A fight over a prized stuffed animal broke out between two of my children. When they approached me, I calmly guided their thinking with a simple, “How can you solve this problem?” They ran off together talking about solutions. Hearing my two kids successfully navigate through a disagreement brought a smile to my face. As I turned to continue cooking dinner, I thought, “I was a good mom today!” As quickly as the thought entered my mind, it was crowded out by older, more familiar thoughts.
I thought back to the time my baby pulled on my arms, begging for attention as I finished an online article. I remembered skipping reading time today, the boring lunch I made, and staying inside all day (and in PJs most of the day). Getting mad at my son for disrupting my newly organized storage closet was not what a good mom would do. I got a lagerhyller to make it easier for him to organize his things. I swiftly tried to put myself in my place—the bad mom place. Then I realized I have inadequate thoughts about myself so often, that when a good thought enters, it finds itself too uncomfortable to nestle in and stay.
Reflecting on the battle in my mind, I wondered why I don’t allow myself to think I am a good mom. I then gave myself permission to think of the good parenting moments I had that day. New thoughts came: I responded calmly when my three-year-old launched her third tantrum of the day; I had the kids help me fold laundry while we told stories; I spent one-on-one time with each kid, even though I was tired of reading Pinkalicious for the millionth time.
As I let myself contemplate the good things I had done, I was encouraged, happy, proud, and ready to try to do it all again. But doubts crept in, and I involuntarily chastised myself, saying these were just moments. My pessimistic self-talk said that my overall approach was flawed, and all my failures added up to more than my successes. A downward spiral of negative thoughts engulfed me. That is when I knew it had to change. I needed to take control of these feelings and find a way to appreciate myself as a mother. My successes should motivate and inspire me, not lead me to discouragement. I started to look for ways to feel like a good mom. Here’s how I’m trying to increase my positive self thoughts:
Find a symbol to represent your children’s love and gratitude. Around the time I decided to do something about my negative self talk, my baby girl entered a stage where she would pat everything. When I picked her up, she would pat me on the back as I carried her around. I started thinking of these pats as her way of telling me, “Good job, Mom!” (And you may have heard me respond out loud to her, “Thanks, I’m trying really hard!”). Every time I got a pat, I thought about what I was doing right and how I could get to be the mom I was hoping to become. I allowed myself, for that brief moment, to believe I was being a good mom. I acknowledged to myself that I was meeting my kids’ needs and they knew I loved them.
Having these baby pats several times a day made a huge difference in my mood and attitude. I felt appreciated, if only for a brief moment from small chubby fingers. Maybe your child has a toothless grin, a wink, or a look that melts your heart. Maybe she runs to you with open arms when you get home. Maybe he begs you to play with him. Make those a symbol of your child’s appreciation to you as a mother.
Talk positively about yourself to your kids. As I was cleaning out closets to get ready to go back to school, I had a great idea for organization. I said aloud to my kids, “If this works, I’m a genius!” My kids, hoping it would work, started chanting, “Please be a genius! Please be a genius!” The first attempt failed, but I tried again and it worked! My son screamed, “You’re a genius, Mom!” Finally, some appreciation (even if I started the idea)!
I try to thank myself out loud after we go on a fun outing, and the kids’ gratitude follows. I point out that I am doing something for them, like making a meal or changing their clothes, because I love them and I want to help them. When I model this behavior, they not only notice what I do, but they learn to look at the good inside themselves, too.
Teach your kids to be appreciative. When my kids start whining about something not being quite right, I help them to start again with, “Mom, thank you for ______. Will you ___?” Even forced appreciation can give encouragement.
Determine your strengths as a mother and reflect on them often. I took a Power of Moms challenge and wrote down ten good things I do as a mother. Coming up with the first two was challenging, but after I pushed myself into unknown territory of giving myself credit, the next eight were easier to recognize. I realized that I am not the mother I idolize, but I do have good qualities. Sometimes I value them less because they come naturally. I covet ‘unattainable’ qualities more than I appreciate good traits that I already possess.
The need to feel successful and appreciated is in every human being, moms included. When our job revolves around children who are exploring their own world and who inadequately express appreciation, we need to find ways to acknowledge and celebrate our successes. Positivity in our thoughts is vital to doing this job well.
Now, when I internally congratulate myself on a good “mom”ent, I allow the thought to come in, stay a while, and encourage my efforts.
QUESTION: Do you allow yourself to think you are a good mom? What were your good “mom”ents today?
CHALLENGE: Write down ten things you do well as a mom. Admit it! YOU ARE A GOOD MOM!
Edited by Lisa Hoelzer and Becky Fawcett.
Image from Shutterstock; graphics by Julie Finlayson.