I like to think that I am a good role model for my children, but the reality is that I mess up a lot. This is something I am very open and honest about. While I do know and understand that I am getting motherhood pretty darn right in a lot of ways, there are definitely areas where I can and absolutely should improve.
Some would say that unhealthy habits are a part of everyday life for people, and I totally get where that idea is coming from. Yet at the same time, these unhealthy habits don’t need to be a regular part of our day.
Healthy is not just about your physical well-being. Being of healthy mind is equally, if not more important. In addition, just being “healthy,” both physically and mentally, isn’t enough.
Our children are looking to us to be their constant example, and I will tell you that I am not all too happy with the example I have been setting as of late.
Here are 10 unhealthy mom habits that we must stop now:
1. Negative Self-Talk
I am ashamed of myself when I think about how many times I have said in front of my children “Mommy doesn’t feel pretty” and “Mommy is not too bright.” It is so important to me that my children are comfortable and confident with who they are, but if they are constantly seeing and hearing mommy speak poorly about herself, what does that teach them? If I am ever going to stand in front of a mirror in front of my children again, I sure as heck better be speaking positive affirmations to myself instead of constant critiques.
2. Giving Into Anxiety and Worry
Not all moms are as anxiety-ridden and worrisome as I am, but some are right there next to me. For those of us who do get anxious, it is typically a completely involuntary response to our stressors and can often be very debilitating. The problem with us openly feeling our anxiety and stress in front of our children and around our spouse is that our negative and fearful attitude can rub off on them. In You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking and Taking Control of Your Life, neuroplasticity researcher Jeffrey M. Schwartz, MD, and psychiatrist Rebecca Gladding, MD, teach us that the best way to rid ourselves of anxiety, worry, and other unhealthy habits is to “make your brain work for you” and “to starve” your anxieties, ultimately decreasing the influence and strength they have over you.
3. Rushing Around
As mothers, we tend to move through life and our day at an accelerated pace because there is always just so much on our plates to get done. But when I am rushing, do you know who suffers? I do, and my children and my spouse. My whole reason for being so fast-paced is to keep our little family “machine” running, but when I speak and act like a rushed lunatic, no one in my family wants to be on the machine. And then guess what? I get upset that no one is doing what I need or want them to do as quickly as I want them to do it.
So, what is the lesson? That rushing can be deceiving. You may perceive that you are getting a lot more done at hyper-speed, but truly (most of the time) you’re half-assing your to-dos and frustrating all those in your path in the process.
4. Living in Fear of Judgment
Judgment from our spouse, our friends, our parents, our children’s teachers, their pediatrician, the local moms group — you name someone and I am pretty darn sure that I probably fear judgment from them. But why? Why in the world do I live my life this way? I want my children to know their mother as someone with strong opinions, who has her own convictions from which she doesn’t stray despite the negative words or glances aimed at her.
5. Poor Eating Habits
Why in the world I act as though I am so deserving of the indulgences I take, and why I feel as though I have earned them after a long day, is beyond me. I have a strange relationship with food in that I think about it a lot, and often spend so much time contemplating what should be allowable or not based upon what my scale might say. Momma should not be eating cheese and crackers for dinner while serving everyone else a hot meal, just so that she can splurge after the kids go to bed. If my children have to eat from the five food groups, so should I.
6. Overcommitting Ourselves
We need to start saying “no,” and saying it a lot more often. In The Power of a Positive No: Save the Deal, Save the Relationship and Still Say No, William Ury provides concrete examples and stellar advice on how to productively and respectfully say “no” so that alternatively you can “say ‘yes’ to what counts — [your] own needs, values, and priorities.”
7. Not Making Self-Care a Priority
When I don’t take care of myself, take breaks, and find time for balance, not only do I suffer, but so does the rest of the family. Parents (and mothers, especially) can feel so guilty about taking any time for themselves. But the truth is, when we decompress, we return to our family in a better state of mind.
8. Letting Your Voice Be Silenced
I raise my children to have a smart mouth, but when it comes to my own, I censor it — depending upon the crowd. Why do I do this? How confusing must that be for my children. I need to be a model of respectful communication for them.
9. Playing the Comparison Game
This gets you absolutely nowhere, and it gets you there fast. Or actually, it gets you somewhere — it takes you to jealous town, and you know what? No one looks good in all green. Check out I’m Happy for You (Sort Of…Not Really): Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison, by Kay Wills Wyma, as she discusses the problem of excessive comparison and competition, and the fact that it steals our joy. Additionally, Wyma offers simple remedies to help you reboot your perspective and live more authentically.
10. Not Focusing on Your Relationship With Your Partner
Your relationship with your partner or spouse is the basis for how your children will compare all of their relationships. In most cases, whether they mean to or not, they will attempt to duplicate a similar partnership to the one they grew up observing. This is why, more than anything, you need to love your partner as you want your children to be loved, and why you must be willing to consistently ask “what about us?”
As you can see, this mom still has a lot of work to do in order to become the healthiest version of herself and the best role model and example for her children. But wouldn’t you say that one of the healthiest decisions you can make as a parent is to recognize and modify your unhealthy habits? Well, I’ve got it started for you. Now, it’s your turn.