Here is how it happens to me. I read a book, talk to a friend, or see a parenting show on TV, and suddenly I’m sure I have the solution to all my problems. I prepare, research, design, and over think everything. I put my new plan into place as soon as I can, and hope for the peace, serenity, and joy it has promised.
Then, just days later, I throw in the towel yet again. The new plan didn’t work. Either my kids hated it, or I did. It didn’t fit our situation, our schedule, our preferences, and our values. Somehow, someway, it just didn’t work.
So I go on the search again. I’m always looking for the “perfect plan.” It’s the one plan that has everything I need, solves every issue I’ll ever come across, and fits perfectly with our family. If you guessed that I’m still looking, you’re right.
My oldest son has ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), and as I’ve researched ways to help both him and the family, I’ve come across a lot of “perfect plans.” One of the leading experts on ADHD suggests a fairly complex system of rewards for good behavior. It includes earning points for chores and other good behavior, redeeming those points for all activities big and small, and a couple different ways of tracking who has what points available. With three children under the age of 8, this was simply too much to handle. I’ve simplified it to fit our family. Instead of tracking points, we just know that unless your chores are done and your attitude is good, the electronics stay off and friends can’t come over.
Chore charts are another issue in my house. For my daughter, they are very motivating. My sons couldn’t care less about charts and points and pictures. Instead of trying to force everyone to enjoy the cute pictures and clever ideas as much as I do, I just make a small chart for my daughter, and find other ways to remind my sons of their jobs. Everyone is happier.
Many times as I’ve discarded most or all of a “perfect plan.” I’ve felt discouraged and wondered if I’d ever succeed at mothering. Then I realized I’ve been building our perfect plan all along. By choosing one good thing over another good thing, I’m doing the best I can for our family: and that’s okay.
I am slowly coming to realize that my way of mothering isn’t at all like anyone else’s, and that my differences are a good thing. My children are nothing like anyone else’s, and that’s a good thing too. If I mothered them the same way my neighbor did, they’d be miserable. Her children would probably stage a revolution if she tried things exactly my way.
Mothering my own way, without comparing myself to others, is difficult for me; but with the failure of all those “perfect plans,” I have found a desire for more independent and individualistic parenting. We’ve cut out activities that no longer meet our needs or detract from the more important uses of our time. I’ve decided that family breakfast can be just as important as family dinner. I’m setting aside my guilt about paying for preschool instead of participating in a neighborhood co-op. I’m nowhere near the “perfect plan,” but now that I’m looking inside myself to find it, I’m closer than ever before.
QUESTION: What are the things that you do differently than the mothers around you?
CHALLENGE: Can you stop comparing your mothering with those around you? Choose one thing you do differently and honestly evaluate whether it blesses your family. If it does, let go of the guilt. If not, look inside your heart and ask for family input. Is there a better solution for your family?