Making motherhood work

We love moms. We love our moms. We love being moms. We have Mother’s Day, gosh darn it.

But we don’t love motherhood.

We don’t value the position of being a mother. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a full-time working mom, a part-time working mom, or a working-from-home mom.

Why is that? Why don’t we treat motherhood as one of the most important jobs on the planet? Is it because of what society tells us? Is it because we aren’t paid to be moms?

Because surely if someone paid us to be moms, would we be texting our friends while our kids asked us for a snack? Would we demand our kids be quiet while we watched TV?

Now, some might say, well, hey, I deserve a little me time too! I agree. I agree wholeheartedly. But when you become a mom, you have pretty much signed up to take on a job where your boss is now a drooling baby. And then the drooling baby becomes a stubborn toddler. Then the stubborn toddler grows up to be a defiant preschooler.

Is it fair? Is that OK? I don’t know the answers to that. But that’s the way it is. It’s like saying, it’s raining outside but I want to start a fire. Uh, OK. That’s great. I wish you luck as you make that work.

For a lot of parents, we have yet to learn how to make motherhood work. It takes more than patience. It sometimes means reteaching ourselves. It means putting aside our needs to assist our children. Islam gives a nice rundown of some basic upbringing rules.

  • From birth to age 7: Let children be free.
  • From age 7-14: Give your children responsibilities. Let them serve you.
  • From age 14 and up: Treat them as your adviser and friend.

For some parents, the first rule is the hardest. While it doesn’t mean no discipline at all, and letting your kids run wild, according to Islamic scholars, it means letting them engage in what they like, while you create boundaries.

Example:

  • Fantasy: Having a 3-year-old sit quietly during a program or social event.
  • Problem: Expecting our 3-year-old to behave because it serves our purpose. When he wants to run, you get mad and make him sit. He cries and throws a fit. You are embarrassed, and drag him outside. Mom and kid both unhappy.
  • Reality: He’s 3. He wants to run and play. Bring toys or an activity to keep them engaged. Don’t stay longer than you need to. Or if you have to stay, take him outside for a little fresh air and running room, then bring him back in.

But that takes more work! How am I going to chat it up with my friends while I am playing servant to my toddler? Yes, yes it will take more work. Yes, it’s not fun at times to play servant to our children. But that’s just it. While we are letting them run “free” during these early years, we are actually creating a foundation of confidence and trust. Our children know that we love them so much we let them do what they want. They trust us to take care of their needs.

So when you follow these rules, you will get an 8-year-old who wants to please her mom and dad. Because they built and nurtured this foundation of trust and love, your child now wants to please you. They want to help set the table. They want to wash the dishes. They want to serve you. In turn you give them responsibilities to show them that they are big enough to contribute.

And this now obedient child will grow to become a confident, and helpful, adult. Start with the foundation of trust and love, add the responsibilities, and you end up with an adult who is not only independent, but confident. Now you treat them as a friend. You let them make choices, you ask them for advice.

It’s not easy. No, it’s probably the hardest thing parents have to do. This little dance of being calm under pressure.

You are an adult, you think you know how to do it, and here you are literally at the beck and call of a little, tiny, helpless dictator.

But this hard work you put in, the years you will slave over making your kids happy, are all totally worth it. Because in the end you will be churning out an adult who, we hope and pray, will serve his community well. We must treat motherhood with value, because we are raising the next generation.

And that also feeds into the issue that only a stay-at-home mom can raise the best kids. Not necessarily. If a SAHM doesn’t value what she is doing, then she won’t really care to create a nurturing environment. She won’t bother to help her child learn and explore. And sure it will be harder for a working mom to give her child his/her due time, so that mom should really ask herself: Do I need to be working? Is it worth it? Is the money I bring in worth not having enough time with my child?

Bottom line is once we have children, we have a responsibility bigger than any degree, job or project. Our standards should change. Our routines should change. Our lives should change. But for the betterment of our children and families, as God wants. If we are honored to be mothers, we must realize that God has put in our trust these little humans and to treat them as wrongly, would be showing ungratefulness.

Parents: Our own best friends, and our own worst enemies

Parenting is a cutthroat world. Just ask any old mom or dad.

“Your little one is still not potty trained? What are you waiting for?”

Uh, believe it not, I actually enjoy changing diapers!

“You have to sleep train your toddler. You can’t have him waking up every 2 hours!”

No, you don’t know how much fun it is to fall into a deep sleep and be awoken by a toddler slapping your stomach. It’s fantastic!

Bottom line: Your kid is exactly that. Your kid. And you know what is better for her/him.

I made it my mantra after having children. That I wouldn’t tell anyone how to raise their children, even if I knew the secret. Because after having one, I thought every subsequent one would be the same. Man, that did not happen to me.

That being said, offering advice about certain parenting topics is totally fine. Just don’t claim to know everything about everything. Because you don’t and you won’t.

Unfortunately there are still those parents out there who insist on telling you how horribly wrong you are raising your kids. And what’s worse is that they are usually the parents who are new to the game. That’s because experienced parents know how the parenting game works, and how every kid really is different. Plus they are probably living on only a few hours of sleep and are too drained to even care about how you raise your kids.

I once had someone tell my kid that she couldn’t have juice because she was coughing. I meekly smiled and quietly told my daughter she could have some later. But it burned me inside. I’m not dead yet, so leave the parenting of my kids to me. You know, the one who actually gave birth to and raised this child from the beginning.

I’ve also heard new parents shrug off the concept that a child changes your life. God forbid you try to help young couples understand the reality of children. The reality of your now shortened social life. The reality of your now nonexistent free time. The reality of managing a routine. I literally heard a parent say, “My kid will do as I say. I won’t change my life for my kid.” Let me know how that works when you’re at a friend’s house enjoying yourself and your kid starts screaming because she’s sleepy. Because it’s her bedtime. I’m sure she’ll understand if you say, “Honey, just chill. OK?”

But put that all aside, and parents know that you can only talk to another parent when you are having a sleepless night, or weaning a kid from a pacifier. Parents are the only ones who get parents. They can make all those horrible moments feel better with just a reassuring smile that says, “Hey, don’t worry. I get you.” And this is what parents need from each other – to be there to offer support and encouragement when the going gets tough. Be helpful. Offer an ear or a shoulder to cry on.

What many of us don’t realize is those cutting remarks actually do hurt parents inside. Even if it’s an experienced parent. You think a parent who has to change a 4-year-old’s diaper actually enjoys it? No, I certainly don’t think so. What parent doesn’t cringe when they are dealing with a tantrum in public? It makes you feel like the worst parent in the world. How can I, as an adult, not be able to control this 2-year-old anklebiter?? It’s frustrating. And judgmental remarks and disapproving looks don’t help at all. Most of parenting is literally learning as-you-go. Even if you’ve done it before, some kids can still throw you a curveball. Patience and prayer, is your best bet as you navigate the rough waters.

And I truly believe what goes around comes around. So unless you enjoy waking up at all hours of the night, or watching your child writhe on the floor for a lollipop, please don’t attack other parents for things they cannot control. I have seen the universe be quite unkind to those who forget this.

Even if you think that 3-year-old in front of you should not be sucking on a pacifier, just smile and worry about your own kid eating dirt from the sandbox. It’ll put everything in the right perspective.