We talk a lot about giving rather than receiving as the holidays approach. But what I’m thinking about is how we need to be giving something back to ourselves this month. Some words of kindness or reassurance. A reminder when we’re feeling frazzled, that the success of the season isn’t measured by how big the pile of packages is under the tree. It’s about reconnecting with those values that make us believe in others — and ourselves.
As mothers (though I guess I’ll speak for myself here), we tend to not be very forgiving of our shortcomings. Instead, we carry around this knapsack full of guilt. I’ve been known to awaken at 4 or 5 in the morning and, in a fit of worry, consider the various ways in which I think I’ve somehow failed my son. By divorcing. By working. By not giving him enough. By giving him too much. By not being a good enough coach or role model or cookie baker at Christmas. By falling short of some super mom status.
I often wonder if it’s just me, or if it’s something that’s encoded into the DNA of moms everywhere. I can’t be sure. But since this is the season of giving, I would like to give you something. The gift of affirmation, a reminder that you are, in fact, a good enough Mom.
Eighty percent of being successful is showing up, and giving yourself credit for the work you do for your family. So here are a few thoughts to consider as the crazy month of December unfolds:
• When you’re running out the door already 15 minutes late for your appointment because your sitter didn’t show and your baby must now ride shotgun, remember: Take a deep breath. Don’t drive like a maniac. Better, consider rescheduling. Why make your life crazier than it already is? • When your son glowers at you for what seems like the 20th time that day, and acts as though he’s completely disgusted with your inability to even breathe correctly, be direct and tell him to cut the crap. You’re not a doormat, nor a whipping post. Then remind yourself of the nights you stayed up rocking him to sleep when he awoke, frightened from a nightmare. How sweet it felt to have his head cradled in the crook of your neck. Remember that as a teen, he’s supposed to push the boundaries of your relationship. It’s just nature’s way of helping him transition to adulthood. It doesn’t mean you roll over, but remind yourself that you love him, even when you’re tempted to walk away.
• When you fall into bed at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night, too tired to accept the invitation to be out having a good time with your friends, remind yourself: You cleaned the house this week, you ferried three kids to various events, you refereed a couple of arguments, you showed up to your job with competence and enthusiasm, you cared for your spouse, and you could have used that massage gift card, except you gave it to your girlfriend to help her through a rough time.
• When you ask your kids for the umpteenth time to clean up their rooms, or you’ll be moving their belongings to the curb, remind yourself: Kids need to take responsibility for themselves. If we continually do for them, we strip them of the knowledge that they are capable of doing for themselves. Picking up the slack for our kids makes them lazy and indolent and unappreciative. Assign age-appropriate chores, and let them go. Parenting is a job we’re supposed to work ourselves out of. Help your kids learn how to rely on themselves.
• Finally, when you’re running around just days before Christmas thinking you’ve still got one more gift to buy, think again. Why not give your kids the gift of your time? Plan a weekend together, go see a movie, or take a walk together. Kids want to feel special. Better, give a gift to yourself. Buy a small trinket that makes you happy, that reminds you of your awesomeness. We all need to find that under the tree. And in our hearts. Happy Holidays.