Self-Care As a Mom – Creating Your Own Success Markers For Motherhood

In the world of paid employment, success markers are typically built right into one’s job. Performance reviews, company statistics, promotions, bonuses, and completed projects – these are all markers that let us know how we’re doing and help us determine whether we are being successful in a particular position.When it comes to motherhood, however, these types of success markers don’t exist. And, as a result, many of us are left wondering how indeed we are doing in our roles as moms. Often we feel like we won’t know whether we have been successful at mothering until our children are grown and out in the world on their own.For me, however, this kind of waiting and wondering just wasn’t going to work. I wasn’t comfortable with having to wait such a long time, but beyond that I was fed up with frequently feeling that I didn’t measure up to some “ideal.” I finally came to a point where I was no longer willing to experience these continued feelings of failure, and I knew something had to change.What I began to realize was that I hadn’t given enough thought to what success as a mom looked like for me. I was allowing the expectations of others (or at least what I perceived the expectations of others to be) to be the yardstick for how I was doing as a mom. Society sends the message that there is only one right way to be a good mother, and if you don’t meet those requirements then you’re just not cutting it. We also get a lot of messages from family members and well-intentioned friends. Early on as a mom I was buying into these messages.You know how it goes…there’s the “right” way to feed your child, from the moment he/she is born; potty-training “should” be accomplished with a specific method and by a certain age; strong opinions about whether or not it’s okay to work outside the home; your children should spend their days in a constructive manner with no television viewing; and the list is simply never-ending.Every time I turned around, another “requirement” was being added to what makes for an ideal mother. How can any of us measure up to this unrealistic standard?The reality is, however, that the one-size-fits-all approach just does not work for us moms. A “success checklist” for motherhood that applies to all of us does not exist. There really are no rules for being a mom. And striving to be perfect is driving a lot of us a bit crazy!I used to get sucked into the trap of thinking that there were rules to follow, and I tried my best to meet them. What I was actually doing, however, was setting myself up for failure, time and time again. After repeating this pattern over and over again, I finally came to appreciate that I am an individual, and no one else is quite like me, and no one’s children are quite like mine. I began to understand that I was the one who was in charge of my life, and I had to start defining motherhood on my own terms. And, if you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to define motherhood on your own terms as well.There’s so much that we beat ourselves up about as moms. For example, one of my struggles has been that I’m not a naturally creative, artsy-craftsy type mom. For the longest time, I would get down on myself about this, especially with my first child. I would see other mom friends coming up with creative activities and projects for their children, and I would be left feeling like there was something wrong with me.But you know what? There wasn’t anything wrong with me. My kids still colored and played playdoh, and they haven’t been shortchanged just because we didn’t make homemade cards for every holiday or use egg cartons to make caterpillars.Nowadays I focus on what my strengths are and really try to bring those to my role as a mom. And that’s a great approach that we can all take. Nobody expects us to be great at everything, so why do we so often expect that of ourselves?I also made the decision to do my best to stop comparing myself to other moms, too. And even to other generations. Not easy, but definitely something to move toward.Then, what I actually did was create a list of what I would like to do and how I would like to be in order to feel that overall I am succeeding as a mom. I first needed to figure out what my priorities as a mom were. This required some reflection and soul-searching, as I needed to truly tap into my own voice and tune out the voices of others. These priorities have now become my success markers.I also made a point to avoid “all or nothing thinking.” Instead, I approach things from an “on most days…” perspective. For example, it is important for me to provide healthy meals and snacks for my children, and on most days I do this. I’m realistic about what success can look like, so if every now and then pizza is on the menu, I’m okay with that. I am also aware that my success markers will evolve over time as my children and I change and grow. And I don’t use these as a daily to-do list. It’s really about having a greater awareness of my approach to mothering and feeling good about how I am doing.Just making a list for the first time can be very eye-opening; I know it was for me, and I sense that it will be for you as well. This process will help you gain insight into what expectations you are holding for yourself as a mom. Perhaps you didn’t even realize how high the yardstick was that you’ve been holding up. Now you can take a step back and create something that’s more doable and focus on being good enough, not perfect.And here’s another tip: this is about what you do and how you are as a mom. It’s not about your kids bringing home all As or achieving all of their developmental milestones ahead of schedule.Make some time over the next day or two to actually sit down and write out your expectations. As the days and weeks of motherhood pass by, how will you know you’ve been a “successful” mom? Remember to keep it realistic. Your children don’t need you to be perfect. Being a good enough mom is really what it’s all about.So much of our time and energy each day is devoted to our role as moms, and that’s why I believe it’s important to come up with your own success markers, no matter what stage you are in as a parent. Defining motherhood on your own terms is really quite freeing, and ultimately everyone benefits.For more tips on creating a love that you love and finding more joy as a mom, I encourage you to visit http://www.CourageousMotherhood.com, where you can access my free 5-part ecourse: “5 Courageous Shifts to Help You Reconnect with Your Best Self.”From Amy E. Willard – The Courage Coach for MomsCopyright 2009 – Courageous Motherhood