Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Impact of Attitude on Motherhood

I have this quote taped to the inside of my household binder which holds a collection of recipes, homemaking ideas and tips, gift ideas, and most importantly, notes to myself that I've made every few years that I label "rules of life". 

Lately I've been thinking so much about how this quote applies to motherhood, and how our attitude shapes our children's lives and our experiences as mother.

Our children don't have a choice about how they are cared for, but we have a choice when we become mothers about how we are going to embrace our new role.  We have a choice about our attitude towards motherhood and that attitude will make our life and our children's life and our spouse's life stressful or wonderful.  Over the last twenty one years of parenting, I've observed many different attitudes towards mothering and I think attitude truly is more important than circumstance, money, giftedness, skill, education, or appearance as it can make or break a family.  

By definition attitude means "a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically reflected in a person's behavior". I think in this day and age we must be purposeful in cultivating a good attitude through our thoughts and feelings about motherhood as our culture today doesn't send messages that support us.

We've been told, unlike past generations of mothers, that in so many ways raising children can put a cramp in our style, make daily living inconvenient, ruin our careers, drain our finances, and surely we have better, worthier, things to do with our time, energy and talents. We are expected to have and do everything all at once-we are bombarded with materialism and live a faster-paced life then years ago, the opposite of a "settled way" of being. When we realize this way of life is lie, that it is impossible to have and do all, it can easily allow resentment to build. If we expect our children to fit in on the sidelines of our life, and when we demand that they to conform to that lifestyle, they retaliate by being unenjoyable and needy, and we throw up our hands in frustration. Or maybe it's just simply the posturing trend today towards comedic sarcasm and self-pity-a "these darn kids" eye-rolling stance-that can permeate our way of viewing of parenthood if we allow it.

I've had times in my life when I had to remind myself to find some time to step back and take the time to switch my brain from heading down the wrong attitude path. I have attempted to jot down some of the things that have helped me over the years, and some of the characteristics and lifestyles of fabulous mothers I have observed over the years who have maintained a beautiful attitude towards motherhood and family life.

I think cultivating a beautiful attitude towards motherhood means truly surrendering ourselves with a purposeful attitude of gratitude towards our new role.  By that I mean, allowing ourselves to fall in love with our babies, letting ourselves be reformed into something new and start on a brave new learning journey of reshaping our old lives to build a joyous family life together.  It requires letting go of keeping up, shaping up, showing off, moving up, getting away, going out like we did before we became responsible for another's life and it requires giving our energy to something far more important than worldly desires-the child we brought into this world.

Our attitude really comes down to embracing and accepting hard work because motherhood requires this during all stages of parenting. "Work is love made visible" says a famous philosopher.  We must find a way to make this hard work enjoyable and if not, to just do it, knowing we will bear the fruits of our labor. Sometimes it helps just to expect that we will always be required to do hard work and stretch ourselves beyond what is comfortable at all stages of our children's development. We must know and trust that nothing in this world is more more worthy than our service.  It is okay for us to serve our families-sometimes serving them means showing them how they can help us, and other times it means just that-doing the work that is needed to care for our families. 

It comes down to developing a tender connection and a deep bond-knowing mother is important and irreplaceable, and that which there is no substitute-which takes the gift of time given freely, and sacrifice for many years. We must change our lifestyle so that our babies and children are able to flourish and thrive, and we accept that it's not just about what is best for us anymore. 

It comes down to guarding our hearts carefully every day-by that I mean rejecting the sarcastic attitude that makes parenthood seem like a long tortuous journey of interrupted sleep and sticky fingers and too long summer breaks. There's a child on the other side of that sarcasm wondering why he's thought of as a curse instead of a blessing. We must attempt to avoid this attitude like we would avoid the co-worker who constantly zaps everyone's day with her complaining negativity and pessimism. We must choose carefully who we spend our time with as mothers and what we allow to creep into our brains. Attitudes are catching. We must search out positive affirming messages about motherhood. We must find what fills us up, not what tears us down.  

"I get to do this" is a phrase that changes every task from a bother to a blessing.  Whether it be to rock a crying baby in the moonlight, soothe a frustrated toddler, help a slow learner with homework, or stay up late talking to a moody teenager, we must recognize that there are many fellow women whose hearts break daily because they desperately want to be given the gift of motherhood and some that have had it ripped away from them.

I've told the story before of a young mom who lost her toddler in a terrible accident while on vacation-she had said that before she left she was mad about the hand prints left over the newly washed windows and walls that gave her one more thing to do during the hectic time before the trip, and how when she came home without her daughter she searched everywhere to find just one beautiful, precious hand print to treasure. She shared this story to say, stop, slow down, strive to be grateful.

I have had a friend who had to work for the first year of her daughter's life tell me through tears that she had an acquaintance who complained to her constantly about how difficult her days home with her children-"warning" her against her desire to be home.  But my friend cried often when she pulled out of her driveway to go to work, wondering how she could desire so badly what someone else took for granted-somehow that made it hurt more.  Finally the day came when she was able to be home and she rejoices every morning when she doesn't have to rush off and appreciates being the one to see her children change and grow and learn all day long, and says she soaks it all up, thanks God for the opportunity, even if it is indeed hard work.  "I get to do this" is her attitude-an attitude of appreciation and thanksgiving.

Each of our children is a wonderful blessing from God and we are being entrusted with this little being to raise-and receive joy and love and affection that will never be found elsewhere in that process.  It comes down to reminding ourselves to possess overwhelming gratitude towards the gift of being able to raise a child, and to do that we must slow down and unwrap that gift daily with care.  

17 comments :

  1. Wonderful. I love your long explanation of something that I couldn't agree with more, but cannot express quite as elegantly as you did here. Wonderful.

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  2. Thank you. Thank you for helping me realize that my poor attitude is the reason for my kids' poor attitudes lately. I have not been giving them my best and everybody is suffering for it, including me. I am grateful you take the time and put forth the effort to share your wisdom here. Yours is one of very few blogs I still check feedly for.

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    1. Bridget, I have been there-we all have!-that slow realization that creeps in and makes us take a deep breath and slow down and rework not only our minds, but our days. Thank you!

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  3. So eloquent and timely. Thank you.
    I, too, have six children spread out in age (23-3) and can honestly say even with the gray days have loved every moment of getting to stay home with them. I appreciate this reminder this morning.
    Also I smiled at your library post, I thought I was the only mother who avoided the chaos of story time. You put it so perfectly about the example of quiet in the library.

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  4. I love this so much Sarah!!! Thank you!! Possibly another one of my favorite posts from you. I agree so with everything you have said here as a stay at home mom to two older kids and a miracle baby after years of secondary infertility and a still born. There are many women who would love the chance to have children or more children and cannot. Heartbreaking to be in that position and watch others take motherhood for granted!!! We are contstantly fed the idea that we need to get out and work, get a pedicure, have a girls night etc etc it goes on and on!!! Motherhood IS such a gift! Never to be taken for granted. So much more important than getting a break or accumulating more possessions! Thank you again for this post. Your posts leave me with such a calm confident feeling for the rest of the day :)

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  5. Thank you Sarah for your wisdom. I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts with us.

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  6. Sarah, this is perfect timing for me. Two of my 3 kids are home from school today for conference day. One is struggling to complete a book report, so I'm "helping her" (doing most of it and letting her copy what I wrote). One, I just discovered, is failing a class because of missed assignments, despite my constant reminders and consequences for this. One failed to turn in her cafeteria check last week and now we have a $10 fee tacked onto the delinquent balance (because apparently, she's also buying lunch on the days that I pack).

    All of this in the last 30 minutes.

    I came into my office to eat my lunch get a grip. (It was either that, or a glass of wine at 2 pm. I opted to isolate. ) And I read your post. Suddenly, I'm thinking, "I GET to be home with my kids. I GET to help the one with his agenda and the other with her report. And, praise God, we have enough money right now to apparently feed my kids twice! :) I would be so very sad if I could not be here to help. It would be so hard if we didn't have enough money to feed the kids a good lunch (or two). I really do have a different attitude right now.

    I'm heading out for round two on the book report with a new outlook.
    Thank you.

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  7. Wow-this could not have come at a better time for me. As a stay at home mom of 4-I have loved being here for almost 18 years. But just today yet another friend told me she is going back to work, and there was part of me that felt envious and unsettled. However, yesterday was a heavy emotional day for 3 of my kiddos (they don't usually "clump"-but here we are) and I can't imagine trying to help them navigate all of this while working outside of the home. I am totally blessed to be able to stay home with them. I am so grateful to have a bigger family-it was the deepest desire of my heart. Thank you for the beautifully written reminder.

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  8. Oh, Sarah. This is so good. Sometimes I think there's a competition to see who can be the mom who complains in the most comedic manner--roll your eyes, make a joke or sarcastic comment about your children, and get lots of likes on Facebook. This saddens me. And it also saddens me to think that seem to consider that listening to one another's whining is "supporting" one another. I wish we could all just realize that being a parent is hard work--it really IS hard, and honestly it ought to be hard, because it is worthwhile. Sometimes we all need to blow off steam, sure, but indulging one another in whining is not helpful. Let's build one another up and truly support one another to do this blessed work that God has entrusted to us, and thank God that we have the privilege of doing it.

    Bless you!

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  9. YES! This is wonderful Sarah, I agree wholeheartedly.

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  10. I can't even tell you how much I needed to read this tonight. After the busiest day ever with Kung Fu, Cub Scouts, and then a last minute trip to convenient care confirming one of my children has a UTI, We came home to a messy disorganized house after 9:00 pm exhausted. After getting the kids to bed, I didn't even want to tackle the messy house or laundry, but after reading your post, I am going to at least run downstairs and do a quick tidy up and organize things for in the morning. I am so blessed to "get to do this" and know that I will be less stressed in the morning and will be a more pleasant mommy if our house is not so chaotic. I should also mention that I am on my own until we move. My husband had to move ahead for his new job. I have so much respect for single parents after doing this for two months so far. It is hard, but I am not complaining. I know I am blessed. Thanks for reminding me.

    Faith (from Home Ec @ Home)

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  11. I loved reading this! What a great reminder. Thank you!

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  12. Sarah I'm a long time reader and so happy you are blogging again! Your perspective is much needed in our society. I have a suggestion, what about a teenage series after your toddler series?? I could sure use your wisdom!

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    1. Thank you Cheryl-I am not qualified yet-talk to me in about 16 years! :) It's hard, that is all I know, and very very different than the easy younger years, as great as teens can be, all the big and little decisions, mistakes, directions, choices can weight heavy on our hearts as we watch them unfurl into their own directions and just hope and pray they find their way into a healthy and happy adulthood. Give me toddlers any old day! :)

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    2. I agree! Give me potty training and toddler tantrums any day of the week over teenage tantrums and teaching them to drive..oy! I have a 16 and 14 year old and then three younger ones. Teens are really quite fun but all of those decisions and how to motivate them to be their best and navigate the moodiness...yikes!

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  13. Thank you Sarah. This is just beautiful and really spoke to me today.

    I love this part of what you wrote so much: "It requires letting go of keeping up, shaping up, showing off, moving up, getting away, going out like we did before we became responsible for another's life and it requires giving our energy to something far more important than worldly desires-the child we brought into this world."

    I have 3 older children (25,23,21) and an 8 year old at home....he was a happy surprise! I feel like I get a little bit of a second chance with my "bonus" kiddo :) While I was a stay at home mom to my older 3, I was far too caught up in the keeping up, showing off, what other people think attitude. Now that I am much older and wiser I cringe at some of the stuff I did and the attitude I had in those years when my precious children were little. They have all turned out to be successful and happy young adults but I wish all the time that I could turn back the clock and do things differently.....slow down, appreciate them for the unique individuals they are, not spend so much time running around to stupid meaningless things like dance and gymnastics competitions, etc.
    I love your blog.....it is such a breath of fresh air on the internet. I have abandoned so much of the internet that was just poisoning my attitude and stealing my time (Facebook, other "mommy" blogs centered on complaining about kids and husbands, twitter, etc) but your blog is such an inspiring pick me up each week. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Pam! Even though my children aren't as far along as yours, I would do things differently with my younger "set" too-I put too much pressure on myself to fix up the house, and have everything just the way I wanted it etc, I put so much pressure on myself to lose weight after baby, etc...like you said "stupid meaninglesss things"-my oldest son played in a little soccer league at 2!!! My husband and I see these little ones out there still and we say, "We did the same stupid thing!" and cringe. (Although he did love it but heck we should have just stayed home!) The beauty of being a parent of older kids and younger kids is a wonderful perspective of what really matters and what really makes a difference and also how quickly it all goes.
      Your compliment means so much to me-oh, I hope that is true-I think referring to the internet as a poison much of the time is the way I feel about it too anymore-I don't need the negativity in my life, even if it's not meant to be negative, I just don't need all the information that can cloud my thinking and steal my time. Thank you.

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