August 2, 2013

Five Ways To Be a Better Mama

1. Lighten your tone.

In other words, speak gently. Occasionally, without even realizing it, I start navigating on autopilot. Unfortunately, my autopilot voice, isn't very loving or affectionate. "Pick up your toys!" "Stop making that noise!" "Go sit down!" "Speak SWEETLY to your sister!!!" (Some irony in that last one, huh?) Instead of being an encouraging source of guidance, I turn into a drill sergeant. {shiver} Not. Good.

I've found that the drill sergeant in me, usually makes an appearance when I'm running late, exhausted, or frustrated. When I realize what I'm doing, it takes a CONSCIOUS EFFORT to turn myself around. I have to go to my children and INTENTIONALLY use my sweetest, calmest voice, while substituting these alternatives: "It's time to clean up now, if we all work together we will get this done much faster.""That noise is too noisy for inside the house, we'll go outside in a while and you can be as noisy as you'd like." "Daddy will be home soon, please play sweetly while I finish dinner." "It makes me sad to hear you speak to your sister in that way. We all love each other, so let's speak words that are loving and kind."

It's an awkward transition at first, to go from barking orders to speaking calmly. Your kids may even be momentarily startled to see that the drill sergeant, has been replaced by their loving mama without warning... and on such short notice. That's okay, do it anyway! Make it happen. It will only take a minute for moods to lighten, and for your new and improved tone to feel comfortable. Everything will begin to run much more smoothly, and your lightened mood will give you the ability to think more clearly as you face any new situations that may arise.

2. Go to bed.

If you are like me, after the kids are in bed you take some "me time." Lots of mamas use the hours just after the kiddos are asleep to catch up on laundry, read a book, or watch some television. It's true that it can be a useful time to re-energize our child rearin' batteries, but don't get lost in it. It is too easy to fold just one more load, read just one more chapter, or watch just one more episode. 

Give yourself a bedtime. The next morning, you will thank yourself for using self-control. What you don't get done around the house can wait until tomorrow, that oh-so-tempting next chapter isn't going anywhere, AND that television has a remote. Turn it off and get some rest. Your body, and your mind need sleep. Both you and your family will reap the benefits that come from setting limits for yourself before bedtime

3. Give yourself extra time.

It is hard work for a mama to get herself and her children dressed, ready, and out the door. Throw in a time crunch and run her late, and she might just become unraveled!!! 
Schedule  in an extra 15 minutes to get yourself where ever it is that you are going. 

You know that moment when you are standing by the front door with your arms full reciting the words, "Come on... it's time to go!!" Your car keys are dangling from your finger beneath the load of necessities that are required to take a day outing with children, and you've got one foot on the mat outside of the front door. Suddenly your five-year old emerges from the bathroom covered in toothpaste, and your infant has a diaper explosion of colossal proportions. When this happens, you can call those extra minutes a gift to yourself, and your children. Those minutes will be what keep the fine line between "loving mama" & "drill sergeant", from being breached. For that... your kids will thank you!!!

4. Plan ahead.

Life is ALWAYS less stressful with a plan. If you are taking a big day trip on Friday, then have everything prepared and ready to go on Thursday night. Keep a change of clothes in your car for your little ones. Stash a bag of goldfish or animal crackers in your glove box for an emergency, such as a traffic jam or flat tire. Always. carry. wet. wipes. Have a couple of "go to" options available for a quick dinner fix in case your day runs away from you. Figure out what the needs of your family are. If you get caught out in a bind, learn from it and make a provision that will help if you are in that situation again. 

Of course there will be moments when "things happen". There will be times when unexpected events foil our daily, or even weekly plans. It's a great life skill to be able to "roll with the punches", but the best plan, is to have a plan. If Plan A fails...  then gracefully laugh as you move to Plan B.

5. React slowly.

Clearly there are occasions in mothering that require a "quick reaction." These aren't the instances that I'm referring to. Not every teachable moment requires a lightning speed turnaround. Sometimes the best tool we have available... is time. If your child is in need of discipline and you're not sure which route is most appropriate, ask them to sit quietly on their bed while you take a few minutes to think. Or if it's a matter of answering a tough question, or addressing a difficult situation... have them play for a bit so that you can take some time to gather your thoughts.

Want a quick "for instance?" I'm not sure if this is the best example, but I'll tell on myself and share a time that I "got it wrong, with a quick tongue." It was a Friday evening, we were on the way home from picking up a pizza. My then 7-year old, innocently asked: "When can I start shaving my legs?" There I was, a mama raising two little girls in a world that seems to be spinning faster and faster. A mama who, in a society that seems insistent on encouraging little girls to grow up before their time, is determined to preserve their innocence and let them be little. Needless to say... I overreacted. I snapped back, "Why in the world are you even thinking about shaving your legs. You are way too young to be considering that!!" My husband didn't say a word, but he shot me a sideways glance. I got it. Later when we were alone, I brought it up to him. He simply reminded me that it was just an innocent question, and that he knows how important it is to me that she feels like she can talk to me. 

If I lose my cool when she asks me about shaving her legs as a 7-year old, how in the world can I expect her to feel like she can come to me with more important issues as she gets older?! If I would have put to use the age-old adage, "Think before you speak", I would have realized that a more appropriate response would have been to smile at her sweet innocence, and gently tell her that we could discuss it in a few years.

We are raising children in a busy world. A busy, sometimes scary world. We're gonna slip from time to time, and that's okay. It's okay to make mistakes, but grow from them. When you get it wrong, go to your child and explain to them that sometimes mommies mess up, too. Tell them that you are sorry, and let them know that being their mama is the most important job you've ever had. Let them know that you are still learning, too!

Please don't be mistaken... by writing a post titled, "Five Ways to be A Better Mama",  I am NOT claiming that I've got this motherhood thing all figured out. While I sincerely hope that what I write will bring great encouragement to other mamas, much of what I write is written as a BIG reminder for myself! There are thousands of ways to be a fantastic mama, this list certainly is not all inclusive. These are just a few tips which I've learned through my personal experiences. When I've made these applications in my daily life, I've found that I've felt better about my experiences as a mama.

Have a blessed day!
-Victoria Brake-

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing! Definitely some great advice! First it makes me feel like I'm to alone in this! I felt as if you were speaking directly to me :). Second it made me realize I do need to think before I react! Keeping these points in mind!

  2. Wonderful advice! Thank you for the reminder! I tend to run on auto pilot a lot! Hate the thought of sounding like a drill sergeant.