Staying Home Instead
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 15 No. 2, March-April 1998, pp. 58-60
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
I am the mother of two children. Although I know that I am doing the best job I can, I sometimes feel disappointed that I am not the perfect mother that I imagined I'd be. The children watch more television than I would have wanted, and although I enjoy doing things with them, I am not as patient and understanding as I would like. In my head I know that I am doing a fine job, but I have a sense of falling short of my potential. Has anyone else felt this way? How have they coped?
I try to take a practical approach to this problem in my life. One thing I do when I feel this way is to pick one thing that I would like to improve on. I identify a specific problem, for example, yelling at my children when we are trying to leave the house. (I am impatient and I am tired of repeating, "Put your shoes on!") Then I come up with different tactics to try, such as: A sign on the door that says "Do not yell" or I tell them five minutes in advance what the plan is, using eye contact and breathing deeply to remain calm. Just knowing I am trying to improve makes me feel better.
I also like to remind myself that we don't pick the times that are going to be most special; they happen spontaneously. By being home all the time, I am creating more opportunities for these special times to happen.
To find the support I need, I connect with a mom who seems to be doing well and it gives me a boost. Just visiting a friend who is having a strong week or day helps me. Then when she is feeling low, she can turn to me for support! And I never forget that I can say to my children, "I am having a hard time being nice today. Please be patient with me." Hope this helps!
Julie Ann Breindel
Aldan PA USA
I think that many other mothers have felt this way. I know I have. I have three young boys; ages two, five, and seven years old, and we're expecting a new baby in a couple of months.
I've had to adjust my expectations several times throughout the past seven-plus years. I thought I'd be playing with them all day, but I quickly learned that there were other things I liked and needed to be doing around the house. I try to guide my sons in making choices and join them in some of their activities, and they know I'm available. And yes, some days they do watch more television than I like, but I know every day is not like that.
If our overall picture of ourselves is balanced, then it's okay to have days when we wonder if we're meeting our goals as a mother. If there are too many days feeling depressed about how we're doing, then maybe it's time to find a good counselor, religious advisor, or trusted adult friend to help us sort through the feelings. Maybe we need some outside perspective to help balance the picture. I've done this myself, and it's been very reassuring!
This is our work, and we need encouragement and support just as any other professional does. I wish you the best in your mothering journey!
JoAnn Pomper Barham
Oklahoma City OK USA
Although you have chosen to be home with your children, it isn't always perfect. Even those who work outside the home in their ideal job have bad and stressful days. Learning to watch for the causes of the stress can help you to prevent, or at least lessen, the effects of any negative situation. Regarding television viewing, I believe it is more important to control what they watch than how much they watch. It can help to keep it to educational, nonviolent programming.
When I'm having a particularly difficult day and have little patience left, it's usually when I've been trying to do too much and the kids are bored. So I stop what I'm doing, turn off the television, and read books or go for a walk.
Having a friend with similar aged children that you can talk to helps a great deal. Laughter may be considered the best medicine. Have fun and laugh with your children!
Macomb IL USA
Unrealistic standards can be our own worst enemy when it comes to seeing ourselves as "good" mothers. "No TV," "health food diet," and "no aggressive play" are perfect goals, but they're just that - perfect. In their ideal form they are unattainable. I've had such goals, but now I have two children. My two children aren't perfect. Neither is my husband, nor am I. Consider reasonable goals that reflect your values, and do your best.
If you haven't yet done so, find a support group of mothers. LLL meetings would be a good place to start. Sometimes, seeing the human side of other mothers is comforting. Making new friends who are in a similar situation can be a big boost to one's confidence and self-esteem. Besides being involved in LLL, I've found it helpful to join another organization which serves other mothers and includes my children as part of the volunteer service. Reaching out to others has boosted my self-esteem immensely.
Look at other aspects of your life which might cloud your perspective on mothering. Are you getting enough sleep, proper nutrition? Is your spouse helpful or do you feel overwhelmed by your tasks? Do other members of your extended family offer support, or stress? Do you think you might be depressed? Make sure your own physical and emotional needs are being met.
Finally, do your children know you love them? Are they growing up to be good and loving human beings? If you can answer "yes" to those questions then I'd say "Good job, mom!"
Cathy Coon Bitikofer
Manhattan KS USA
I can certainly identify with not living up to an image of being a perfect mother. I have four children and especially as they have gotten older, it seems as if my influence on them has lessened. My level of patience is what I'd most like to increase!
As you said, you're doing the best job you can. That's where you look for your answer. It sounds as though you really believe that statement, so give yourself credit for it! Sometimes when all of my children were at school and I was home alone, I'd just wander about the house, puzzling in the quiet loneliness, but enjoying time to think. After a day like that I'd start giving myself grief that I hadn't done anything "worthwhile" like housework or paying bills. But I realized that I need time for myself, too, so I forgave myself, and gave myself permission to do that.
Forgive yourself for not being perfect - be assured that it's a goal that's impossible to reach, but an ideal to strive toward, which is how you do the fine job you are doing. Bask in the joy your children give you, from the first baby smiles and gurgles, to the time when you'll hear your teenager stand up for something that's right and realize that you taught her that value!
It's human nature to analyze and criticize yourself, comparing yourself to others. Instead of falling into that trap, try to be as compassionate and encouraging to yourself as you are to your children. When you finish something or handle a situation with patience, tell yourself you did a good job. If you've been short with one of your children, apologize and don't forget to forgive yourself, too! You deserve the same compassion that you extend to others.
Scranton PA USA
I am also a mother of two, one preschooler and a baby, and I saw myself in your situation. Children can be rewarding and a great source of joy, but they can also exert great demands on us. When your patience and understanding run out, perhaps it is because you are tired and stressed out.
It pays to remember "you can't pour from an empty vessel." Examine your routine. Are you are making time to meet your own needs and those of your children? You worry that your children are watching too much television: how about sitting yourself down beside them with a bottle of peppermint foot lotion? You could give each other foot rubs. If you suggest a favorite recording of music, they may even turn the TV off.
Sometimes we all just need a break from mothering. Is there someone who could look after the children while you lie down for even half an hour? When I get this opportunity, I try to sleep or write down my frustrations.
The fact that you are conscious of having high expectations says to me that you love your role as a mother, and are probably doing a wonderful job. I hope you are also able to find some time to receive love, both from yourself and those close to you.
Catherine von Schulmann
Lillooet BC Canada
I've struggled with perfectionism, as a mother and in other areas of my life. I've come to understand that trying to be perfect is destructive. Being so hard on yourself won't help you be a better mother. Accepting yourself will make you feel happier and can help you as a mother. Several things have helped me. First is focusing on the things I am happy and proud of. I've even written down lists of things the kids and I did that day that I felt good about. This is a suggestion from The Winning Family by Dr. Louise Hart. Focusing on the positive makes a big difference.
I also recognized that in trying to do everything right, I wasn't allowing myself opportunities to learn and grow. I benefit much more from trying different things and making mistakes. Most mistakes aren't fatal. My kids have probably watched too much TV but I think they are turning out fine.
This new attitude sets a healthier example for my children, who also have problems with perfectionism. By trying to be perfect myself I put a lot of pressure on my kids to be perfect. This led to a lot of conflict between us. I found myself trying to control their behavior at inappropriate times. I've found it much more effective to give my kids the opportunity to be less than perfect and to learn from their experiences. I've managed to stop feeling that everything they did was a direct reflection on my parenting. That helped a lot.
I'm not saying you shouldn't try to be patient and understanding with your children, but it's helpful to recognize that they are strong, competent, self-confident kids who can survive times when you are not that way. Use those times when you are impatient or angry to show them healthy, respectful ways to express impatience and anger. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish and Love and Angerby Nancy Samalin are great resources. As our children grow and are increasingly able to meet many of their own needs, it's beneficial that they learn that you are a real person with needs of her own and that you don't exist just to meet their needs. Take care of yourself and enjoy your family.
Lincoln NE USA