I used to think that being a good mom meant sacrificing my needs at all costs. I know many moms believe that to be true. Now, I think that this kind of thinking derails us from the peaceful and happy moments that we hope to have with our children.
Today my parenting is less about being perfect and more about being real. That has made me a better parent. Not perfect parent, just better.
Here are three simple changes I believe made me a happier and more confident mom!
Letting go of my need to be perfect allowed me to let go of the guilt I felt when I took care of my needs. The old saying, "put on your oxygen mask first" not only helps me be a better parent, it also allows me to be a role model for my children. I don’t want my kids to grow up and feel overwhelmed and stressed because they ignored her own physical, emotional and mental health trying to be perfect. I want them to know that it is okay to make mistakes and keep striving. Embracing imperfection motivated me to write "Lose That Mommy Guilt" and has continued to remind me how the drive to be perfect made motherhood so much harder. I am more forgiving of myself and of my children. I accept my imperfections as I strive to improve. I recognize the negative effects that my perfectionism had on myself and on my family. I see how much added stress my negative judgments caused me. My negative self-talk and inner dialogue did not motivate me to be better. Only accepting myself did.
It is so easy to get caught up in all the negativity and focus on what isn't going well in life. Instead, take a few minutes to recognize what is working and what is going right. What we focus on tends to be what we recognize. Our minds are selective and put more importance on what we consciously focus on. If we are always looking at and thinking about what is wrong or negative, we will see more of it. So take some time each day to reflect on what is going right! This is a great habit to start doing with our children. My kids and do a practice I call "Fill Your BAG Happy". We imagine a BAG that collects negative energy, stress and other problems from our day and we visualize dumping it out and refilling it with answers to three questions that spell out the word BAG. B- What is the Best and Brightest part of my day? A - What did I Accomplish? G - what am I truly Grateful for?
Allowing my thoughts to come and go without holding on to them or pushing them away allows me to not get caught up in believing my thoughts. I can now more often recognize when perfectionistic thoughts drive my emotions and actions in an unhelpful way. Mindfulness taught me to be more patient and created a distinction between “reacting” and “responding.” If you are new to mindfulness, it does not have to be overwhelming. Just a few minutes a day can have an impact. There are some really great phone apps that can guide you. My favorites are calm, headspace and insight timer.
Self-care looks different for different people, but for me it is about embracing imperfection, gratitude and mindfulness for a happier, healthier and more productive me!
Photo: Cara and 12 year old daughter at Muckfest 2016. Post also found on maximize-wellness.blogspot.com