Let’s discuss some recurring themes in parenting. It’s a dense topic, but one that allows us to gain from our reflections. From there let’s home in on some practical pointers on how we can succeed at motherhood, no matter the age of our children. Please brew some tea and get comfortable.
Many 50+ women have children of varying ages still living at home. Some of us have young kids. We started our family later in life and face the challenges and joy that comes with that. Others have older kids at home: teens or adults in their 20s who have returned to the nest. Raising children, whatever their age, requires our dedication and endurance. The reality for all mothers is whilst love and best intention are never in short supply, the vital ingredients of time and energy can be. Knowing this, how can we best prepare ourselves to succeed at motherhood?
Permit an analogy first please. We mothers are like champion fell runners moving across a range of steep hills. Every milestone in our kids’ development is a distinct hill on this range. We each have our own route, pace, and plan. We each try our best. We conquer the upward gradients of these hills with varying degrees of involvement with our child. We persist while juggling a heavy load, sometimes feeling depleted, but always still planning the next procurement of essentials for the journey. We are impressive!
We are fuelled by love and commitment. We must ensure we re-energise for our optimal endurance. We aren’t great at that.
We complete one hill on this range, pause for a moment to reflect on the lessons learned, and enjoy the success of finishing. We may steer off course but always readjust when another hill, another stage in our child’s development, faces us. Chin down, we unwaveringly continue our ascent over upland once again and commence another learning curve.
Each hill varies because each child’s development is distinct and so are the challenges they face. What is constant is that there will be another hill trek because this process repeats at each milestone. We need to keep this in perspective and understand there is always another hill to climb, so the results of this one are not the end-all. We must remember it is the actual journey that needs to count, not just the result. Perspective, time, and stamina are vital ingredients to our maternal success.
Just like champion athletes, mothers may sometimes wonder if we are doing our job “well enough”. The following tips summarise some recurring themes necessary in motherhood. They can be used as benchmarks to determine our own internal report card. Please reassess regularly and keep in mind the following Practical Pointers on How To Succeed at Motherhood, no matter the age of our children.
Practical Pointers on How to Succeed at Motherhood:
Laugh: Having a sense of humour is crucial to motherhood survival and success. This starts from when our kids are babies. Remember laughter is contagious. Take a moment every day to smile, giggle and guffaw.
Listen To Intuition: Mothers’ intuition is a reality. Let’s listen to our instincts and do what feels right to us. It’s a skill we have, we just need to learn to trust it.
Build a Support Network: Motherhood can be a sometimes lonely and even thankless job. Our Friendship Group is essential for sanity and survival. Establish supportive groups to call on for advice, a chat, or emergency child-sitting. These groups provide vital opportunities for venting, socialising, learning and overall support. (http://bit.ly/FriendGroupsTopReasonsWhyWeBother).
Control the Guilt: Guilt comes together with motherhood, and it can be toxic. A twinge of Mummy Guilt may be manageable, but guard against being overwhelmed by it. We may wish to analyse to understand why we feel it, but let’s resist falling victim to Guilt Pressure.
Prioritise Communication: Most mothers aim for open lines of communication. Seizing available moments to make a connection with our child is vital in every stage of their development and for our future relationship together. This will be easier do at some stages in our children’s lives than others, a fact reflects our child’s receptiveness and our own levels of energy and focus. We know that everyone has their personal comfort level. This applies to both mothers and children and varies for both depending on circumstance and time. Perspective, diplomacy, and endurance are needed for successful communication.
Let’s discuss the relationship between communication and being present, as this is a topic raised by a The Next Half reader. Kids share their thoughts at a time of their convenience. Receiving their unplanned download could most likely occur if we are together. However, let’s remind ourselves that a mum doesn’t have to be physically present to be available and being available doesn’t always equate to being physically present. We try to teach our kids the important lessons that they are always valued and that we are always available to them, even if we are not together. We try to be accessible, but unless we want to be helicopter moms glued to their door, no mother can or should be ready and waiting all the time. That’s not a healthy communication plan for anyone involved. Fostering independence between mothers and our kids is important and provides many topics for conversations.
Plan Personal Time: Personal time is vital re-charge time. Without it, we will deplete and be no good to anyone. Remember motherhood is a marathon and to have endurance for the whole event we need to refuel regularly. Recharging time is our magic elixir which will enable us to be at our best. It is sacred and needs to be both scheduled and protected. Sadly, many of us don’t prioritise this on a daily basis. Let’s guard against using our re-fuel time for completing chores and work-related tasks. Let’s think about how we best re-charge and embrace it as part of our non-negotiable daily routine. Both we and our families will benefit.
Remember to Exercise While we may know that exercise can reenergise our bodies, for some of us this is a chore that’s difficult to prioritise when we are busy, stressed and tired. Let’s try to remember its benefits and get moving. (http://bit.ly/SevenHelpfulTipsonHowToBeHealthier).
Professional health experts suggest there is a higher chance of completing our “activity plan” if we proactively diarise the week’s schedule in advance. Let’s block out the time to do so. Let’s remember to leave guilt behind if we can’t exercise today because we are low on energy or just don’t have the bandwidth. Let’s get back to training as soon as we can. Perhaps we loop in a friend to aid our motivation?
Top-Up Sleep Reserves: Everyone needs sleep to perform optimally. It’s how we re-energise our brain, our moods, our energy levels. Yet, we often can’t get enough shut eye at night. That’s when we could call on our Support Network to cover for us or embrace the power of daily 20-minute naps (http://bit.ly/InsomniaStopStressing). Once childcare is organised, disappear for refresher time and uninterrupted rest. Do this when needed throughout motherhood. Without this refuelling time, even Wonder Woman would eventually crumble.
Establish routines…and limits: The importance of setting routines, limits and saying no is another theme which runs through motherhood. Everyone develops personalised parenting values which work for their own families. Some are more flexible than others. No matter where we are on the “strictness scale”, it is undeniable that everyone benefits from an open understanding and dialogue of their family’s rules. If these rules are broken, let’s discuss, negotiate, and discipline.
The benefits of establishing a routine and being consistent with discipline applies to all stages of a mother/ child relationship. When they are little, create a routine for both yourself and your young ones. Get their naps and mealtimes set to a schedule as much as possible provides predictable periods where mothers can devote time for recharging or the to-do list. When our kids age, let’s re-enforce through dialogue and negotiation the values we jointly identify as important in our collective home. Everyone will benefit from the establishment of understood boundaries.
Set Own Standards: Let’s try not to compare ourselves to others. Reality is often different than what is revealed. We must fight the inclination to measure our own happiness by what we think we see in others. Remember no one is perfect. No family is perfect. Just be who you are. Be Your Clan. Warts and all. Set and believe in your own standards.
Be Positive/ Deflect Negativity: Keeping a positive perspective, the “Glass Half Full” mentality, is helpful. To many this is a “must-have” and non-negotiable outlook. While everyone has their own set of values and comfort placement on the scale of prioritising positivity, we all agree on the benefits of shaking off negativity. Let’s resist absorbing unsolicited advice from others. Some people mean well, some don’t. Hear their comments with a Teflon-coated shield and only absorb what is productive. Wear rose-tinted, deflective glasses.
Stop To Smell the Roses: As parents, we may frequently feel like we’re stuck on a hamster wheel. The time we dedicate to our menagerie flies by in a flurry of activity. We all may get caught up in living our week-to-week activities and forget to be more “present”, to live in the now. How we spend our family quality time is of personal choice. While we commit to ours, let’s ensure we also “stop to smell the roses” with our kids. The time they live with us – or prioritise being with us - will fly by. Let’s seize it while we can.
Remember Self-Praise: Take a moment for self-praise and to acknowledge all we do that is right. Let’s be realistic in our expectations, be kind to ourselves, and remember no one is perfect. Celebrate the conversation we had with the reluctant teen, the broccoli that was eaten by the toddler, our own completed exercise or personal achievement of the day! Let’s show our kids that our love is unconditional, both for them AND for ourselves.
Plan Meals: The subject of nutrition, food and meal planning is fundamental in all stages of a mother - child relationship. Associated topics range from meal planning and preparation, finding recipes that appeal to everyone, and the many issues around eating together as a family. All these subjects, and more, can be made more manageable with strategies. The Next Half plans to explore these ideas in a future feature. We will provide concrete solutions too, such as examples of rotating recipe files, suggestions for menu planning and batch cooking, and other helpful hints for surviving mealtime. Does that sound helpful?
As we absorb these practical pointers, let’s think of the well-known airplane instruction where parents are told to put on their own oxygen masks before their children’s. This seems counter intuitive because it is engrained in us to protect our children first. But then it becomes clear: we can’t help our kids if we are without oxygen. This lesson applies to our everyday lives as mothers. Our intentions are noble but what equally matters is our ensuring our stamina. We must maintain strong mental and physical strength so we can reaffirm and implement the pointers highlighted above.
We can do this! We can succeed at motherhood… and at life!
I would love to hear your thoughts.
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