The New Year is a time of reflection for many people, and one of the things I’ve been reflecting on is how to be a better parent. While I love my son very much, and am often told by close friends and family that I am a great mom, sometimes I don’t feel that great. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am doing a good job, just by seeing the sweet, loving child that I am raising, but I also know I could be doing much better.
I tend to spread myself too thin, and I think this is probably one of my biggest struggles with parenting. I want to do it all, and then there is very little left to give to my munchkin. Life is all about seasons, and I am in a season of learning and growth, which are two of my favorite things, so I tend to jump ALL IN and commit to too many things. Keeping busy is my way of running from my emotions, so it is hard for me to slow down. But this year, one of my BIG goals is to be a more present mom (and wife). At the end of my life, I want my son to be able to look back on all the memories that we created together. I don’t want him to look back and remember that mama was always too busy to play with him.
As I reflected, I came up with a few simple, but super important ways to work toward being a better parent this year. And know that I am writing this post as much for me as I am for you. You are not the only one who struggles with feeling not-enough. Mama, know that you are doing a great job! Even when you think you aren’t. But, if you are like me and know that you could be doing better, here are a few ways to start this year fresh.
This is a hard one for a lot of people, myself included. But it is super important because it is so easy to get distracted, and the next thing you know, 30 minutes has gone by, and you’ve done nothing but scroll through Facebook. The best way I’ve found to stay connected (in case my husband needs to get ahold of me on his way home) is to take my phone to the kitchen each night when we come home, plug it in and turn on the ringer, so if hubby needs me he can reach me, but my phone will be out of arms reach so I will be much less likely to get distracted. Go ahead and find an area in your living space that is out of arms reach, but still within hearing distance. The top of a bookcase, the next room over, the top of a windowsill, inside a kitchen cabinet. Just make sure the ringer is on, so you don’t lose it!! It might also be a good idea to turn off all other notifications (Twitter and Facebook anyone??) so that the only ones you hear are text and phone calls. Or if you have the ability, just completely remove the distraction by putting the phone in your bedroom or turning it off completely.
It can be so easy to just flip on the TV when you’ve had a long day and the kid(s) are hungry and wound up from a long day at school. But TV is not the answer. Instead, try spending 15 minutes with them, really focused on whatever they want to do. Even if you are tired, this connection will be good for both of you. They will be more likely to settle down after this special time, and you will feel more energized knowing that you have done something good for your little(s).
This can be hard in the evenings, but try to go outside whenever you can. The fresh air tends to be calming for everyone, and exercise raises endorphins, which make you happier. Even if it is just a walk around the block or apartment complex, getting outside can be a good way to spend quality time with your kids (and spouse). You can even schedule this time on a daily basis, so your child knows to expect that special time with mom (and dad) each night.
Get on the Floor
Getting on the floor, eye level with your child is super important, because it puts us on the same level as them. So often we tower over our children, which makes us become that authoritarian figure. Of course, at times this is appropriate, but when spending quality time with your child, it helps to get down on their level because it makes them feel special. A few examples of how to make this happen: grab a puzzle and put it together on the floor, race some cars on a piece of a cardboard box, or have your child pick out a few books, let them snuggle up in your lap or next to you and read to them.
This means you too! You should be reading to your child, for sure, but you should also be reading for yourself. Reading books can make you feel more fulfilled, and it sets a great example for your child too. And then of course, read to your child too. The more they are exposed to different words, even at a very young age, the larger their vocabulary will be, and the faster their language acquisition will come. This can even help with standardized tests as they get older!
Eat Meals Together
Whenever possible, eat meals together. Maybe you are like us, and are in a small apartment where you sacrificed your dining room for a play area for your kids. You can still make do with what you’ve got though. My husband sits on the couch using a TV tray, and Gabe and I use his little table to eat. We may not all technically be at the same table, but we are together and can talk to each other. When you eat together, make sure you turn off the TV and your phones/computers/tablets too. You don’t want to have any distractions while you are trying to have family time. You can talk about your day to further connect with each other too. One of my favorite questions is to ask what the best and worst part of each person’s day is. I find that is much more effective than simply asking, “What’d you do today?” It gives everyone something to really think about.
If these seem like too big a step, try to add a new one in each week, so you don’t get overwhelmed. Do what you can do, anything is better than nothing. You should be proud of yourself just for reading this, because obviously you have it in your heart to be a good parent, which means you probably already are. But don’t forget to take action if you want to get even better.
Do you have any simple tips for being a better parent? Please share them in the comments below! Thanks for stopping by!