As school starts up again and parents' schedules get complicated mothers put on a cheerful face as they get their kids ready for the new year. There's lots of shopping and hair cuts, new back packs, colorful notebooks and even visiting the school to prepare your child. But is the good cheer a façade or a face of confidence? How do you actually feel as a parent during this transition from summer to school?
For many parents this is a time of self-doubt. They worry if they will be available enough for their child as they enter a new grade with all its demands. As mothers balance home and work or home and a multiplicity of other activities, they doubt if they are doing it all well enough to help their child become or feel successful. They worry if they can boost their child's shortcomings. They worry if they can help their child socialize happily.
Some mothers also worry if they want to keep up this kind of energy once again. They know they are in for an exhausting ride and their kids depend on them. It's hard to be the center of your child's world where a lot of responsibility hangs on you. Children watch their mothers very closely. If mothers enjoy mothering, their children feel positive about themselves. Some mothers doubt themselves and feel they fall short of what a "good" mother should be.
How to Calm Self-Doubt
It's important for mothers to take the advice of a 1950s pediatrician, Donald Winnicott, MD, who talked about mothers being "good enough." This means not being perfect, but caring and responsible without overloading yourself with expectations that can't be met. Children carry part of the load of their success and rewards in life. They are separate little beings with minds of their own. When mothers are "good enough" children feel secure but not hovered over. Children exercise their autonomy and feel their mother's approval.
How to Feel Pride in Your Mothering
How do you live up to your own, not others' standards as a mother?
There are some basics. If you value healthy food, encourage learning, spend one on one time, engage in serious and funny conversation so you are always getting to know your child, you can take pride in your parenting. Those are fundamental mothering values, but you probably have a set of values of your own. If you work toward them, not achieve them perfectly, you can feel the pride in your mothering and give yourself a pat on the back every day for your efforts without overwhelming yourself with exhaustion and competition with the mother next door.
Let yourself adjust to a school schedule just as you give your child time with his or her transition. It takes weeks, sometimes months to get your bearings and feel that pride in yourself. Give yourself time and once again, be your own monitor, not the bearer of others' expectations.
Pride builds upon itself. As you feel satisfied with a few moments each day with your child, you can feel satisfied with the week. As time passes, and you allow yourself to learn with your child what makes him or her feel proud of themselves, you can feel proud of yourself, too. You can feel proud for providing the atmosphere that made that satisfaction for each of you possible.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with a new book coming out, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior. Pre- order from amazon before Oct. 13 at a discount.
This article was first viewed on Moms Magazine.