Friday, 29 November 2013

I will get there

Recently I was at a family event with my sister (who has 4 kids 5 and under), and I realised that I'd forgotten something in the frog's nappy bag. I often do that - I'm constantly forgetting a bib, some snacks or a change of clothes. My sister on the other hand always has these things on hand (thankfully for me). My brother-in-law told me to wait until we had four. My sister said that I didn't have to wait that long - that after the next one comes I'll be better at remembering.

I've thought a lot about this encounter since then. See, my sister is one of those people who keeps everything together and running without the need for laminated routines and schedules. She doesn't have whiteboards and blackboards and a family binder. In other words, she organises her family in a different way than I do. Her approach is more laid-back and less obsessive than mine. But everything gets done, and here's the clincher - it gets done more in her house than in mine. In her house where there's a slightly over-emotional 5 year-old, a clingy 4 year-old and nursing, dependant, only-mommy-will-do 1 year-old twins. Her kids are always well turned out for school with packed lunches, she hoovers more in a week than I do in a month and she constantly reads parenting advice. (If it's not clear by now, she's my Supermom).

So, what am I getting at here? This isn't actually a post about sibling rivalry or Supermom comparisons. That situation I described initially made me realise something, and that is that I will get there. The idea of having two kids under 2 scares me, and I wonder if I'll cope. The thought of having 4 kids under 5, or twins, scares me even more! But what my sister teaches me every day is that parenting is something you develop at - you get better all the time. I'm constantly learning about patience. I'm learning how to be a better cook for a progressively-picky toddler. I'm learning when something is really wrong with him, and when he's trying his luck. I know with the next one I'll be a calmer, more laid-back mother. I will get there - I will develop into the mother I want to be.

My sister and I are very different people and run our households differently. But if she has taught me anything it's that with each passing year and each passing child, I will get there. Every time I whisper instead of shout, I am getting there. Everytime I put the TV off so I can play with the frog, I'm getting there. I won't do it the same as she does and I know my children will be different from hers (especially as our husbands are very different people). But I now have confidence that soon I will pack the nappy bag better. And just that thought gives me the courage to have this next baby.

In what way do you want to progress as a mother? How can you see yourself developing? How will you get there?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

"At least I'm not like her" Moms

We all have our Supermoms – those woman we look up to and admire, as well as envy and compare ourselves with. I think we can agree that the former are good things that may help us become better mothers, the latter break down our confidence and destroy our self esteem. But what about when we do the opposite? What happens when we compare ourselves with our "at least I’m not like her" moms?

I’m sure we’ve all done it – I know it’s something I’m especially guilty of. I watch a show, be it Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, One Born Every Minute or (gulp…) Honey Boo Boo. After watching I feel a small glow of smugness, because I KNOW I’m a better mother than they are. I won’t allow my (theoretical) girls to dress provocatively, I had my children at a good age with a husband, I’ll emphasise education and teach them good manners. I get a break from my mommy-guilt because I’ve seen the others side – the ‘bad’ mothers.

And don’t just think I wait for an extreme show to do it (and I understand those are). As much as I’m a lot more understanding since having children, I still judge the mother who’s smoking while pushing a pram, the grossly overweight one with a child heading the same way or the one that's yelling at her child for being a child. And while I’m judging them, I’m congratulating myself for being such a wonderful, health-driven, calm (insert adjective here) mother.

So, why am I making these confessions (and maybe changing your opinion of me?!). Because I reckon I’m not the only one. Having the moral high ground is something I think most people enjoy, but when it comes to mothering I wonder if it can do even more harm than our Supermom comparisons. Here’s why:

#1. It sets my standards too low
Some women are unfit to be parents – that is a harsh thing to say but something I believe. But those people – paedophiles and abusers – are those the people I want to compare myself to? Not abusing my child does not mean I’m a good mother, it means I haven’t had the background that has pushed me to that kind of desperation. I want to be a good mother by God’s standards, not by the worlds. And finding the lowest denominator of mother and comparing myself to her will not improve my mothering skills, it will lower them.

#2. I’ve probably been an "at least I’m not like her" mom
I am sure that at some time in my short life of mothering, another mom has looked at me and thought ‘I’m a better mother than her’. Maybe it was that time I lost it in ASDA and yelled at the frog, or when I hoisted him by his arm and marched him to the car. It could even be the day-by-day way I raise my frog – I’m sure some people worry that I’m brain-washing my child with all this ‘religion’, or that I’m not strict enough and he could do with a good wallop. If I’m judging other mothers, surely they’re doing the same to me?

#3. It stops me encouraging other mothers
If I’m too busy thinking that I’m better than another mother, I’m certainly not going to be encouraging her. I know how much it would mean to me when the frog’s throwing a tantrum if someone came up to me and told me I was doing a good job and to hang in there. Or if someone told me that they’ve been watching the way I do things and they’re impressed with my patience (oh how I’d love someone to think that!). Instead of judging these women, I should be encouraging them.

The truth is, I like being able to say I'm doing a better job than someone else. I liked getting better grades than my classmates (which made me popular, I can tell you), I liked being the 'good' one who avoided worldly influences (well, tried to...). But mothering shouldn't be another one of those things I try to 'win' at. There shouldn't be winner and losers in mothering - there should be a group of women, trying to do better and encouraging each other to do the same. Does it mean I'll stop judging other mothers (or stop watching those shows)? Maybe not entirely. But it does mean that I'm going to try to raise my standards and encourage other women, while always remembering that there are many things I could be judged on as a mother.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Toy rotation

I've found for a while now that the frog only plays with a few choice toys, often the ones that end up on top of his toy chest. We are so blessed with his selection of toys, but he was getting bored with the few he always played with. So taking a suggestion from Organising with Littles, I decided to start a toy rotation. To do this I got 5 boxes that would fit into our toy chest, and then separated out the frog's toys. Into each box I tried to put a vehicle of sorts, a soft toy, something electronic and then a 'main' toy. The toys too big to fit into boxes have gone into a large 'alternate toys' box, and I've left his blocks and books out at all times (I don't want to restrict his access to either). I also have a toy returns box, for those toys that didn't quite make it into the right box.

I've noticed such a difference in the few weeks we've been doing this. At the beginning of the day I get a box out and show him what's in there (I've found this to be really important to get him interested). He will then quite happily play with those toys he hasn't looked at in months. I try to keep the same box going for a few days, and then switch over. He's getting bored much slower now, and a happy consequence is my living room is considerably tidier!

What our toy chest looked liked before...