Am I a Good Mom? Part TWO of learning how to drop the Mama Guilt
For whatever reason we Mom’s think it’s somehow our job to make our kids happy. Why do we think this? Of course we WANT them to be happy and have a fabulous childhood/life but wow, that’s a lot of responsibility and frankly, impossible. So on our PART TWO post I want to focus on this: It’s not your job to make them happy.
Reflect back on times when your child was a baby and crying. What did you do? – What we ALL do, right? We picked them up, loved them, cuddled them, shushed them softly telling them that everything is okay. So from the get go we get into the habit of soothing our children and we internally take this role upon us for all time that it’s our JOB to make them happy.
But it’s NOT our job. We’re NOT supposed to. What we are supposed to do is LOVE them, TEACH them, and PROVIDE for their needs – which, when they were babies is what they needed – they needed comforting arms, they needed soothing shushes. Babies are equipped with the capabilities YET to sooth themselves. So your role and job as a good Mama is to TEACH them. You teach them that everything is okay. You teach them that you’re there and that you love them. You teach them that when they’re afraid and hurt they can know that you are a source of love, support, and comfort.
Fast forward several years and we’re still doing similar things. When our child doesn’t get the role he wanted in the school play and is sad. We feel sad and tend to mirror his emotions then we feel like we need to do something to MAKE him better…and what’s worse is when no matter what we do, he’s still not happy. Then bring on the guilt. We rack our brains trying to think of new ways to make it better for them. We’re feeling guilty that we can’t make them happy or FIX the circumstance for them.
During those times, we show up in a loving manner…whatever that looks like for you. However, it’s not our JOB to fix it for them. It’s not our job to MAKE them happy. Maybe the BEST thing you can do for them is allow them to experience what they need to experience.
They’re human and need to experience and learn to process negative emotions just like we do. What better time for them to learn it then when life offers it to them. If you’re constantly trying to take it away from them then you’re not TEACHING them how to process it when it comes. This is problem because these situations pop up all throughout our lives and if we don’t teach them to deal with disappointment, anger, sadness, frustration, etc when they’re young then they’re going to have to learn it as an adult…which tends to be much harder. Wouldn’t you rather them learn how to manage those skills now while they’re young and when you can guide them through it?
A baby chick needs to break free from it’s eggshell to start off it’s life healthy and strong. When you see it start hatching and you watch them struggle instinctively we want to help them. We don’t want to see it go through that – it looks hard! But what happens when you help it?
The chick doesn’t get the strength it needs to survive and more than likely you’ll cause more harm than good.
It’s similar with our children. If we’re constantly helping, hovering, and “fixing” their problems for them THEY are not getting the skills they need to thrive in their lives. Later on down the road they’re going to struggle more because they didn’t learn the necessary tools needed to manage circumstances that arise in life.
Please don’t think I’m telling you to back off and not be involved. Totally not saying that AT ALL. Yes, help. Yes, teach. Yes, LOVE. But ultimately this is their trial and their life not ours. It’s not our job to fix things for them or to take those trials away from them. This is how they’re going to grow and become who they need to be and who they CAN be.
Okay, let’s run a few examples:
My daughter has this teacher for one of her classes that is (in my opinion) a little different. The way this teacher manages their class is completely opposite of how I would do things. The teaching styles and controversial nature of how this teacher conducts the discussions isn’t what I would consider to be the best style. My daughter feels uncomfortable in this class. She has a hard time going sometimes because she feels like she’s not being listened to. There’s a ton of little things that make it frustrating. As her mother of course I don’t want her to feel frustrated or not listened to! I want to fix it but I also know that in life we’re going to come across times and situations when we’re going to feel that someone does things differently than how we would. We’re going to feel like we’re not being listened to and what do we do as adults if we don’t LEARN how to process and manage these kinds of things now?
So instead of rushing in there and giving that teacher a piece of my mind I waited. We talked each day and tried to come up with solutions and possible choices she could make to find common ground. It’s been months of trying little by little and no, it’s not perfect yet but she’s learning, growing, able to recognize that everyone is different – even adults and that it’s okay. It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to learn how to deal with disappointment. It’s really good to learn how to speak up for your needs. It’s also really good to learn how to still grow, learn, and thrive in a setting that is less than ideal.
She’s learning and I’m learning. It’s not easy for either of us however, it’s a necessary part of life both for her to learn those skills and for me as a mother to let go of the mama bear in me and let her learn those skills.
Here’s another one:
Christmas, birthdays, and gifts seem to be a touchy one for a lot of Mamas. We so want our kids to LOVE what we give them. To be overjoyed at what’s under the tree on Christmas. But what if they’re not? What if they’re totally disappointed when they tear open that package and it’s not what they were expecting? Mama guilt again.
We want to fix it. We want to make it better so they feel happy. But this is NOT our job. What they consider to be great and happy is totally and 100% up to THEM. There was this one Easter several years ago that I just wasn’t feeling like doing anything big. I was fed up with the clutter around the house and the constant kid mess and the LAST thing I wanted to do was to fill their Easter baskets with more junk. So I bought them useful things like, a pair of flip flops – cute and customized to their tastes (like sharks for my son, ballerina’s for my daughter – you get the idea), I put in a tshirt or something, I don’t remember but everything was useful and wasn’t a dollar store waste of money that was going to be in the trash the following week…also, minimal candy. I was thinking, they don’t need a bunch of sugar!
Oh, you should have seen their faces when they found their baskets. It was so sad. They tried so hard to put on a happy face but it was beyond clear they were sorely disappointed. In that moment I had a surge of guilt. In all the time up to that point where I felt like I was doing a good job and giving them things that are still “fun” – the tshirt and flip flops but just not junk. And in that moment I wanted to go back in time and fill it with all that cheap stuff just so I didn’t have to see them look like that.
That took some mental work…what they consider to be FUN – isn’t my job. FUN comes from within. It’s a thought. To me, what I provided was fun. It was still personalized and special but it wasn’t what they were expecting so naturally they were disappointed…and THAT’S OKAY. They’re supposed to learn disappointment. They’re supposed to learn how to manage their thoughts and emotions around their expectations. This is a HUGE issue a lot of adults still have! Wouldn’t it have been nice to have learned this when you were a kid?
Now, I’m not saying purposely do this. I could let go of the guilt because I did what I felt was the most like LOVE for our family at that time. We really didn’t need the dollar store games and toys. We had an abundance and the evidence was all over my floor. We did need flip flops for the upcoming summer weather. I could feel okay because I did my best to make it fun for them – to love them and to provide what I could and what I felt as their mother was best. The rest is up to them.
You get to do what feels most like LOVE for you…and that includes gifts and Christmas and Birthday times too. It’s okay for them to be disappointed. It’s a necessary skill that is a blessing to teach them how to manage that while they’re still in your care. Don’t take that from them.
Okay, last example for today: Sadness. We’ve moved not super long ago and this was a difficult time for our kids. They had lived there most of their lives and made really close friendships. When we were talking about moving we had guilt arise in us as parents because we didn’t want them to be sad. We didn’t want to see the tears and see them sad. But we also felt strongly that we needed to go. We decided that it was okay to learn how to say goodbye. It was going to be okay to learn how to manage sadness. When we told them we explained that it was okay to feel sad. It’s absolutely okay to feel nervous because we don’t know what they new area is going to be like. It was going to be okay because we’re still a family and we have a lot of love and we can do hard things.
It was a difficult transition for a little bit. They were excited about the new area but it took some time to adjust and find new friends and make new connections here. We never told them that they shouldn’t feel sad. We didn’t try to fix it for them or distract them from how they felt. We just loved them through it and taught them when they needed direction and help learning how to manage how they were feeling.
It really is okay for our kids to be sad sometimes. They’re supposed to. It’s a part of being human. It’s okay for them to be frustrated, disappointed, or angry even. Don’t take away these opportunities for them to experience everything they need to. It’s not our job to fix things and make things fun and exciting for them. Our job is to LOVE them. Love them the best way you know how. Know that they might feel like it’s not enough at sometimes – that they can be disappointed and upset with YOU – and it’s okay. It’s all part of life and learning.
You can feel clean about how you’re showing up and okay when you do those things that make you a good Mom: Loving, Teaching, and providing for their basic needs.
Part three coming up soon on Providing. Check back tomorrow!
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