As a mother in today’s world, you’re bound to come across a litany of parenting styles you could choose to adopt. Do you want to be a Helicopter Mom or a Free Range Mom? Perhaps the Crunchy Mom approach is more your style.
For me, there was really only one type of Mom I ever aspired to be, and it doesn’t even have a catchy name: The Laid-Back Mom. The Laid-Back Mom isn’t frazzled or overwhelmed. She rolls with the punches. Her life isn’t perfect and she’s okay with that. She is happy, and her kids seem happy, too. I am generally a laid back person, but when I first became a mother, I felt riddled with anxiety. Motherhood didn’t exactly come naturally for me. Worrying about every disastrous scenario that could possibly occur did. I would notice other mothers around me and wonder how they seemed so put together. As a mom to three boys, I think I’ve found my happy place as a pretty Laid-Back Mom – who is still prone to the occasional freak out moment. Here are some things I’ve learned in my journey to lightening up:
Step 1: Have more kids
It seems counterintuitive, but having more kids can actually lead to less stress. Something amazing happens when you add to your brood. You no longer sweat the small stuff because you really don’t have the time or energy anymore. You become more confident in your parenting abilities, or maybe you’ve just come to terms with having no idea what you’re doing, so why not just roll with it. Either way, having more kids is a surefire way to enter into laid-back mode.
Step 2: Learn to trust your partner
Sometimes Moms cling onto the old adage “Mother knows best” a little too tightly. It can be tough to loosen the reins and allow others to help. It was hard for me to watch my husband parent our children in a way that differed from my own and took effort not to mumble, “I told you so” under my breath. But just as often, I found I was pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of his approach. With our first baby, I couldn’t run an errand without leaving a list of detailed instructions or calling every 10 minutes “just to check in.” Now I am completely confident in my husband’s abilities and have no problem leaving him with our three kids for days at a time. In fact, I rather enjoy it.
Step 3: Try not to overschedule
One amazing part of parenting is introducing your children to new experiences and watching them develop interests and talents. My boys latched onto their own interests from a young age. My first son was consumed with “anything that shoots.” Our middle child loved trucks and everything with wheels. Our youngest has an affinity for horses (and we don’t even have any). I adore watching them learn new skills and am thrilled when they ask to take a class or join a team. I also want them to have down time to play and tap their creative energy. Kids only get to be kids once. Laid-Back Moms are all about letting children use their imaginations and not being the sole source of entertainment.
Step 4: “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Seasoned parents learn that – barring harm to self or others – interference isn’t always necessary. If you jump and react every time your child struggles, they’re much more likely to react in kind and look to you for a solution. My laid-back approach now consists of acting like I didn’t notice when my toddler stumbles. Almost every time, he gets up and going again on his own without so much as a sniffle. So your kid eats a little dirt? What’s the worst that can happen? In short, pick your battles. In parenthood they are as prevalent as the Lego’s litter my floors.
Step 5: Learn to trust yourself and your instincts
A lot of my anxieties were tied to my insecurities as a mother. I read the parenting books voraciously and tried to implement their suggestions exactly, as though following a recipe. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was caring for a complicated human being (not baking a cake), and no manual would tell me exactly what I needed to know. The most important thing for me was to love my baby. The rest I could figure out as I went along.
Step 6: Realize when you need help, and be brave enough to ask for it
I thought I had things pretty well figured out by the time I gave birth to my third child. Then I was hit with something new – a dark force that slowly crept over me until I felt like I was drowning. It took me far too long to acknowledge that I suffered from postpartum depression.
At first I passed it off as baby-blues, and then chalked it up to trying to adjust to three kids. When I finally realized I may need to reach outside of myself for help, I felt I had failed at motherhood somehow. Now that I’m being treated, I realize that getting help was a wise parenting decision and doesn’t mean I’m weak. Anxiety is the evil twin to depression. Once I got a handle on one, I was able to combat the other. In short, taking care of myself enabled me to achieve a laid-back style to motherhood that fits me just right.
It’s the New Year, and I have been doing a lot of thinking. I want to say, with all of my heart and all of my soul, that I am sorry. I want apologize for anything (and everything) I have said or done that made you feel less-than or sad or small.
This year I am resolving, with a twist. There will be no diet, exercise, less swearing and drinking, "more church" kind of resolutions. This year I'm simply letting go of the things that are just not productive nor conducive to my life. This is the year I give up several of my hard-earned mom-related titles.
Surround yourself and your kids with piles of magazines and update vision boards for the fresh, new year to come. If nothing else came from this evening together, we exercised our creativity and bonded while reenacting some of the over-the-top advertisements we came across.