Most mothers would find a sweet sense of pride as this phrase is uttered by her child. I suppose I should too. This statement from my eight-year-old son is a result of our family Sunday dinner game. Everyone around the table says one nice thing about someone else. We’ve loved the game, and I know it isn’t about me; but after weeks of the same compliment I ask myself, “Isn’t there anything I do well as a mother besides cook?”
Motherhood is not a glamorous job. We are surely not doing it for the financial income. There are no promotions. No one wants our picture, autograph, or even our opinion. We don’t even receive evaluations. Feedback often includes statements like, “You’re a mean mother,” or “I wish I had never been born in this family.” Not super inspiring.
For myself, leaving behind the world of positive feedback and constructive criticism was one of the hardest parts of motherhood. Here are five ways I’ve discovered I can evaluate and gauge my own progression as a mother.
1. Do I Set Goals?
As a new mother, I was overwhelmed at what I could no longer accomplish. I couldn’t believe I had to set a goal to fit a shower into my day. Thankfully we’ve progressed past that, but I’ve learned sometimes my goals are simply survival, and that’s okay. Other times I can set goals for all different areas of growth in my life.
2. Do I Remeber Perspective?
A couple weeks ago I was looking for a photo and came across some photos of my children from five years ago. I became emotional seeing my boys again as a baby and toddler. How they have grown! I think we get so busy in life, we forget to look back at how far we’ve come.
I was reminded that even though it seems like they are not getting the concepts we repeat day-after-day-after-day… the ideas are slowly sinking in like a gentle rain on a small sapling. When I feel discouraged by how little I seem to be affecting my children, I think it helps to remember the distance we’ve traveled together.
3. Am I a Pillar of Love?
When our children are the most difficult, it’s the easiest time for us to be down on ourselves. I know I have one little guy that tries my patience daily. I often feel down because I lose my temper with him. It’s so hard when he chooses to forego rewards because he refuses to be obedient. But even when he goes to bed early, I always try to go in before he falls asleep and hug him and tell him I love him.
As mothers, the greatest thing we can give our children is a pillar of love to lean on. I feel that if I can go to bed every night knowing I have expressed my love, I am succeeding as a mother.
4. Do I Allow Room to Grow?
This is where I struggle the most. No one expects a ten-year-old to move out and get an apartment. Then why do I expect myself to be the perfect mother when I’ve never been a mother before? It’s so easy to be down on myself for all my shortcomings.
I’m learning that as I face the challenges each new phase or child’s personality presents, I need to allow myself a learning curve. I’ve started treating myself like a science experiment and evaluate the way I handle different situations.
My son ‘forgot’ to do his math facts before he went out to play. I called him back and he went ballistic. I became angry. I found myself in a heated debate and power struggle. What did I like about my actions? What did I dislike? How can I handle it better next time?
When a debate resurfaces, try again. Did I improve? (I did! I used my ‘nice voice’ and followed the protocol for consequences of his behavior.) If not, what was the glitch? How can it be changed? What part of the situation is variable? What is not?
Slowly, I’m learning more about myself and how I handle things as well as how my child reacts to different behaviors. I’m finding the best way to handle a situation just in time for the next challenge to present itself!
5. Do I Celebrate Accomplishments?
Don’t we spend much of our time rewarding our children’s good behavior? Who’s to say we shouldn’t reward our own? Lately, I’ve been trying to give myself positive reinforcement. If I have that moment where I control my temper when I thought I would lose it, I praise myself. “Good job Mom! You held your tongue and kept your cool!”
Every year on my child’s birthday, I write in his journal how much I love him and how much he’s progressed: a moment of celebration at what I have accomplished in another year of raising him!
I try to attach appropriate rewards for accomplishing my goals to remind me how I’m progressing. I have found that a moment of quiet and doing something for myself is a great reward for a day’s work done. My husband and I celebrate making it through Monday by watching a movie as we fold laundry together.
We are planting fruit trees in our yard this fall. I know it will take years before we really have the opportunity to enjoy the fruit. Just like the growth of a tree, parenting often takes years before we see the fruits of our labors. Taking the small steps, looking back along the way, and celebrating the accomplishments can make all the difference in enjoying the journey.
QUESTION: How do you ‘grade’ your progression? Are there areas in which you can better encourage your own progression?
CHALLENGE: This week, pick one of these questions for yourself and evaluate how you are doing. What are you doing well? How can you improve? Set a goal and then celebrate when you’ve accomplished it.
Image: Family O’Abe at flickr.com
Originally published June 28, 2012