enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Children grow up so fast and it is only a short time they get pleasure out of things like playing with autumn leaves.
Simply playing with autumn leaves Image courtesy of Pixabay
Don't feel guilty if you aren't the sporty/musical type I can't sing in tune or clap in time and can't play a musical instrument. I am also poorly coordinated and self conscious when it comes to sports. I would tell younger me that a mother doesn't need to have knowledge or skill in everything.
I would remind her there are places like playgroup, kindergym and specific groups where young children can have all sorts of experiences. I would suggest she ask other family members or friends to share their talents and interests.
Looking back I can see ways I could have reduced stress in my life as the mother of young children. However, I am glad that I didn't stress more than I did.