By Judith Xavier
When I had my first child, I approached motherhood with high expectations of myself—as only a newly-minted parent would. Armed with a ‘must-do’ list that was a mile long, and a slew of schedules (eating, sleeping…you name it, I had a schedule for it), I enthusiastically launched into parenting, only to find myself burning out and exasperating my loved ones. Not quite the result I was hoping for.
Now, 9 years and 2 children later, I’ve found some basic yet effective ways to stay consistent (and sane) in my mothering journey, and also build the family life I longed to have.
Build Your Community
It takes real effort and initiative to build a support network in our time-strapped society, but the payoff is immensely rewarding. A study by researchers in Arizona State University (Luthar, Suniya S., Ciciolla, Lucia) found that mothers who had uplifting and authentic friendships were likely to feel more positive overall. Indeed, having a like-minded group of women—who continue to support and encourage me in my parenting journey, and also offer sound advice when I come up against obstacles—has been a great comfort to me; they have also helped me maintain a healthy perspective on life in general. Not all of these women are married with children, or in my age group. But this has been a plus point. I have drawn on the wisdom and perseverance of older female mentors, who have successfully overcome similar challenges that I currently face.
Fight for Your Marriage
One of my frustrations in the early years of motherhood was that I never got to hold my husband’s hand. Anytime I tried, our arms were full with babies, strollers and diaper bags. And over time, it became easy to fall into a routine of simply ‘co-parenting’ and neglecting the marriage relationship. Sounds familiar? This unhealthy pattern of neglect could ultimately undermine a marriage. Once we recognised this, we instituted fortnightly date nights to have kid-free conversations and truly connect with each other. Find a routine that works for you—it could range from the weekly date nights, to chatting about your day before going to bed each night. Making time for each other intentionally will strengthen your marriage in the long run.
With homework, exams and the various classes our kids need ferrying to, it can sometimes feel like our children are one more item that needs to be ticked off on our to-do list. Worse yet, our children also feel like they are simply rushing from one task to the next. In our home, this is a recipe for frustration and flared tempers. I’ve learnt to limit our extra-curricular activities and maintain a work-free rest day each week. Take time to enjoy your children and savour the time you have with them.
Opting for a slower pace also ensures you get more rest. A Pew Research Centre analysis of the 2010 American Time Use Survey found that while American parents with children under age 18 found their child-care experiences ‘very meaningful’, some also found child-care activities ‘very tiring’, compared with work-related activities. Take time to rest.
Above all, be kind to yourself. Rather than give in to constant self-doubt and the worry that you could be doing more, or better, for your children, resist the ‘mom-guilt’. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can each day, and that your children love you just the way you way – their loving, imperfectly perfect mum!
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