My last job as an engineer was as a project engineer working on million dollar equipment with 4 year time lines. After equipment design was complete, I also led the manufacturing of the equipment at the shop. I also made sure I was available during construction and start up of the equipment to address any issues that arose. In the last year in the position, I trained two young engineers who would eventually replace me during maternity leave. As they became more familiar with job, I kept reminding them “This job is a marathon, not a sprint!”. Well, as I’ve learned in the last year or so since deciding to stay home, Motherhood is a marathon and not a sprint. To keep myself inspired and not defeated, I have adopted several mantras:
1. The first I have already told you. “Motherhood is a marathon, not sprint!” I will never be finished (at least not in the short term) raising my children. There are times I think “Ok. I think he gets it now. He will definitely not break that rule again.” Then, a week later, he’s testing the boundaries again. During these times I try to remember what I am trying to teach him at the higher level. I try to remember that its not about him breaking that specific rule, but that he needs to learn to follow rules to function in society. I cannot give up teaching my kids the lessons they need to learn in childhood. I must persevere and continue the marathon.
2. “I am raising men, not boys”. Sometimes I think that my expectations of my kids are too high. I expect my two year old to put his clothes in the laundry basket, and eat what I cook for dinner. I expect my 5 year old to clear and set the table, clean his plate and put it in the dishwasher, and to have self control. Getting a two and five year old to do what I expect them to do often feels like an effort in futility. It is at these frustrating moments that I remind myself that if I don’t have these expectations of my children, then I am enabling them to be lazy grown ups. I am trying to raise two independent, self-sufficient men, not two baby boys for life.
3. “Parenthood is a partnership”. Being the parent that stays at home and “sees” everything, it is easy to want to step in every time the other parent parents your child. But I have learned that there are some things that my boys can not/will not learn from me. I have learned there are some things that only Daddy can teach them. The first time I realized this was when I was potty training my oldest. I read several books and methods, and decided I would do the “3 day, underwear only, potty training bootcamp”. Well it worked like a charm for #1, and by the second day we had no messes for #1. #2 was something different. My son actually thought it was FUNNY to go in his underwear, and would laugh when I discovered his present in his pants. I tried bartering, I tried better prizes, I tried a sticker chart, but nothing worked. Then my husband took him for a few hours. By himself. The first time my son left a present for Daddy, my husband told him “This is not funny. This is not what big boys do. Daddy does not do this”. And that was it. No more accidents. So I learned that it takes both of us to teach these boys. I have to remember to let my husband to be the parent too.
4. “My house does not need to be perfect”. When I decided to stay home, I had grand thoughts about how my home would be spotless. No dishes would ever be left in the sink, the floors would be clean, and clothes would never sit in a laundry basket for 3 days. For about two months, this was true. But then I remembered why I wanted to be home. It was to be with my children, not to have the perfect house. So I let things go, and spent more time focusing on my kids. Now, I’m not saying my house is a complete mess. I do pick up toys everyday and expect all clothes to be in the laundry basket at the end of the day. Every bathroom gets cleaned once a week, and the kitchen counters are wiped down every day. But clean clothes still hang out in the laundry basket for too long, and I would definitely not eat off my floors. I found there is an important balance to keeping a clean house, and creating a home for my family.
5. “Make sure they know I love them”. Love is the most important thing in the world. If you reprimand a child without love, they will eventually tune you out. I know it is my job to teach my children right from wrong, and to make sure they will be functioning adults someday. But it is equally important they know that no matter what, their mother and father will always love them. That kind of love will give them the confidence to go out in the world, and follow the path God has set before them.
These are the five mantras I remind myself of while trying to be the mother these boys need me to be. What are the motherhood mantras you use?