Wednesday, May 22, 2013

confidence in motherhood: is it even possible?

Written in response to my blogger friend (and real-life friend) Courtney DeFeo's post "Confidence in Motherhood: Is It Even Possible?"  Someday I'll learn to write short posts. Until then, thanks for hanging in there with me.


No matter our profession, I think we all have days where our confidence wanes and we wonder "Am I doing this right?  Am I the right person for this job?" Motherhood is no exception.   The modern-day myth that we should be uber-confident, "I'm-doing-an-awesome-job-and-I-have-it-all-under-control" women simply isn't realistic.  Just like any other job, there are places where moms feel sure-footed, and there are places where we feel lost at sea. It's normal for our confidence to ebb and flow a little bit.

A little bit is OK, but I have about eight years of journal entries that mention feeling "unconfident" about my job as a stay-at-home mom.  It didn't cripple me, but it popped up almost every day in some form -- feeling like I should be doing something more.  Like being a mom wasn't enough.  I feel like I'm finally on the other side of this strife, and I write today because I believe there are two big reasons why a mom's confidence in her role is something worth fighting for:

1.  Being (and being around) someone with crummy self-confidence is no fun. Your husband doesn't want to come home to a whiny, bedraggled, "this is so hard and I don't think I'm doing a good job" wife.  He just doesn't.  Should you lie and tell him your day was simply fabulous -- that going to the grocery store with a tantrum-throwing 3-year old and baby with a runny nose was better than Disney World?  No.  But the next time you're tempted to rattle off some huge speech about how hard your day was, why not come up with something better to say? Find the good. Sure, being patient with little ones and methodical with discipline and crafty in meal planning can be redundant and exhausting, but it's our job -- and we can either focus on the pros or wallow in the cons. And wallowing in the cons is a sin, so cut it out.

2.  Our attitude toward motherhood (and work, and marriage and everything else) rubs off on our kids.  They hear a fraction of what we tell them, but learn a ton from what we show them.  Even if you come from a long line of worriers or complainers or woe-is-me'ers, quit it.  Decide that you'll be the one who breaks the chain.  Go ahead and pass down the DNA for good hair or straight teeth, but for Pete's sake, stop the train of low self-confidence and self-defamation.


Sometimes our feelings are really just bad habits.  That's where I was.  Wondering if I was "doing enough" had simply become part of my daily to-do list, and it eventually became a distraction that stole my joy.  I didn't wallow around in pity all day, but in my own little mind, I couldn't quit wondering if this was "all" I should be doing.

I prayed incessantly that God would take these feelings of inadequacy.  Nothing changed.  I memorized scripture.  Nothing changed.  I reminded myself of the importance of my role and gave myself pep talks.  Nothing changed.  Truthfully, I don't know what caused the shift (probably the prayer), but this feeling of inadequacy has lifted (rejoice!), and below are three things I believe can help foster (and maintain) a healthy level of self-confidence in motherhood.

Try

My confidence as a mom is not unlike my confidence in my physique.  When I'm exercising regularly and eating fairly well, I don't really even notice my body.  I don't look in the mirror to see if my face looks bloated or check to see if my triceps jiggle when I wave. When I'm taking care of myself, I don't think about whether jeans hug my booty too tight.  It's easier to be confident because I know I'm trying.

But when I'm eating junk and and skipping my morning jog, I become really self-conscious.  My mood turns sour, I notice every lump and bump, and I look for my "fat clothes" when I get dressed in the morning. The scale might not have budged from last week when I was taking good care of myself, but my confidence has taken a dramatic turn.

When I'm trying -- when I'm doing things I know are good for my health -- I feel more confident about how I look.

Similarly, I'm confident as a parent when I know I'm trying.  What does this look like?  For me, "trying" might mean something as fundamental as wholeheartedly doing things with our kids, like playing soccer out back, helping our daughter with her piano lesson, or jingling a rattle for the baby.  Other times it means working diligently on planning nutritious meals, keeping up with the laundry, or reading bedtime stories without looking at the clock. It can be as simple as starting my day praying over each child, asking for eyes to see who needs what from me that day.   "Trying" means giving it our all -- doing the best we can, whether it's reading about discipline, being consistent with consequences, or playing a game of hopscotch.  Sometimes I actually say the word out loud to myself when I need a little prod.  "Try."  There's great confidence to be found in working hard. 

{Aside: on the days I feel most confident, I'm trying AND I'm undistracted.  I'm not building Legos and texting.  I'm not walking behind my 2-year old on his tricycle and talking on my phone.  I feel most confident that I'm doing my job well when I don't have an iPhone in my hand.  But that's just me.}

Be with old people.

I get by with a little help from my friends -- especially the older ones.  I have a handful of ladies in my life whose children are grown, and spending time with these women gives me confidence (and refreshment!).  The little things that challenge me on a daily basis -- the temper tantrums, the ear infections, the potty training, the learning to read -- these things become so minor when I'm with moms who have already traveled that road. Being with older moms gives me perspective about my "problems."

When we only surround ourselves with moms who are in our same stage and phase, it's easy to become extra wrapped up in the minuscule things of the moment and miss the big picture.  It's hard to see the forest for the trees.  I'd encourage you to reach out to a few women you respect whose children are older than yours, even if it's just by a few years.  There's great confidence (and wisdom) to be found in spending time with people who have "been there, done that."


Take your job seriously.

Think of your job as a mom like it's a high ranking corporate position.  Asses your specific responsibilities and look at your daily flow.  Define your long range goals for your family and each child, and develop a strategy to reach them.  Evaluate strengths and weaknesses within each person in the "company" and determine how you can strengthen the weaknesses.  Consider what activities within the "organization" can be eliminated (or added) to create greater efficiency or enhance corporate culture.  Think like a CEO.

Reflect on the job you held before becoming a mom (or the job you currently hold).  If you weren't confident in your ability to complete a task, what did you do?  Feel sorry for yourself?  Lay your head on your desk and pout?  Decide your corporation was doomed?  Of course not!  You put on your thinking cap to solve the problem, and asked for help from a veteran.   Motherhood is no different.  Use your mind, be cognisant of which tasks deserve (and get) your attention, and make time to learn from those who have more experience than you.  Treating motherhood like a profession instead of just something you do every day is a great first step in becoming a more confident parent.

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2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. I'm about to leave my job and become a stay at home mom and the change is daunting. I needed to read this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for this. I'm about to leave my job and become a stay at home mom and the change is daunting. I needed to read this.

    ReplyDelete