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What your kids really need from you

I heard this statistic once that there’s a direct correlation between a mother’s stress level and the health of her kids. The more stressed the mom was, the sicker the kids were.

Theories about the root cause behind this varied. But the one I bought into and the one I remember the most was this: when a mom is stressed she is less attentive to her kids. She is more likely to miss early symptoms. She is less likely to pay attention to what she is feeding her kids and more likely to forget to give them vitamins.

Don’t jump on me about this being a sexist study. I realize it too. No one was pointing their fingers at dads. Most women do the bulk of housework and childrearing still in America today. I’ve talked about this before here.

And it’s just a lot. The to-do lists are long. The days are short. The nights are even shorter.

I did this experiment a few years ago where I surveyed over 200 moms. I asked moms to finish this statement: “I wish my mother had not been so ________”

And do you know what the majority of the women said?

Stressed.

“I wish my mother had not been so stressed.”

What's the one thing most women wish their mother would have done differently?

Self-care is something I’ve been thinking about A LOT lately. I swore I would never be one of those moms who gives everything to everyone else and then never has time for herself so she complains about never having time to herself.

Well, I’m here. And I’m complaining.

And, unfortunately, I’m the only one to blame.

I haven’t been good about making time for myself. I haven’t set clear boundaries. I’ve stretched too thin. Run on too little sleep. Taken on too many responsibilities.

I’m convinced there’s one thing my kids really need from me.

They need me to be healthy: emotionally and physically. They need me to be present and aware and responsive. And I’m convinced that’s all kids really need from their parents.

But in order to do those things I have to take some steps towards freeing some space in my head.

And it’s okay. It doesn’t make me lazy or selfish or negligent. It makes me better.

Can you convince yourself of that too? It makes us better to take a deep breath, brew a cup of tea, light a candle and sit for an hour and DO NOTHING.

I’m warning you, though. When you do this something will inevitably happen. The overachiever inside of you (we all have her) will start telling us that we should be folding clothes. Should be organizing the closet. Should be doing anything but sitting.

Should. Should. Should.

Try just for a moment to silence the should-er. The shamer. The overachiever who is trying to prove her worth.

Not here. Not now.

I think something pretty amazing happens when we are able to keep our tanks full. I think our kids see us healthy and alive. They see us walking in forgiveness and living in freedom. I don’t know anything that could be more powerful than that.

And in 20 years maybe our children will think about that statement “I wish my mother wouldn’t have been so _________” and hopefully have a different answer.

 

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