I had it all planned. I was going to get everything about being a mom right. After all, I had degrees in child development and I was also willing to consult the experts to make sure I was providing the most perfect, appropriate, nurturing environment for my children.
And then, my first colicky baby was born. And then my second. And then, a year later, I got divorced. My kids were high energy from the get-go, determined, tenacious, and it was all I could do to get to the end of the day some days. None of this was part of my plan!
Parenting is one of those uber-high-stakes areas where getting it wrong seems like the worst thing you could possibly do! The books, the coaches, the consultants abound for how to not mess up those sweet children of yours who may be keeping you awake, driving you nuts, rebelling against you at every turn, and so on.
So who decides what the ‘right’ way to parent is? How do you determine what is good for a child, a family – and often the least common denominator in the whole equation: you?
What if you and your children could actually decide that together? What if you know way more about what works for you and your family than any expert? And what if your children are actually the experts on themselves?
Here are 3 tools I have used that have totally changed my life as a mom.
Trust your gut
You know your children more intimately than anybody else! What may be good for one child may not be at all what is going to work for another child. You have an intuitive sense of your kids and your family that you may or may not be aware of. What if you could just trust it?
There were so many moments early on when I overrode my intuition to trust what an expert had to say about parenting. This pretty much never panned out. The last parenting coach I worked with had so many opinions about my kids and what I should be doing that I finally got fed up and started listening to me. Every time I got on the phone with her, I found myself bracing against her words. When I finally decided to let go and trust me, the change I was looking for showed up almost instantly.
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Empower your kids
Do you hover over your kids – making sure that they don’t mess up their bodies or their lives? Do you see your role as a parent being one of teacher and caretaker? What if you could empower your kids to find out about the world by allowing them to make their own choices – and discover what happens next? When you allow your kids to explore the world in this way – you send them the message that they can be trusted to make choices for themselves. You also give them the gift of discovering life in a very different way than a lot of kids are given the space to. Your kids are experts on themselves. What if your job as a mom was to empower them to know that?
My youngest son was particularly fond of a certain swear word when he was quite young! I never told him not to say it, or that it was bad or wrong. I asked him questions like, “What would happen if you said that word at school? Or in front of grandma?”
He knew even at a young age that it would land him in the principal’s office or with a very unhappy grandmother on his hands… and he never, ever used it in those contexts.
Have fun, get help, and let it be easy
Parenting? Easy?!! For years, I thought that being a good mom was something I would earn by working, sacrificing, and struggling for my kids. There was one problem with all of that effort to prove how good I was – I hated it! When I realized that, I vowed to change it – no matter how ‘bad’ a mom I had to become as a result. With limited income, I hired somebody to do everything I didn’t enjoy. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, school pick-ups, even homework. My business grew instantaneously, I got a lot happier, and I started to thoroughly enjoy these two amazing kids I have. Since then, I have always had more quality time with my kids than most parents ever get. We have an extraordinarily ease-filled household, and we have a lot of fun together!
Are you willing to be so different as a parent that you do what truly works for you and your family? To me, the best parenting in the world is being present with your kids and facilitating them in navigating the world so they can find out who they are, and what works for them. If your family is enjoying themselves then you may have achieved what few people in the world actually have – and something I would propose is an aspect of great parenting: happiness.
Heather Nichols, MSW, is a bad mom, a movement and meditation consultant, tantra practitioner, somatic psychotherapist, entrepreneur and Being You Adventure Facilitator. She combines a master’s degree in Social Work with 20 years’ experience in the world of entrepreneurship and expertise in mind-body therapy to facilitate people toward a fuller, more joyful, experience of business, life and family. Follow @heatherknichols.