Finding affirmation of a mother’s instinct

Day after day, I read article after article about how to be a good mom, how to raise ______ children (that’s a fill in the blank because it could be happy, resilient, well adjusted, vegetable eating… just to name a few), how to parent with confidence or with intention or with patience or with any number of other things, all without royally screwing up my kids. I own a shelf full of parenting books about sleep, discipline, nutrition, and so on. My husband and I discuss, analyze and sometimes agonize over the choices we’re making, the actions we’re taking, and the ins and outs of our kids’ choices and actions. I talk with friends about the battles we are (or aren’t) picking with our kids. I’m on multiple listserves for moms – from finding great deals on Zulily to area mothers’ group functions. I read the Huffington Post Parents Facebook feed religiously. I attend lectures about hot parenting topics. At one time I thought this might all be a bit obsessive. And while all of this is truly informative, it’s even more exhausting! But the harsh reality is that this is parenting today.

Great Job gold starWe’ve all heard about, talked about, even joked about helicopter parents. Have we ever stopped, though, to ask why this generation of parents is hovering so closely to their kids? The truth is that helicopter parenting is a result of helicopter media telling us how to parent, why to parent, when to parent, what to parent. There’s a study and an answer for everything. Access to information has never been so easy. And, there’s plenty of mommy bloggers (myself included!) spouting their own opinions about everything from…well…everything.

But at the heart of it all – the literature, the studies, the scientific findings, the opinions and the judgments – isn’t there still a mother’s instinct? Where has trust in our own instincts gone? We have so diluted this instinct that we are now dependent on others to tell us what’s right. Sure, there’s always learning to be done. And yes, we should absolutely share with one another – it definitely does take a village. But where are the affirmations that we’re doing just fine? The confirmations that our instincts hold some weight? The declarations to moms everywhere of a job well done?

If I could write a letter for moms everywhere to see, it would go something like this:

Dear mothers everywhere,

You’re doing great. Yes, the sleepless nights (whether from a crying baby or newly driving teenager out past curfew) are rough. Yes, you haven’t slept in weeks/months/years. Yes, your patience is tested daily and your perseverance hourly. And yes, life is different than you imagined it would be. But the biggest yes, the biggest affirmation of all, is this: you are a great mom. You are doing a great job.

The dishes piled in the sink from dinner last night or the baskets of laundry yet to be folded acting as your family’s communal dresser are more affirmation of a job well done. You are busy. You are tired. You are juggling a million balls in the air, and you’re doing it well. At the end of the day, a parent’s job is never done, and to this you are no exception. Because whether you tackle the dishes or the laundry, or you take a break, you are doing a great job.

Raising children is no easy feat. From cooing/crying babies to terrific/terrible toddlers to children going on teens to teens going on thirty, you’re doing great. So next time you want to pull your hair out, or you question your abilities, your instincts, or your knowledge of whatever is making your three year old (or thirteen year old) throw a tantrum, remember this: The days are long, but the years are short and moments (and frustrations) are fleeting. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself. Enjoy every moment you can (and those that you can’t will be over before you know it). You’ve got this and you’re doing great.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

5 thoughts on “Finding affirmation of a mother’s instinct

  1. When I wake up, I check my e-mail in bed. If you have posted, I always read your post before I read anything else. What you write is so uplifting that it starts the day off fresh with a new perspective. In Sweden, they don’t talk about “helicopter parents,” but rather “curling parents.” Curling, of course, is the sport where the team sends a stone skidding across the ice and then races in front of it, sweeping the ice with push brooms so that the stone stops exactly where they want it to.

  2. Great post Ryley, It has been said that all kids really need is parents who love them and each other. I would add that kids also benefit greatly from having their feelings acknowledged even if the answer to their request is “no” or “not now,” age appropriate experiences that help them delay gratification so they can develop some impulse control and begin to realize that other beings have needs too, and some autonomy over their own lives (perhaps the child in the sporty family that prefers art gets to do art instead of little league without feeling she is a disappointment), again when appropriate. And I think trusting your instincts will go a long way toward making the “right” response when things come up. All those books can’t possibly substitute for your own wisdom, you who know your child and your values best!

  3. Soapbox- no. More like a balance of graham crackers, Cheerios and healthy snacks being juggled while trying to take two steps forward, and one step backward. Parenting is like doing the cha-cha(old time dance) while living in the circus called life with kids!

  4. You and my son are doing a great job! Your children act normal, are loving and very special to me. I couldn’t ask for the sweetest, most loving grandchildren.

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