While I truly believe child rearing is one of the most joyful and fulfilling experiences a woman can have, the ugly truth is that it's often a formula for low self-esteem and a whole lot of self-doubt.With your hormones raging, your sleep so interrupted and an unlimited amount of parenting pressures, unsolicited advice and judgement from others, it's easy to constantly feel like you're not doing enough and that your kids deserve better. For certain women, self-confidence comes naturally, but for many of us, it takes daily work to recognize our successes and accept our flaws.
I'm four years into my journey in motherhood and I still struggle with this. No matter what I do, I can't seem to stop the self-doubting dialogue that runs through my head: I'm not disciplining enough, I should play with them more, I'm being too strict, my house should be cleaner, I'm selfish for wanting alone time, I need to be more organized, I need to be more patient, I look like a bad mom, I need to eat healthier, my kids need to eat healthier, why can't I be more like that mom? And so on and so on.
But, I'm getting better at it. And over the last 4 years I've found that the more I go with my instincts and accept them, the happier I am and, in turn, the happier my kids are.
The truth is, there is no 'perfect' mother. You are right for YOUR baby. You are exactly what your little ones need, mistakes and all. And you're learning from them as much as they're learning from you.
Here are 5 simple tips to help you feel a little more confident in motherhood:
1. Make a "Parenting Plan" With Your Partner.
No two people are exactly alike, and that's especially true when it comes to parenting. Once we had kids, my husband and I quickly realized out that we actually had some big differences in our approach to things like discipline. Arguments over parenting choices will only bring division to your family. When you and your partner stand as a united front, your little ones will quickly learn the rules and know what to expect. Consistency also makes day-to-day life run a little smoother, which will make you feel better about your choices. Book a night to sit down together, connect and talk about what your approach to all aspects of parenting is going to be. Write it down if you need to, you can refer back to it later if things start to fall apart.
2. Follow Your Gut and Be Okay With Whatever That Is.
Feel like your baby just won't do well with sleep training? Then don't do it. Find that your little one does better with a super-regimented routine? Great! Feel like formula-feeding is a better choice for both you and your little one? Go for it, mama. You know your baby best and your intuition should be your guide. Just because another another mom does things differently doesn't mean you're doing things wrong. Go with what feels right and trust that your instincts are there for a reason.
3. Be Self-Aware and Learn From Mistakes.
This is a hard one, because it can easily translate into being TOO hard on yourself. Take a little time every day to reflect on what worked well and what didn't. Find joy in your successes and take note of what could have been better. Maybe you needed to follow through on rules more. Maybe you didn't like that you lost your cool and yelled. Maybe you just needed to listen to your body and give yourself a break. Reflection will help you be a little bit better tomorrow while also allowing you to celebrate all the amazing things you're doing! And don't beat yourself up over a bad day. Every single mom on the planet has them and they are absolutely necessary for growth.
4. Accept Biology and That Every Child is Different.
While one kid may have trouble in a large play group, another may join in the fun with no hesitation. One parent may not ever deal with tantrums over screen-time, while another one has to set strict rules to avoid big dramatics. Every child has a different personality and biology is a huge part of who they are. It's why two siblings are never exactly alike: My daughter is calculated and cautious, my son is rambunctious and fearless. She was speaking in sentences by 18 months, yet at the same age he hardly says 5 words. They were raised in the exact same household with the exact same parenting style. Keep doing what works with your child's personality and they will keep blossoming into the person they were designed to be. That's one of the most magical things about motherhood - embrace it!
5. Have Realistic Expectations of Yourself.
Guess what? You won't be able to do it all. You won't be a perfect mother every day and you'll make mistakes while living through all the ups and downs that come with raising a family. Don't set the bar so high that you can never reach it. I promise you will burn out and sacrifice your own sanity and health in the process. A happy and cared-for mama is the best kind of mama there is. Take time for yourself when you need it, practice self-care and don't get caught up in the seemingly picture-perfect lives you see on social media (they're not). You are doing an amazing job. You are doing the best you can. Your baby loves you more than anything and is so lucky to have YOU.