It’s confession time: I have a shopping problem. While my husband might be tempted to tell you the problem is spending too much money (which maybe it is sometimes), the real problem is that I’m not investing money in things that will last me a long time. For example, I was shopping with friends and found the most beautiful pair of red satin pumps. The color was amazing, and the pleats across the toe of the shoe had me. Unfortunately, I have worn them a total of three times in three years. They give me horrible blisters and I can hardly walk in them. Yet, they’re still in my closet.
I think I’ve always let myself get focused on what looks good or sounds good. I don’t stop to see if it’s as good as it seems when I add myself into the equation. When I became a mother, this became a bigger problem than I ever imagined.
I have this innate need to be the best at whatever I’m doing. When I was pregnant with my son, I spent my free time reading books and researching articles on everything I needed to know about being a parent – from diapering and feeding to supporting and loving. I had this picture in my head of the supermom I wanted to be. I wanted to be the mom who baked cookies and kept the house spotless, who loved her kids fiercely every minute of every day, who kept her kids busy but not too busy, who found joy in every moment, who taught her kids to read at an early age, and who answered all those “why” questions with patience and a smile.
When harsh reality set in and I found myself falling short in a lot of my expectations, it took me some hard months to figure out why I was so unhappy. You know the saying about how you should walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Well, I was walking in someone else’s shoes, pants and shirt. None of it fit me properly. It was exhausting and uncomfortable. It was like going shopping again, grabbing anything I thought I “should” be wearing. I never bothered to try things on or pay attention to fit and comfort.
It was only after realizing I wasn’t doing things my way that I found a way to feel good as a mother. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes may give you some temporary blisters. But, if you try to walk in them for the long haul, you won’t make it! There are lots of wonderful things in books out there, and there are great examples of motherhood all around. I absolutely encourage you to take what good you can from these sources.
But, be wary as you do this. Sure, try it out, but make sure you evaluate how it’s working for you and your family. The fit might not be what you thought it was when you saw it nicely draped on a hanger, or perfectly laid out in a book. It’s hard to know what your style is as a new mother. Don’t worry, you will get the hang of it! Just don’t get hung up on “Dr. So-and-so says I should be putting my child to sleep this way” and “my friend so-and-so does this with her kids”. Don’t get distracted by credentials and titles and experience. There are no “one-size-fits-all” ways to do things when it comes to your family. There is no perfect mother. She doesn’t exist. But, there are happy mothers. If you want to be one, you have to be yourself and do things your own way.
Now when I head to a store, I’m a little more conscientious of what I spend my money on. I know I’ve wasted a lot on clothes I decided I didn’t like after I wore them a couple of times or they shrunk up in the dryer. I never buy anything that I haven’t tried on, and I look critically at how comfortable I feel and at how well it fits me. I’ve also learned how to tailor clothes so they fit me properly.
As a mother, I do the same. I try things out but ask myself if it feels right for me instead of pressuring myself with what I think I should be doing. Or, I take what I like in an idea and tailor it to my family.
As The Power of Moms stresses individuality this month, it’s the perfect time to evaluate yourself. Don’t tell yourself other people know more than you and do it better than you. Take time to focus on who you are and on who your children and spouse are. I promise if you keep that in mind, you’ll find the perfect fit. Just picture yourself shoe shopping and keep trying on different shoes until you find the pair that fit you perfectly. Finding what feels natural to you, what fits your personality and compliments your family will last you much longer than exhausting yourself trying to fit into someone else’s expectations.
I am pleased to report that just as I learned to approach shopping differently, I’ve learned to approach motherhood differently. I feel much happier, healthier and confident by focusing on my individuality.
QUESTION: How can we learn things from others while not letting go of our individual parenting styles?
CHALLENGE: Find a way this month to try something new and tailor it to fit the specific needs of your individual family.