Hold this weight over your head…
Just like that- Don’t let go…
You are so strong!
The perception of what we can do as mothers and what others think we can/should do as mothers seems to run the gamut. Should we stay home and take care of the kids? Should we work and contribute to the household financially? Or both? These questions have long been on the minds of women who are interested in both a family and career. Does it make us strong to do both, or weak if we choose one or the other? The expectation of what it means to be a good mother is still very ambiguous. The stereotypical perceptions of sacrifice for women have been long defined as career and other leisure activities while for men, the emphasis is financial. In modern society it is easy to feel overwhelmed by portrayals of a “good mother” or a “strong mother”. We tend to think we must carry the weight of the world on our shoulders and can’t put it down or we won’t succeed. Here are some guidelines I have to help keep a perspective on being a parent and avoid the mouse trap of unrealistic parenting expectations.
Be the parent you always wanted. As a child, perhaps you had an idyllic childhood, or conversely perhaps you didn’t. Either way, as you matured and pursued a family of your own, you developed your own ideas of how you would like to raise your children. Many of us can reflect back and say, “I want my kids to have (insert childhood memory) because it just made my life great and I will always remember that.” There are also times where you may look back and say, “I will never do that to my child!” The wonderful part of being a parent is the opportunity to carry on magical traditions, create new ones, and be the parent you always wanted to be! This is what makes families unique and special- I encourage you to think about this as you make decisions regarding your family’s future.
Bring back the village. The idea that you have to do it all is nonsense. In fact, the healthiest of mothers and fathers know that it takes a village to raise productive members of society. It is okay to share the load, surround yourself with supportive family, friends, neighbors, coaches, and teachers who support the values you have started to create for your family. You can feel good about balancing home and career when you have a strong support network. These people will add a perspective that may differ from yours at times, and that is a good thing!
It’s okay to say no. Everyone thrives with structure, including parents and children. Children need to be told no at times. Refusing to say no to your child because you feel guilty about the time you spend at work, does not remove your guilt or help your child. Set healthy boundaries and guidelines so that you are working for everyone’s best interest. Setting limits helps to clearly define expectations and makes children feel safe. Don’t let guilt create unhealthy dynamics and behaviors.
Stay away from fantasy land. When I think of fantasy land I think of Walt Disney World. However, in modern day society, it is easy to view that fantasy world from the comfort of your home on your computer – just click on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. It has become a new art form to portray the perfect life and tell a story that seems so magical. Of course there is truth to some of these stories but much of this is not reality. Many of the important day to day details are left out which does not accurately portray life of most modern mothers or families. I caution spending too much time in these realms as they can create an undue pressure to “measure up” as a parent.
So lighten the load, put the weight down, and practice the work-life balance. It is possible to balance quality time with your family, have a career, and participate in leisure activities without sacrificing happiness, which can lead to resentments and regrets later in life. Parents are capable of giving love, time, and a secure childhood even if they work outside of the home enjoy leisure activities such as going to the gym. To quote one of my favorite leading women and mothers, Sheryl Sandberg from her book Lean In, “If more children see fathers at school pickups and mothers who are busy at jobs, both girls and boys will envision more options for themselves. Expectations will not be set by gender but by personal passion, talents, and interests.” We can set a great example for our children by following our dreams. Sacrificing happiness by conforming to societal pressures is a recipe for disaster. Find that balance for yourself, and teach your children to do the same. You are stronger than you think!