Today's Ask Me Anything topic was a request from Kathryn, hi Kathryn!! She asks:
What are things that you used to worry about as a young mom but don't bother you now?
Let me start out by saying that the more years I have under my belt as a mom, the more I realize the less I know. It's a humbling vocation for sure. So I think there are a LOT of things that don't bother me as much now as they did when I was 28 years old and already a mom to four kids.
Back then, I definitely felt an external pressure to make sure I was doing a good job raising kids, not complaining about the hardships we faced, and making it appear easy to others. I would see a harried older looking mom of many, with her kids wearing mismatched clothes running everywhere and think that she was doing a bad job in portraying big family life. She made it look hard and dirty and chaotic. I wanted to be the complete opposite of that, I wanted to make it look attractive. My kids were on strict schedules, they were bathed each night, they wore matching clean clothes and taught manners and how to behave in public. They were disciplined swiftly when they needed to be (we used timeouts and talks) and they towed the line. They were practically perfect little kids, at least in school and in public.
By the time I was 37, having my 7th baby, I had slowly become that other mom. How judgy my young and perky self had been. I got her now, she was just plain tired. She was doing her best and she knew what battles to pick and choose with her kids. I cared less and less about appearances (still nightly baths though! We could be clean if not coordinated!) and focused my attention on raising these kids right and not caring what that looked like to the outside world. I realized my job was to raise my family, not be the poster child of big families. That was too much pressure! It's not so much a "giving up" as it was a "giving in" to the needs we had, the energy levels we had, and the different personalities of our kids. And just when you think you have the mom thing figured out, God sends you a child to test you, believe you me.
The little ones may have less strict rules because they see what the older kids are doing and want to be involved, where we could keep the older ones in a bubble. So they played video games earlier, or they stay up a little later, or ate sweets more often and the older kids are great at reminding us of how unfair it is! There are plenty of times when the little guys will be naughty and the older ones will laugh, which doesn't help with discipline, and I can see why younger kids are often spoiled or bratty. But there are so many perks to having this wide family too. Phil and I may be getting older and more tired by the minute, but we have four teenagers who are full of energy and enjoy doing certain activities with the little guys. Before he left for college, JP took them all to Target to spend their Christmas gift cards they received. Andrew has brought Declan to his basketball practices and Xander to piano lessons. Eamon and Maggie still play with the littles on a daily basis, making up games on the trampoline and keeping them entertained. Seeing the family members all chip in this way helps me not to worry about my role as much...if they don't get all the time/attention/lessons from me, they're getting it in spades from everyone else.
I used to worry more about their friends, until I realized that if we just raise them into people we like hanging out with, they will hang out with people we like. I remember trying to push friends on my kids because they came from a good family or from our church, and then those kids ended up being bad news bears while the friends they chose were much better influences. We can only shape and mold them so much, teaching them our values and morals, manners and kindness, and then we have to trust them.
While I was a Straight A student, and it's very important to me that my kids work to their full potential (no laziness!), I do not worry about the occasional low grade or homework slip I have to sign. We use it as a teaching tool and move on quickly. Let's be honest, a C on a test in 3rd grade does not matter over the course of one's life. Eighth grade matters to get into highschool, and high school matters to get into college and then a graduate is a graduate. Building good habits like studying and working hard are what matters for those elementary years. Praising kids for those characteristics is so much more important than praising them for an A.
I do not worry as much about their diet as I used to. We provide wholesome and nutritious food for them, but if someone is picky at a certain meal then they just don't get dessert. They get veggies with every dinner, but most of the times I just throw carrot sticks or cut cucumbers because nobody rebels at those. They get a cup of whole milk before bed, which helps fill the belly of anyone who chose not to finish their dinner, but doesn't count as dessert. And honestly, they all eat dinner and lots of it now that the youngest is six. I know that in the grand scheme of things, they are getting what they need nutrient wise. It may just be chicken heavy this week and dairy heavy the next. We almost always have leftovers in the fridge for the older kids to eat if they need a fourth meal at night, and everyone takes a multivitamin. All of them have great physiques and play sports or workout (things we find important to model for them) so we're healthy and doing our best.
Speaking of sports, that's another thing I don't worry about as much. We joke that our kids peak athletically in 8th grade, meaning they seem so great in their sport and then they get to high school and everyone is so great. I used to think that my fast 5th grader might be a college track star and then he decided to not even join track in high school. So now I don't worry about their future in sports as much, and try to let them lead with their interests. They don't have to be THE BEST, they don't have to participate in anything they don't want, and they don't have to compete against their siblings success. I am even so much more relaxed about the college process with the 2nd one than I was with the 1st one, even though that was only 2 years ago. Time has a way of settling one down and life has a way of humbling you and making you realize you're not as in control as you thought, so just let go and let God.
Kids need few things in this world, what they crave is love, stability, support and a safe place to land. Being that stressed out young mom worrying about all the little details is just not worth it. Being a more relaxed, more patient, more loving mom who cooks nice meals and keeps the house as clean and calm as possible are what matters to me more now. I don't want my kids to be at home by force, I want them to choose hanging out with us, or feel confident to travel around the world and know they have a mom praying for them and awaiting their return when they're ready. I will never regret giving them too many hugs or compliments, but I will always regret snapping at them for something silly. Discipline with lots of love and lots of communication and leave the rest in the hands of Our Lady to mother them when I'm not around.
This post is gold!ReplyDelete
Thank you Maureen!Delete
As a mom of two, two and under, this was so encouraging and also convicting to read. Thank you!ReplyDelete
And you know what? You can't get to the place of a seasoned mom without going through all the seasons of all the years, so I hate to put down what used to worry me when I think I *had* to be like that to get to this point, you know? You're in the trenches right now! It gets easier :)Delete
This post is great and everything I needed tonight. I’m a mom of three young boys. I consecrate them to Mary everyday, but the end of your post was a reminder for me to trust her with them.ReplyDelete
My sister-in law (who's also a Sister) once told me that as much as I loved my kids, God loves them even more. I always think about that when I worry!Delete
I so needed to hear this as the mom of a 7, 5, and 3 year old and one on the way. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Congrats on the new wee one!!! You are in the trenches girl, and it gets easier year by year!Delete
Well said. Love this post. I think I used to worry more about how they were doing in school. I soon learned that their performance improved when they cared more than I did. I think my biggest and hardest lesson as a mom - I can't control everything. Early on, I believe I tried too hard to control everything - like who they played with. If I knew then what I know now, and if only I could figure out what else I need to know. I agree, I feel bad about the times when I lost my cool and I don't think I can ever give them too many hugs.ReplyDelete
Giving up control is so hard!!! I think our faith helps us with this so much because we can sort of pass the torch to Our Lord and Our Lady and not worry quite as much!Delete
Oh this was so lovely and wonderful and such great advice. I am trying to soak it all in. With just the one kid, I feel like there's so much riding on "getting it right"... when she's not a goal to be achieved, she's a person to be loved. It's a lesson I have to relearn all the time. I love hearing about all the things you once thought mattered that don't, really, and that's humbling and comforting and cheering in equal measure.ReplyDelete
What a nice comment, thanks Suzanne!Delete
Time has a way of settling you down. Truthiest truth ever. Thank you for this.ReplyDelete