Everybody knows you can’t make your job your life. That’s why vacation time exists and there are delineated “business hours,” implying you should at some point get on with the rest of your life. That’s why “workaholic” is a word in the dictionary. Yet, “momaholic” remains on the fringes. “Mom hours” do not exist. We are encouraged to be the best we can be for our kids. What this translates into, more often than not, is a running tally of “mommy-do” lists – Cook a real dinner that involves things not previously frozen. Encourage sharing. Practice handwriting for thirty minutes after school Start the bedtime routine an hour before actual bed. Sign up to bring snacks for the school party Encourage sharing, (again).
Dare I say it? Moms need to take a step back. We do it to ourselves. Yes, we are mothers, but we are also spouses, friends, daughters, businesswomen, artists. The Mother-of-the-Year award need not be the push and purpose of our lives. Even the Mother-Of-The-Year-Because-I’m-Such-A-Funny-Mess-At-Mothering award needs to fall by the wayside. Instead, we need to see who we are – in addition to our role as mom. Your kids need to see you this way too. So embrace that non-mom self and try a few of these ideas on for size.
Lose Yourself in a Craft
And I do not mean anything kid-related on Pinterest. I mean something totally for you. Remember when you used to paint or write or photograph like a pro? Do that. Remember that knitting project that’s sitting in the attic? Get those needles moving. Remember the fancy cooking class you always wanted to take but wasn’t practical? Go learn how Julia Childs made coq au vin. The kids would never eat it, but that’s not the point. We invest so much of our time in kid crafts that we ignore the curious side of ourselves. We need to explore our creative side too.
Your kids don’t always need your undivided attention. I don’t mean all the time. If the house is on fire or someone is bleeding, take note. But, occasionally, your kids need to cry or whine or scream and not have you jump at the ready. If you are on the phone or in the middle of a task that needs finishing, explain that you will be there as soon as you are done. Independence is good. For you and them. Maybe they can work out whatever issue is at hand on their own.
The Art of Conversation
Find some adults (your significant other, neglected friends, other moms) and talk to them…about something other than your kids. We moms are notorious for circling back to potty training or consignment sales or, “that funny thing my kid just said.” It’s good to practice the art of conversation. Call up a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Go for a walk or a drink and chat about the Oscars or the weather or the last great book you read. Trust me, it feels good to talk at normal volume without interruption.
That’s right. Treat yo’self. Mom guilt is real. Leaving your kids to do anything other than the practical can feel almost unethical. But it’s not. It’s crucial for your heart, soul, mind and body to step away. Even if your kids are angels, too much of a good thing can turn sour. Breaks make you appreciate what you have and better prepare you to handle it when the angels run amok. Get a massage or a pedicure or a new haircut. Wander the farmers' or flea market. Leave your significant other with the kids, go out to dinner with friends and practice that adult conversation. Do something that you would tell another mom to do when she needs a break. We never take our own advice.
Extend Some Grace
To yourself. We are our worst critics. You are not the perfect mother. You do not need to be. Perfection breeds dissatisfaction. We’re not always going to get it right, even the balancing act of caring for ourselves as well as our families. The whole mothering thing gets a lot easier if we let go of that. It gives us leeway to experiment, to make mistakes, to learn what works in each new season of life. You’re not always going to cook dinner. You’re not always going to be nice mommy. Bath time will not always precede bed time. You will overreact. You will fight with your spouse in front of the kids. Deep breath. It’s okay. Give yourself the same grace you would give any other person in your shoes. You might be a mother, but you’re still only human.