Today I did a little speaking at our church's moms group. I love hanging out with Moms when we can relax away from our kids for a few minutes and have the real conversations. The theme this month was peace and I am posting what I wrote to share with the group. When I first thought about what brings me peace I immediately thought of the need to have a plan, a purpose to what I am doing. I ended up going off script quite a bit and not sure what I actually shared but here is what I wrote.
I want to start by letting you in on one of my dark Mommy secrets. My kids rarely eat their fruits and vegetables. They come by it naturally as their Dad and I are not big fans of fruits, vegetables or most healthy foods. We are really trying to teach our kids good eating habits and have switched to whole wheat, drink milk in front of them – though mine is usually in a Starbucks cup with some chocolate and espresso, and try to keep the treats to sometimes foods like Elmo teaches. But honestly eating our veggies is not a high priority in our house. My kids will see me spending much more time each day reading a book then they will eating a vegetable. And so my kids may not like broccoli but they all love books. My oldest is the pickiest eater in the whole wide word. A title he has truly won among my friends who dared to complain about their picky eater who only likes plain pasta. To which I quickly reply, “Wait your mean your kid eats pasta?” Amateur. But this same kid is also an amazing reader. And I often catch him in his room or on the couch reading a book because he wants to find out what happens next. That he got from me. I am the reader in the family. I have read to them their whole lives. We read books at lunch time and if Daddy was not home for dinner. We read books before bedtime. We sit on the couch some days with everyone, me included, reading their own book.
My point? That we all have different priorities and values in life. When we have kids there are all these shoulds and musts in our lives. You have to breastfeed or your baby will be an obese diabetic allergic to dogs. – Not true in my house. You must vaccinate your baby. You should never vaccinate your baby. The list goes on and on. Homeschool, public school, private school, unschooled? Sports, music, activities. One, none, anything they want to try. You must have family dinners at least 3 times a week or kids will do drugs. This is a really hard one for me because my husband does not get home at a reasonable time to have dinner with us most nights. There are so many parenting books it can be overwhelming. And the truth is that you cannot do them all correctly every single time. The advice contradicts. Or doesn’t fit the needs of your family.
So how do we walk the minefield of parenting recommendations and demands? I think we have to have a plan, a set of priorities, a vision. Start with the big picture, the end game. What do you really want for your kids? What values, characteristics, life styles do you want your kids to take with them when they leave your nest. When you ask a group of moms what they want for their kids their first answers are usually happy and healthy kids. But what does that mean? What does that look like in real life? This is where we as moms have to address the big picture issues of life. We have to think through what we believe about life, about family, about meaning and purpose. We need to know what we believe, what we value, what we really want for our family. Because when we know that we won’t be swayed by every new parenting fad. We won’t have to sign our kids up for the it sport or spend money on the “right” shoes. We can make our decisions and our plans based on what we want for our family. Not what the guy on the Today Show, the Mom in our parenting group or our own mother says we should be doing. Once you know what you believe, what you want for your family you can start to plan your life accordingly.
When my oldest was born I met an amazing group of women at the hospital new mom’s group. We sat around with our babies in carriers and eventually on blankets on the floor and talked about motherhood and all the ins and outs of our lives. We came from very different backgrounds but had the brand new mommy experience in common. It brought us close. We discussed all the parenting books and advice, we shared product reviews and our new favorite baby gadget. As our kids got older we talked about choosing preschools and what classes they were taking. One of the things I love about these women is how different we are. We all have different goals and priorities for our families and we are okay with that. We don’t have to be the same. At first though it was hard as a new mommy to not want to do what everyone else was doing. For our family we really wanted to create financial security and since we were not where we wanted to be yet, we were having to make the tough choices. I was not able to sign up for swim lessons at the kiddy pool or Gymboree classes with my kids. I took my kids instead to music time at the toy store and story time at the library. Both of which are free. One small example of how our family plan helped us make the best decisions for us.
Now that we have three boys, the first in sports, we are realizing that we have to limit the number of activities each boy can do. Not just because of cost, but also time. Life can be a whirlwind. Flyers come home advertising a new after school activity. We hear about a great experience our friends are doing with their kids. The newest parenting book has come out and is being touted on Oprah. Kids make demands. If we don’t have a plan, how can we find our way in all the noise. Everyone talks about being intentional as if that means slowing down and smelling the roses. Well that would really only be intentional if that was your intent. We have to know what we want, what we “intend” in order to be intentional. So take some time to think through what you want for your family, talk with your partner, make a long term plan. Then let your plan guide your decisions.