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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What a great message, and one that I’ve tried to observe in my own life. I don’t want my kids to become grown-ups and think that they have to sacrifice themselves to make others happy, so I try to be a good example to them. I would like more moms would get the message that it’s okay to relax our standards and bend or let go of “the rules.” Living authentically and being less-than-perfect is something that I want to be, because I don’t want my kids to be saddled with unrealistic expectations. Thanks for posting!
Thank you for this! We just moved and my two youngest kids are not adjusting well. It’s been so tiring and stressful and I really needed to read this. Forgiveness and a break are two things that I definitely need right now.
Becky, it is so great to see you over here at LWSL. And I love this reminder. Sending out to my mom’s small group right now 🙂
“Permission to dream” resonates with me because I’ve waited on dreams, had dreams fail and have had dreams come true. I can’t stop my dreams (I believe God placed them inside me) but some days, they are harder to come by. Thanks for the reminder they are important.
I especially like no. 3 “Permission to Dream.” For years, I turned off those dreams and rarely even thought about them, much less dreamed about them. Last year, I decided to embrace one of them which is blogging. I’m so glad that I did. While, it’s been uncomfortable and a huge learning curve, I am loving it!