“Fathers, (mothers) do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21 (NIV)
I have three terrific kids. They work hard, try to do their best, and are obedient without being perfect. I’m always telling them perfection would be boring…however, lately I’ve been saying perfection would be boring but expecting much more out of them then they deserve. I think it’s stemming from another round of Mom Guilt, only in a different form.
Two years ago, I wrote a post titled Mom Guilt where I talked about how I felt guilty that I wasn’t the mom I imagined I should be. This year, I had huge plans for our summer. It was going to much more relaxing, I was going to have time for leisurely lunches with my kids, afternoon dips in the pool, road trips, hikes at the zoo, and much more.
If the first week of summer break was any indication, they spent the week requesting to go places, me feeling guilty for working so hard that I grudgingly gave in, then all of us having a miserable time because it was “rush, rush, rush” with very little fun. To make matters worse, I looked at our calendar and we are busy almost every single week. For a mom who chose before spring break that our summer was going to uninterrupted, lazy, and full of spontaneous memory-making moments, now it’s just one big penned-in calendar with little time to schedule sleep or bathroom breaks. What happened to the leisurely dips in the pool, spontaneous road trips, or afternoon reading sessions?
First of all, I had to realize that two years ago mom guilt looked different but stemmed from the same place – my mindset. My children are old enough now to realize that just because they want to go somewhere, even if it seems life or death important, they are capable of waiting for a more appropriate time, like when my work is at a natural stopping point. I have to realize it’s a good thing when I allow them to experience delayed gratification. I don’t have to feel guilty for saying, “later” when going now creates more of a burden than benefit.
Second, I realized my kids, despite how grown up they appear and how mature they act, are still children. They are going to ask, they are going to stretch the boundaries that are there, and they are going to try and get me to change my mind. That is their job! It’s my responsibility as the adult to set the boundaries I can live with and then stick with them. If I continually give in to going places out of guilt but then make their lives miserable while we’re there, I’m not honoring God with my attitude and I’m not modeling good behavior. I need to let my “yes” be “yes,” and my “no” be “no” and try to say yes as much as possible, when reasonable. In addition, I need to establish rules with my kids that when I’m working, constant interruptions delay the completion of the work and then the reward they are waiting for may not occur. Again, though, it’s my responsibility to create the boundary and stick with it, possibly giving natural consequences as a result if necessary.
Last, childhood should still be fun. I have one chance with my kids while they are this age. One. There are no do-overs. They are only each age for 365 days…period. Not to add to my guilt, but instead to challenge me to make the most of the ages they are. To realize that life doesn’t need to be super serious all the time (a lesson I constantly need to be reminded of). That work doesn’t have to be finished first, every single time, but when I find a good stopping place, take advantage of the laziness of summer and make a spontaneous memory with my kids. Do I want them to remember me always working, always yelling, and that they can never make me happy with what they do?
Nope! I want my kids to remember spontaneous trips for ice cream, swimming for 20 minutes filled with laughter and games, catching lightning bugs, or a spontaneous trip to the beach because mom got her work done early. I don’t want to be remembered as the “crabby mom.” However, I’m the only one that gets to make that choice.
This will take some work. When life gets busy, my personality doesn’t naturally think peace and tranquility. Life doesn’t slow down by itself. I will have to actively choose what mom I want to be every single day – the crabby mom who allows her mom guilt to scream or the fun mom who realizes and chooses what’s most important – living every day with the least amount of regrets as possible. The only way I will make a good choice is to stay connected to my Father, who is the creator of peace and fun. For that reason, I’m choosing to stick with the basics.
© Cheri Swalwell 2014