When our discussion leader asked this question during our Learning Circle discussion last week, everyone was quiet for a few seconds – something pretty unusual for our group. I guess it’s sort of a big and unusual question. And most days we’re so focused on basic intentions (like getting kids fed and to bed) that we don’t stop to think about the big picture of what we’re trying to accomplish as moms.
Once we got talking, we pretty much all agreed that we want to raise healthy, happy children who will go out and lead successful lives. Those are pretty good intentions, right?
But then we went around the circle and each person talked about her individual intentions as a mother – intentions that go beyond the generally universal intentions that most mothers share. While there was certainly a lot of head-nodding as people expressed intentions that others shared, we saw that all have some unique intentions when it comes to the things we want to expose our children to, the family experiences we want to have, and the specific qualities we’re intent on helping our children to develop.
For our monthly assignment (along with discussion questions, there are suggested assignments at the end of each monthly Learning Circle article provided), we decided to do something that seemed a little morbid at first. We decided to think about what we’d love for our children to be able to say at our funerals some day. The assignment suggested that through “beginning with the end in mind,” we’d be able to think through what our intentions really are as moms and adjust our behaviors and practices accordingly.
So today, I did a quick brainstorm of my general intentions as a mother and then went back and jotted down a few examples of specific actions that would support each intention. Then I used that list to help me write up the following “eulogy-type” statements that I hope my kids will be able to say about a me some day (hopefully not just at my funeral…).
Here’s some of what I came up with:
“Our mom was a champion of motherhood. She worked hard every day to be the best mother she could be and to help other moms and families have the resources and support they needed to be their best.”
“While she always made it clear that her greatest “calling” was as a wife and mother, she was very involved in many other callings in outside the little world of our home. She made a point of always involving us in her larger-world work. We helped raise money for orphans every year at a Christmas concert. We helped with all the work she did at our schools. We helped do data entry for The Power of Moms. We helped set up for and present at Retreats and got to travel to wonderful places as a family thanks to Retreats. We helped make videos to help other moms and kids learn about ideas that worked well for our family.”
“Our mom was really great at being “present.” She was great at “putting off the ‘put-off-able’s’ in favor of the ‘now-or-never’s’.” When we came home from school each day, she had a snack for us and was excited to hear all about our day and help us with our homework. She really listened when we talked (even though she often had to remind us to take turns talking). While she was very busily involved in projects to help our community and the larger world, we always knew she’d drop everything else if one of us needed her.”
“Our mom searched out and cultivated the unique potential of each of her children. She found us just the right teachers and lessons and opportunities to match our interests and talents and taught us herself when need be. She helped us cultivate friendships and hobbies that were important to us. She taught us to work hard and made us mad by not letting us give up. It was clear that her greatest goal as a mom was to help us bloom into the people we were really meant to be – even when we wanted to be lazy people.”
“She taught us to cook and to clean and to earn and manage money well. Through praising us up and down when we’d do it, she taught us to be self-starters who could see a need and meet that need be it cleaning up leftover dishes or helping a kid on the playground who needed a friend. She raised us to be self-sufficient people who could manage our households and our finances and our relationships.”
“Mom often told us that one of her greatest intentions as a mom was preparing us to be great parents one day should that opportunity arise. From the time we were very small, she had the older kids help with the younger kids in our family and when we ran out of younger kids, she encouraged us to volunteer to babysit and do special activities for our little neighbors and cousins. She taught us to understand and appreciate small children. And when one of our siblings was struggling, she and my Dad often asked for ideas from the other siblings. She helped us to see how hard and how important and how wonderful parenting is.”
“She taught us how to resolve disagreements and respect other people’s needs and feelings and differences. Whenever we had disagreements, we had to sit by the person we’d been fighting with until we could each say what we’d done wrong, state how we were goingt to make up for our wrong-doing and then we had to ask each other’s forgiveness and give each other a hug before we could go on our way. We hated it. But we also loved it. She helped us to understand why people act the way they do. All of us siblings are best friends today thanks in large part to these lessons.”
“Mom taught us to love nature and adventures and to focus on health and fitness. She and Dad made sure we went on hikes and bike rides almost every Saturday which were great family bonding experiences. She went running or did some kind of serious exercise at least three times a week her whole life and took us with her a lot of the time – often we were trailing behind in a bike trailer or racing ahead on our scooters or bikes. She had a passion for fresh, tasty, healthy food and taught us a great deal about nutrition and cooking.”
“Mom taught us about marriage. Through her example, we learned the importance of always building up your spouse. She was always pointing out the amazing and wonderful things that our Dad did to us and always demanded that we respect our father. She made sure we knew that Dad was her number one priority and that made us feel safe and secure.”
“Mom was a little high-strung and certainly made mistakes. She got overwhelmed and mad and impatient sometimes. But she was good at learning and changing and apologizing. And through her example, we learned that everyone makes mistakes and everyone can and should fix their mistakes.”
“Mom taught us not only to work hard for and attain the things that really matter but also to say no to and gracefully walk away from the things that don’t. She helped us learn to prioritize and to do less good things in favor of doing more great things.”
I’m sure some of the things above ring true to you and some don’t really connect to your own unique intentions as a mom. Our own unique talents, interests, priorities and experiences will help us determine the intentions that are right for us as mothers. But the one thing that is universal is that when we take the time to think about what our intentions really are, we have a much greater chance of achieving our intended outcomes!
When the kids came home from school today, I found myself reacting to them and dealing with situations quite differently thanks to what I’d written.
For example, in the midst of trying to patiently and lovingly help with homework, I realized I’d forgotten to buy some important supplies for an event this evening when I was at the grocery store earlier. Instead of being frustrated, I saw this oversight of mine as an opportunity to take my son Isaac on a little “date” (he’s been seeming to need a little extra attention). On the drive to the store, I really listened to him talk about whatever he wanted to talk about and was fully present with him. At the store, I asked his opinion on the type and quantity of stuff I should buy and took his thoughtful suggestions. On the way out the door, when I saw a man from church that I’d met once before, I avoided my initial urge to just hurry on home and made a point of chatting and introducing Isaac. Out in the parking lot, we saw this man trying to load way too many helium balloons in his small car and since we had plenty of room in our van, we were able to transport a bunch of balloons for him. It was a great chance to set an example of caring and helping for Isaac and we talked about how good it makes us feel when we get to help others.
To help you think through your own intentions as a mother and the actions that can take you towards those intentions, I’ve put together this simple worksheet. You’ll find that it’s much easier to mother with purpose and intention when you’ve taken the time to figure out what your main intentions really are!
Worksheet: Your Intention as a Mother
QUESTION: What are YOUR intentions as a mother?
CHALLENGE: Use the worksheet provided or just write out your own list of intentions as a mother. Then work bit by bit to make your intentions reality.
Photo by freedigitalphotos.net