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10.01.2010

The Best Advice You'll Ever Get...

That is, next to "sleep when the baby sleeps."

I know a lot of super moms. Moms that do everything- they work, they make their meals from scratch, they breastfeed past a year, homeschool, take kids to playdates, read to their kids daily, clip coupons... you see where I'm going. One thing that a few of them fail to do, however, is take care of themselves.

If I could give every single mom in the world only one piece of advice, it would be "take time for yourself every day." Depending on your circumstances and the number of kids you have, this may be hard, but it is not impossible. Even if you worked all day and have 5000 things to do after your child goes to bed, take some time to just sit. Even if it's just for five minutes. Do a mindless soothing task, or do nothing at all. Keep the TV off. Just recharge. If you are lucky enough to have some time away from your children, take advantage. Go to a coffee shop and have a latte and just sit. Do some yoga or run.

I know that many moms have difficulty with the idea of leaving their children, especially during the first few years. But if you are lucky enough to have a spouse around, you are doing multiple helpful things for your family by leaving your child with your spouse. You are allowing your husband and child the opportunity without you hovering, you are helping to build your husband's confidence as a parent, and you are giving your children the chance to spend time with an adult whose dynamic and energy is different than yours (for example, I'm kind of uptight and my husband is more laid back and fun- if I leave the kids with him for longer than a few hours I ALWAYS come home to happy, relaxed kids).

Remember- if you are stressed, drained, cranky, or depressed you can't be your best for your family! You are like a pitcher. You pour and pour and pour all day, and eventually you'll be worthless if you don't refill!

Here's the post that inspired me today- it also has good suggestions and reasons why it's important for moms to take time to refuel:

Simple Mom: Space out. It does your brain good

And this is a hotter debate than you may think. There are people out there (like this guy) who really, truly believe that you should never leave your child before around the age of 3. And when I say never, I mean NEVER. The only trip away from said child they condone is while the child is sleeping, but even then only if necessary.

I get Attachment Parenting. Really, I do. I'm a little on the AP side myself. But I think that putting this kind of pressure on moms is dangerous and ridiculous and, well, unfair. I think that attachment parenting should always be done with a team- at the very least a mother/father (or partner/partner) team, but ideally this team would include a grandparent or two (or more!), an aunt or uncle, a very close friend... any close, caring adult who is allowed to bond with the child early on in life and who is there to help and support the parents. Everyone benefits from this arrangement- the child gets to form an important attachment with another adult through whom he/she will experience and learn things you may not know or think to teach. The parents will have opportunities to take breaks when they need them and focus on themselves as individuals and their relationship with each other. And the other "team member" gets to become a part of the family, aid in raising a child, and form a tight relationship with that child that will ideally last a lifetime. Anyone implying, particularly a male, that a mother leaving her child before the age of 3 will cause damage is dangerous because many soon to be or new moms out there, particularly those who have already choosen to AP, will read this and think "I have to do this!" And moms who have left their children in the past will read this and do the typical mom thing- ravage themselves with guilt.

I say it has to stop! Stop the guilt- you can only do what you can do. If you feel inklings of guilt, either change your behavior or kick those guilt feelings out of your head. I'll say it again- YOU CAN ONLY DO WHAT YOU CAN DO. If you feel, occasionally, that you need to get away from your kids and take a break, do it, enjoy it, and come back to your family rested and relaxed. Don't let the guilt ruin your break, causing you to come back testy and resentful. It's a vicious cycle, but the only person who can stop the guilt cycle is you!

Another thing I often hear from mothers concerning leaving their children with other adults is "why would I want someone else raising my child?" I think this is unfounded, and I also believe that it is a little selfish and arrogant. Who am I to say that I am the only adult who has valid things to teach my children? I know that there are many skills and perspectives that my kids can learn from others that I wouldn't be able to teach them. Your children benefit from forming bonds with other adults, as long as these bonds are well maintained and consistent.

Another blog post that inspired this one (from one of my favorite blogs):

Grin and bear it? Parenting, happiness, and the pressure cooker It's a really well written post (as all of hers are) that says a lot of what I just said and more.

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