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5 3 Things I Can Do Now to Be a Better Mom

February 17th, 2008

Oh, I talk a good game. In conversations with friends, teachers, and family, I focus on the wholesome, positive things I do as a mom, but the truth is, I can do better.

 

This isn’t a putdown. It’s the truth.

 

I know I’m not doing my best. As my daughter told me the other day, “Whenever I ask you something, it’s “in a minute, in a minute, in a minute!” (sung to the tune of “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”). And she’s right: often I’m so focused on what I’m doing that I don’t want to interrupt it, even for a kid who has to go to the bathroom. I’m embarrassed to admit it: but I put myself first a lot. If I’m too tired, the kids don’t go to the park that day. If I want a glass of wine and some adult conversation at a party, I’ll semi-ignore my children and leave them on a couch to watch The Incredibles for an incredibly long time.

 

I’m not going to get this time back. So, I thought I’d really brainstorm how I can be a better mom, getting more quality time with my kids in the process. (Without completely giving up the occasional glass of wine and conversations with complete sentences.)

 

So here’s my list. It’s OK: ignore it. I’ve proved I’m no expert. Or that I’m a drunk.

 

1) Focus, Focus, Focus: My kids don’t have my full attention. For one, I’m on the computer way too much (like now, for instance). It’s painful to admit, but I constantly put my kids’ needs off with the aforementioned resounding chorus of “in a minute.” I’m making more of an effort to put down the mouse, but I have a LONG way to go in this department. As a kid, I remember often trying to get my dad’s attention anywhere there were other people, and being (in my child’s view) constantly ignored. My dad was very social, and loved to entertain, joke and chat. This provided me with some wonderful role modeling, but it also sent me the message that whatever conversation he was in at the moment, was more important than me.

 

I see myself doing the same thing with my kids. My daughters have taken to crawling on my lap when I’m online, in a futile attempt to connect with me when I’ve distanced myself on the computer.

 

I’m trying now to focus on them — with my eyes and full attention — when they ask me a question, need something or just want to play.

 

2) Slow Down: We’re always rushing somewhere. Constantly in a hurry and on the verge of being late. As a result, I’m usually frantically pulling the kids’ coats on, tying their shoes and admonishing them to “get a move on.” Kids can pick up on moods quickly; they also absorb them. So, if I’m crabby and anxious trying to get out the door, they’ll mirror that with their own grumpiness. I said to someone the other day, “You’ll often find me yelling at my kids to stop yelling.” The irony is not lost on me.

 

Better planning is the key for me. If I budget my time (maybe for instance, by getting off the computer five minutes earlier than I do), I can optimize the getting ready period and avoid the rush. And if I do find myself rushing, I can watch my tone and not whip the kids into a frenzy to match my own. Kids do as they’re shown. I want to show them a better way of coping with stress of any kind, including that brought on by running late. Or better yet, show them the benefits of organization and planning, resulting in not being late in the first place.

 

3) Validate Their Feelings: Oh how many times my daughter’s lost it and I immediately stick her in a time out. The other day, we were at the park and completely out of character, she yelled several times at a playmate. Then, she threw sand in her friend’s eyes. I scooped her up pronto and took her home, kicking and screaming.

 

I believe in boundaries and consequences, but I also think that there’s something “beneath the underneath” that causes children to act out. Perhaps if I asked her why she were so crabby or probed her feelings a bit more, she’d feel relief at expressing them to a mom who cared, and the temper tantrum would cease.

 

Maybe not. I don’t know. But I’m working on spending a little time encouraging her to tell me how she feels and why. Rather than telling her first to “not do something” or “stop being grumpy,” I want to show her that I care about her feelings and that she has a right to them. Then, I want to share ways to positively express them. Because a feeling may not be right or wrong, but what you do with that feeling is another matter.

 

And now, you know what? I’m going to finish this later. I’ve got two little girls in the living room waiting for me to practice being a better mother right now.

 

p.s. Next two items on the list to flesh out when the kids are napping:

4) Think Before I Speak

 

and

5) Love Their Daddy

 

On February 17th, 2008, Mommy Zabs said:

I swear I could have written this and struggle with the exact same things. thanks for sharing.

On February 17th, 2008, Steph said:

Ah, I relate. Oh, how I relate. This is exactly why I’m on a hiatus from my blog…and from To Do lists. I realized the other day that I was reading and writing a lot about parenting but not actually *doing as much of it as I want.

On February 18th, 2008, Kara said:

I’m going to work on #1 (focus focus focus) and hope the other 4 things fall into place!

On February 18th, 2008, admin said:

Mommy Z: It’s nice to hear that other people are having this struggle. Sometimes I look around and think everyone is a perfect momma but me!

Steph: Yes! I was writing this post last night and suddenly realized: I’m sitting here writing about how to be a better mom as my kids were in the other room, waiting for me to come out. Not exactly practicing what I preach. (Kind of like right now, too).

Kara: I think Focus is a good place to start (but the hardest!).

On February 18th, 2008, Carol said:

Hello from an EX-San Diego mom. Ex-San Diegan, that is; not ex-mom — though sometimes it feels that way because my four little kidlets, who were all under the age of five (blame the twins) when we moved to Oceanside (Rancho del Oro) had to off and grow up on us.

Sigh. Really — huge sigh! As crazy as they were, my happiest years were in San Diego when they were all small. I love Seattle and would never move (though god, I miss the sun sometimes!), but how on earth did 15 years pass, giving them time to become — dare I say it? — ADULTS?!

Hope you don’t mind if I add you to my blogroll…?

Carol

On February 18th, 2008, Amanda said:

#3 just brought me a lot of emotions of my own mother. My little one is only nine months, but I know I will be struggling with all this soon enough! Thank you so much for your insight. And Bravo to getting off the computer! I can’t count the number of times I have heard my daughter wake up from her nap and let her cry a few more minutes.

On February 18th, 2008, Lynn said:

Amen, I just searched and got this blog. I couldn’t have said it better. But I must say I struggle to focus with three little ones. It’s always a constant challenge. And all these Mom’s around me acting like I’m crazy! It’s a bit frustrating when your so called peers are judgemental and your at your most vulnerable and stressed. Being supportive must be an art form lost to the ancient Greeks.

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