This is a guest post from Becky Kopitzke of www.beckykopitzke.com
Last week I forked over a ridiculous amount of cash for junior art camp. Why? Because my nine-year-old adores painting and crafting and all things Mod Podge. So I willingly invested in her artistic enrichment.
My six-year-old, on the other hand, is more of a kung-fu type kid. So we enrolled her in karate, including a uniform, belt fees, and of course one of those snazzy logo T-shirts they sell at the check-in desk—cha-ching, cha-ching.
And seriously, let’s not forget swimming lessons, piano lessons, and hey did anybody see the big sale running at Gymboree? Half-price shorts and leggings, people! My children need those!
So my wallet shrinks even as my daughters’ grateful smiles expand.
We’re moms. We give our children what they need and some of what they want, and we justify the cost as part of our God-given job to nurture and teach, love and protect. I get that.
But what I don’t get is why, when it comes to our own enrichment, our own fulfillment, our own bodies—which have quite possibly not worn new clothes since maternity pants—we pass. No need. Nothing for me, thanks. I can do without.
I learned the hard way that giving without taking is not actually selfless; it’s senseless. When we deprive ourselves of the same grace we extend to our families, we become cranky, burnt out, restless and resentful.
Is that the kind of woman you want raising your kids?
Here are three gifts we moms can give to ourselves—without spending a single penny.
Oh sure, wouldn’t it be great if we could all schedule a night out with girlfriends or an hour of peace and quiet to read a novel poolside. But in reality we’re more likely wrestling kiddos into pajamas or changing wet swim diapers, with no break in sight. For many women, a physical escape from the trenches of parenting is nearly impossible to find.
So stop looking for it.
Instead, focus on giving yourself a mental break—from all the demands you place on yourself.
You know what I’m talking about, moms. It’s the long list of “good mom” standards we collect—from parenting books, moms’ groups, friends and sisters, pins and memes, even our own misguided imaginations. Then we slap those rules onto ourselves like handcuffs.
Good moms don’t buy sugary cereal.
Good moms don’t let their kids wear pajamas past noon.
Good moms pack organic lunches.
Good moms rotate toys.
Good moms prohibit their children from shooting straw wrappers at McDonald’s.
Wait, no, good moms don’t eat at McDonald’s in the first place!
Good moms play Barbies and LEGOs and Candy Land all day long and they ENJOY IT!!!
Aaaaack!!! Please, someone help me! I cannot BREATHE under all these rules!!
No wonder we mothers are stressed out. When your own “good mom” standards start to strangle your spirit, for heaven’s sake, give yourself a break. Most kids won’t die from eating a Froot Loop. Pajama pants are kind of trendy these days. Kiddos can benefit from constructing that LEGO airplane all by themselves, without your constant input. So pick a day to bend the “rules,” watch TV, serve popsicles for breakfast and popcorn for lunch. No mom guilt. No constant policing and barking at little people to make sure they reflect well on your mad mothering skills.
You are a good mom.
Because you love your kids.
And sometimes love looks like broccoli and discipline, sure. But sometimes it looks like Happy Meals and pillow fights and Cocoa Puffs stuck to the rug.
When we loosen up those suffocating guidelines we’ve built for ourselves and our kids, we just might find we don’t need so many breaks from parenting in the first place.
So you yelled at your kids yesterday? Forgot the Muffins with Mom event at school? Turned off your phone ten minutes before the sitter called to announce your child was puking—which you discovered two hours later in a voice mail?
Yep. Momma mess-ups are hard to swallow.
But so is forgiveness. Which is why many of us moms choose to beat ourselves up over our parenting mistakes and to dwell on our shortcomings, rather than taking God up on his offer of crazy grace.
What would today look like if you forgave yourself? For that moment of frustration over lost Velcro shoes. For snapping at your husband last night in front of the kids. For hitting the snooze button one time too many, until you were the one to blame for your child’s tardy slip.
We all mess up. It’s just part of life. No mom is the perfect parent. Only God gets those bragging rights—and even His kids misbehaved (hello, apple)! So it’s time we stop holding grudges against ourselves. Imagine what an example that can set for our children, who desperately need freedom to make mistakes, too.
Permission to dream
Motherhood is a role we play. Not THE role. Granted, wiping runny noses and calculating math homework might take up the majority of our time and energy, and rightfully so. To be a mom is a high and holy calling. But it may not be our only calling.
Do you dream of writing a blog, running a business, training for a marathon, traveling to a faraway country? Or maybe you did once upon a time, before kids, before responsibility, before piles of laundry and soccer gear and orthodontist bills took over your space.
When was the last time you gave yourself permission to dream?
It’s easy for us moms to lose ourselves in parenting. We think we’re supposed to sacrifice every muscle and moment to the critical job of raising the world’s next generation of useful people. But before we were moms, we were children, too. Created to do God’s work. Parenting is a big part of that work now that we’re grown up, for sure. But it doesn’t necessarily end there.
Our dreams and our family lives do not have to be at odds. Imagine how your pursuit of a passion could actually enhance your family relationships—by making you more fully who you were meant to be.
My daughters will continue enjoying art projects, karate classes, and enough popcorn to fill their bellies daily. But alongside their needs, I’m going to consider my own. And I hope you will, too. Because when we give ourselves these three priceless gifts—a break, forgiveness, and permission to dream—we become better equipped to keep on giving our children what they really need most.
A totally awesome mom
Becky Kopitzke is the author of The SuperMom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood (Shiloh Run Press). As a writer, speaker, Bible study leader, lunch packer, boo-boo kisser and recovering perfectionist, Becky believes parenting is one of God’s greatest tools for building our faith, character, and strength—even when it’s messy. Connect with her on www.beckykopitzke.com.
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This ranks up there with the best advice, ever! I wasn’t the “best” mom, by any stretch of anyone’s vivid imagination, and I worried constantly that my kids were somehow “missing out” having a terrible parent like I thought I was. And a break? Really? My husband was on the road a lot and I was almost like a single mom a lot of the time they were growing up. Somehow, I muddled through all of that, and they turned out pretty great, if you ask me. The one thing I have always been good at is dreaming. I’ve had big dreams (a month in Greece, enjoying the sun and the food), and little dreams (please, God, let me get through this one day and tomorrow I promise I will be better), but I think those dreams allowed me to continue to be the person I am; funny, sarcastic, creative, musical, opinionated, helpful, strong enough to beat cancer twice, and good enough. And for me, that is what it is all about…being good enough! Okay, and always striving to be a little bit better tomorrow!
Forgiveness. That’s a big one right now for me. There has been so much going on that I’ve allowed myself to believe in the mom fails instead of remembering all the mom victories I have achieved. I had to laugh when you said even God’s children misbehaved (Hello, apple!). It’s hard sometimes to not listen to all the perfect mom stories and rate yourself on a scale of good/bad mom.
I stopped dreaming after I became a mom because I was taught that my children came first and I was last. After all, that was how generations of women were taught in my family. (Still my mother has not done anything that she has dreamed of doing and she’s had an empty nest for close to 20 years.) I started making an effort a couple of years ago that motherhood didn’t define me. Yes, I’m a mother, daughter and wife but I also love to read, write and take pictures. It’s hard to find time but this year I finally received a new camera and I’m taking a photography course. I’m taking time for me and dreaming again. And it feels fantastic!
Tell her you mother I like her and I hope one day I will meet his
Reading is something that I force myself to incorporate into my busy work/family schedule because it helps me to unwind, escape, and learn. This was a great post and I think it’s great you’re encouraging your readers to take care of themselves and how important it is to treat yourself every now and then! I think it’s important to inject some humor into your daily routine especially when it’s feeling particularly monotonous. I recently finished a hilarious and heartfelt memoir called “Where’s My Award? How to Get Baby Barf Out of a Red Carpet & Other Tales from a Working Mom in Hollywood” (http://margotblack.com/). The book is written by Margot Black, a celebrity publicist with a new family and a new life. The struggle is very real but she injects humor into the mix which makes it a really light and enjoyable read. I have bought it for my mommy friends and they all love it. The book really does provide a very unique insight at the extraordinary demands placed on working moms in America today. I hope you and your readers will consider giving it a read! It’s a lot of fun 🙂