Sometimes you can feel as though you have this mothering gig nailed. At other times you can feel as though you’re helpless to avoid being consumed by it all, paddling as fast as you can but not making any headway.
What makes the difference between the good days and the not-so-good days? Can we tip the scales in favour of more good days? Is it possible to be proactive about improving our effectiveness as mothers? I posed this question to a few mum friends. I pooled their responses with my own ideas and came up with some tips to share.
And here’s the result: 175 sure-fire ways to make every day a great mum day! (Just kidding.)
Actually, lots of ideas but no guarantees. Here are five tips for more effective mothering.
- Embrace mothering
Perceptions of yourself are important. Perceive mothering as the thing you do – not as the thing that gets in the way of what you do. When you became a mother your life changed. Make sure that your perception of yourself has changed with it. The really important thing you do these days is mothering your kids. Own it. Rejoice in it! It does not have to be the only thing you do and you don’t have to become ‘lost’ in it – but, whether you work fulltime outside the home, or fulltime in the home, or part-time in each, you will be more effective as a mother, and more satisfied with your mothering, if you acknowledge the value of your role. Whatever curveballs motherhood throws at you, an ‘embrace’ attitude will be your ally. This is your real life now and you don’t get a chance to go back later and do anything you may regret leaving undone. So, live motherhood to the full in a way that the future you would be proud of and content with.
It’s not always easy to plan ahead and be organised. It takes energy, focus and time. But it will help you to be effective. I find my ‘go to work’ mornings start better if I plan the night before what I’m going to wear. I’ll find any unpleasant surprises (about unwashed or unironed clothes) in time to do something about it. Lunches planned (or prepared) the night before are also time and stress-savers in the morning. Some children appreciate planning. It can help if you prepare kids for what’s coming up. If your child is slow to adjust to change, some mental pre-planning and setting of expectations can reduce stress for them as well as yourself.
- Don’t let convenience rob you of opportunities
Effective mothering is rarely done to schedule and often takes time. Especially when you’re busy! You cannot always plan ahead for the challenges your children will face, whether they are behavioural, developmental, interpersonal, misunderstandings, worries or health issues. Part of mothering is to help your little ones learn to manage life on their own. They need to develop coping skills, social skills, confidence and resilience. Time spent with your child, even if it comes at the most inconvenient of times, is an investment in them. Investing in your children is an important part of effective mothering. Grasp those opportunities when they arise as these are the most productive times for learning and training.
- Be intentional about discipline
Discipline is not a synonym for punishment. And it’s not about winning power struggles. Discipline is about training your child to successfully manage his or her own life. Discipline can take many forms and may vary depending on the personality and learning style of your child. Whatever form of discipline you use, consistency and follow through will increase its effectiveness for you and your child. Don’t threaten punishments in the heat of the moment that you will feel uncomfortable about enforcing. Be moderate in your approach, always focused on the desired outcome. This includes maintaining a loving and mutually respectful relationship with your child. A consistent and intentional approach to discipline when your kids are young, even though it’s a lot of hard work, will lay the groundwork and set expectations for the older years.
- Savour the slowness
I used to think I was busy when I had a preschooler. Every task was slow and intermittent because, with a small child at my heels, it wasn’t possible to get a clear run at anything without interruptions. When she was in school, I got things done much more quickly. I could walk fast around the shops, quickly to the bank, hang the washing without stopping to admire lady beetles, then rush to bring it in before school pick up. Curiously, my life felt much more hectic and rushed when I was on my own! It made me appreciate the slowness of the preschool parenting years, walking at the pace of toddler footsteps and with frequent stops mid-task to answer a question, marvel at clouds, watch an ant, prepare a snack, do silly actions to a song or put a bandaid on a grazed knee. Life in the early years felt full and busy – but in retrospect, even they were full-on, they were actually slow-paced. Enjoy it! Making an effort to get into the rhythm of slowness will be good for you and good for your kids. You don’t need to rush motherhood. The future will still be there waiting for you when you’re done bringing up kids.
What are your strategies for effective mothering?