This week I’ve met a few mums while I’ve been out and about with my daughters who have come up to me and said what beautiful girls that they are. One mum put it yesterday “I should take notes from you because I want my children to be like yours.” I love receiving compliments like this and when it’s unsolicited from strangers it’s even better. I was thinking last night as I was folding laundry about how I can share some of my wisdom with you, so I thought today I’d write this post about what I’ve learned through my motherhood journey that has helped me be the type of mum that I am today.
1. Stop Underestimating Yourself
When I became a single mum I remember thinking to myself “How am I going to do all of this?” The feelings of being totally overwhelmed and unable to cope were not uncommon for me at the time. I was going through the trauma of my separation while pregnant so it wasn’t easy, but I had no choice. Things had to get done and often I was the only one around to do them, so I just had to pull my finger out and do it.
I’ve had many of my friends say “I don’t know how you do it”, and to them I say, you just learn how to. I have learned how to run a household, raise two children (and be currently pregnant with my third), run a business and look after myself at the same time. If you’d asked me 3 and a half years ago when I was still with my ex if I thought that I would be where I am today I would have said no way.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of underestimating what we are capable of. Mothers are capable of greatness, that power comes to you when you have children. You just have to embrace it. You can choose to either sink or swim, become overwhelmed or manage just fine. It is all about your attitude to what you have to do both in life and with your children. We choose our attitude by the thoughts that we think. If you change your thought patterns you will change your life.
2. Stop Complaining
Every time that we complain about something we give a little bit of our energy and our internal power away. There are lots of things in life that we could complain about – the state of the world or the nation, our families and loved ones around us, our kids, our life, our appearance, the future… the list could go on. The thing is that complaining doesn’t solve anything. It might make us feel better in the short term because we get something “off our back” but unless we actually address the problem it will just keep on repeating itself.
Our brain has this wonderful system called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) which filters all the information from our world. If you more frequently focus on the negative then you train your RAS system to filter out all the positive information and only focus on the negative. A great example of this is when you start to try to conceive. Suddenly all you see around you is pregnant women with babies. The actually percentage of pregnant women and babies in your life hasn’t changed but your brain is more alert to them because you have told it that it is more important to you and hence you see them everywhere.
One of the biggest lessons I can impart to you is to stop complaining and focusing on the negative. Instead pick out and focus on the positive moments from each day. Even on the days where it seems like everything has gone wrong, I know that you can find things that have gone right. As you focus on the positive your RAS system will start to filter out the negative. When you only see more positive then you’ll feel better about yourself, your life and your family.
3. Practice Gratitude
There are plenty of things in my life I could be unhappy about, however there are many more things that I am grateful for. Practicing gratitude is a wonderful way to get out of the ‘poor me’ mindset, something that we can all slip into easily. Being grateful for what we have allows us to gain some real perspective on our situation at the present time.
I did not plan to become a single mum, however I am extremely grateful that I am. The strength that I have found within myself is unlike anything that I have felt in the past or when I have been in any relationship. I have learned so much about myself and grown so much as a person. The trauma that I have been through has made me the type of person I am today, and I love who I am today so in many ways I wouldn’t change the past at all.
Every night I sit down and do my journalling before bed. Journalling is such an amazing opportunity for self-reflection and is a catalyst for growth. Along with a recap of the day and analysis of what has happened and what I have learned I write down everything that I am grateful for. From the roof above my head, to the food in the cupboards, to my children, to my friends, to the interesting things that happened to me that day – everything gets written down. By the end, I feel more humble and more aware of the abundance I have around me than I did before.
Start to incorporate this practice into your day and I know that you will see massive changes in how you feel about yourself and your life.
4. It Takes A Village To Raise A Child – Just Choose Your Village Wisely
Before I became a single mum I would quite often be the mum who refused help. I would take everything upon myself, sometimes to my detriment. I had the belief that I was only a good mum if I did it myself. Once there was no longer anyone around to help me, I had to not only accept help offered to me but I also had to learn to ask for help. This wasn’t an easy lesson for someone who is intrinsically and proudly independent, but it was an extremely necessary one, and one that I am very glad to have learned.
Over the years I have become aware of who I accept help from. There are those in my life who do it out of a true act of love and support, there are those who do it from a place of pity as in “poor single mum Heather must need help” and those who offer it because they feel obliged to. I can tell pretty quickly which group someone falls into. Those who come from a place of love and support I will say yes to in a moment, the other two… well I thank them and then politely say no.
I have purposely surrounded myself with people who support the way that I parent. Those who have significantly different parenting values are not welcome. This not only makes my life easier, but also the life of my children. Consistency in raising children is absolutely crucial to their development. I know that if they are in the care of someone else that they will be treated with the same respect that I give them and disciplined and taught the same life lessons that I will. For those in relationships consistency between the two parents is a must, and for me and my little family consistency within my village is a priority.
5. A Mother Is An Equal Priority To Her Kids
Along with learning to accept help, I have had to learn how to put my own needs as a priority. Every day I speak to mothers who feel resentful and frustrated that they have to do everything for their children and their family and their needs come last. In my family unit I have to do everything for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that my needs come last. My needs and wants are an equal priority to my daughters and that is the way it will always be.
Does that mean I act selfishly and ignore their needs and wants, no it doesn’t. It does mean that I make sure what I need to do for me, gets done. For example, it is important for me to have a lovely shower each morning and then to sit down and have a cup of tea while it is still hot. I make it a priority, I find a way for it to work. I make sure I’ve gone to bed early enough and have set up some snacks in the kitchen for my girls to have when they get up. While they’re eating I have my shower and then once dressed and my hair is done I come out and make breakfast for them and while they eat their breakfast I sit down and have my hot cup of tea.
My girls know that this is the way the morning flows and it’s part of the routine. There are occasions that they’ll try to interrupt and I calmly say to them “Mummy is having her shower now and I’ll deal with that after” or “I deserve to have my morning cup of tea” and I continue. There is very rarely an argument or incident that I need to attend to immediately that can’t wait 30 minutes for me to shower and have a cuppa.
There is a second benefit to me looking after myself. My daughters are taught every single day that it is important to look after ourselves, and that within a family unit a mothers needs are important. They will not grow up with a role model that teaches them to look after everyone else before themselves and that is a crucial life lesson for them to learn.
You might notice while reading this that I haven’t discussed specific parenting skills. The key to being a successful mother and raising healthy and well rounded children while enjoying being a mum and your life, is looking after you. It is our attitude and perspective as mothers that has a flow on effect to our children. If we feel good about ourselves and our lives then we are better parents. We accept the inevitable challenges that come with parenting and see them as they truly are, just part of our responsibility and not something to be fought against. We look after our needs and accept help when we need it so that we don’t feel as overwhelmed and resentful. When we are feeling well and in control we don’t yell at our children, or smack them or leave them to cry because we have no internal resources to draw on.
We know that poor parenting skills affect the mental health and development of our children. Research has proven this time and time again. Improving our parenting skills starts with improving ourselves. Just trying a different parenting technique is like putting a band-aid on a broken leg, it’s not solving the problem. Instead we must look within ourselves and address our own flaws (which we all have) to create this beautiful flow on effect for our children.
If this post has hit a chord with you then keep the conversation going and pop your comments below or get in touch with me personally and we can have a chat. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Facebook quite easily. I’d love to have the opportunity to share some more wisdom and see how I can help you become the type of mum and type of person you want to be.
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