In my new “career” as a so-called stay-at-home-mom and Simplicity Parenting Coach, a lot of people have asked me for my best parenting tips (including, The Oregonian’s OMamas). I’m always reluctant to answer. It’s not because I don’t have a wealth of personal experience after eight years of trial by fire. I just don’t think that the bulk of my “tips” apply to anyone but myself and how I manage my own unique family. Even my upcoming workshops are geared to be a community discussion and personal inquiry rather than me lecturing anyone.
That said, I want to reflect and share the 3 parenting tips that truly matter to me:
1) Be Present.
Whether you are savoring snuggles with a newborn or in the midst of a toddler tantrum, the key is being present. While I tried to practice mindfulness as often as possible before becoming a mother, being a mom catalyzed my need and desire for mindfulness. I’m reminded practically every moment of the higher purpose I’m here to serve…or the nose I need to wipe.
Being present has been my approach to helping my children learn how to sleep. Even when I’ve been exhausted and sleep deprived, focusing on my breath when put my babes/kiddos to bed has made all the difference. I start off our bedtime reading rhythm by taking several deep breaths to slow us down and transition from getting ready for bed to actually sleeping. It depends on the book, but I often try to take a long breath between each page, taking the time to articulate each word. And when I sing them to sleep, I take more long breaths between verses. The road to a full night’s sleep has been a long one (still ongoing with my newborn getting the swing of things), but I am certain that my presence and patience has given them the space to find the peace to rest.
On a side note, my nearly five-year old daughter fell asleep on her own for years, but since we transitioned to bunk beds two years ago, she has struggled on and off. She became used to sleeping with her brother and now that he wants his own top bunk on most nights, she’s become a high maintenance get-to-sleeper. For the last while I’ve been reading a book of my own with a flashlight next to her while she falls asleep snugged up next to me. It’s become my way of being present to what she needs in the moment…sometimes compromise is part of being present.
2) Be Yourself.
It may be obvious, but being yourself is the best thing you can do. Yet as apparent as this advice may be, it can be easier said than done, especially for new moms. It’s easy to get caught up in what other parents are doing or what your in-laws think, or even some idealized version of yourself as “super mom.”
You suddenly get a new identity as a mom…you’re ______’s Mom. Truly forming this new identity can take years. It’s fine to find new ways to play and express yourself, but not so fine to get caught up in trying to be someone you are not. We don’t all bake bakery-beautiful cupcakes…I learned the hard way that mine are the reason sprinkles were invented. The good news is that as your confidence as a mother builds, so does your new knowing of who you truly are.
Most of all, don’t beat yourself up over doing things the best you know how in the moment (review tip #1 and #3).
3) Be Positive.
I’m a naturally positive person, but becoming a mom really made me more aware of my own negative self-talk. While first pregnant I really started to double-check my thoughts, questioning myself when I would project any type of negative outcome in the form of worrying. I would gently remind myself that I don’t know how things will turn out (who my yet-to-be-born child would become), so there is no benefit in speculating. Even simple things like assuming “if I lay down the baby, they’ll wake right up” or “I can’t leave for an hour or two to take care of myself…what if?” I remember needing to share my positive lens with those trying to “help us” learn how to be parents. And I still need to remind myself that phases pass quickly, and everything is a learning experience for all of us.
Now that our kids are getting older, I can see how my rose colored glasses are shaping their outlook too. They very rarely come to me with a genuine worry, although some selfish concerns still come with the territory of finding independence. Instead our conversations are often filled with gratitude for being able to create our future instead of just worry about what might happen that appears out of our control.
Discovering these “tips” for myself has brought me joy in motherhood, despite the unpredictable and demanding line of work.
For real life practical tips from fellow parents, Parent Hacks is my favorite resource.
What advice do you share with others and remind yourself of?
@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together