What Every Mom Needs to Let Go of and What to Hold on to Instead

Big dreams. We all have them; dreams and expectations. From the time we’re kids we envision how our lives are going to be when we grow up. My early dreams involved me becoming a real-life Nancy Drew with a convertible and straight A’s on my report card. When I found myself driving an MG Midget with a bad starter and feeling really proud of B’s, I knew I needed to adjust my expectations. Eventually, I found myself adjusting my expectations about adulthood and family life too.

In the early dreams, I pictured myself in a flowing white dress, size 4 of course, running through a field of daisies to scoop my beautiful, laughing, sun-kissed toddler up in my arms. Today I’m just hoping that my kids make it successfully. And if I’m really lucky, they’ll earn enough that they can kick me enough to lounge by a pool with a swim up bar (again in a size 4 but I’m in a bikini this time) and I can borrow their convertible whenever I want.

Things to Let Go

There are dreams that we should hold on to, like our children achieving their goals, and those we should let go of, like me in a bikini at a swim up bar. So here’s some advice that will let you sleep better at night and help the people around you enjoy you more. Here are three things you should let go of, right this minute.

1. You are in control of your child’s personality

Stop believing that your child is this malleable lump of clay that you’re going to shape. Trust me, the little suckers come complete with their own wiring and personality. In fact, there may be times you’re not even sure you have the right baby.

I love football and I was convinced my son would love it too. It should have given me pause when I explained tackling to him and he said, “Why do I want to run full speed at another human being? That doesn’t seem very smart.” I was not deterred and he played two full seasons before he finally put his foot down. Let your expectations go. The true joy in parenting is watching this beautiful creature bloom into the person the universe meant for them to be, not into who you want them to be.

2. Stop putting off entertaining because your house doesn’t look like a movie set

We all know that woman. You know, the one with a white couch, who doesn’t work, but still has a cleaning lady. Tell the truth. You don’t really like her that much do you? You might envy her and her toddlers who are already speaking a second language a little, but you can’t relax on her white couch with your glass of red wine…. and you secretly hope you tracked dirt in on her carpet.

No. You want to be the house where guests feel relaxed, not outdone. I promise you that if, when the front door swings open, it clears a path big enough for your girlfriends to make it to the couch so that they can collapse on it for some chips and salsa and an adult conversation, they will love you forever. Good friendships are based on commiseration and shortcomings, not fine art and clean carpet. Let it go.

3. Stop second guessing yourself because you’re a working mom, or a stay-at-home mom, a single mom, or an adoptive mom

I’ve been three of the four and found out that the skills I need most seem to come to the surface at just the right time. Well, except for cooking. No matter what kind of mom I am, my meals seem to turn out best when the oven is off.

As women, we are the ones who keep it together; pack the lunches, get the children to practice, care for the sick, prepare the meals, clean the laundry, soothe the hurt feelings, check the homework, and build them up when the world has torn them down. We do that whether we’re working, home, single, or adoptive. The beauty is that each one of our unique situations allows us to bring something special to the lives of our children.

The children of working mothers see the pure unadulterated love their mothers feel when they come through the door after a day full of other people’s expectations. The stay-at-home mothers give their children the gift of spontaneity and endless play dates. Single mothers are a beautiful example of just how much perseverance a mother possesses when it comes to providing for her children. And adoptive mothers show their children, and all of the rest of us, how being a mother has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with love, sacrifice, and a dream that started somewhere deep down in our souls.

We are better than doubting ourselves and we are better than judging each other. We are sisters with a common goal and while we are not without missteps, we are doing a much better job than we even know sometimes. Let it go.

Things to Grab Onto

Once you have let those three things go, here are three things worthy of taking their places:

1. Schedule a date night once a month…..with your child

Give them a chance to tell you, with no distractions, what is working in their lives and what isn’t. Find out if they have new interests or topics they want to explore. Don’t offer advice, unless they request it. Just listen. At the end of the evening tell them you love them.

2. Engage your kids in some housework

Have them help with dinner, fold clothes, or make the beds. Laugh while you do it. Don’t you dare “fix” what they’ve done. Let them know that making the effort is enough and everything doesn’t always have to be perfect. They’ll be happier adults who know to focus their efforts on the big picture and know better than to sweat the small stuff.

3. Look for ways to reach out to other mothers who might need a hand

Most of us aren’t good at asking for help. Step forward and look for opportunities to make someone else’s life better. Surprise them with dinner (especially, if the other mother in question is me), offer to keep their kids to allow them some free time, lend a hand with a home project, or just be a shoulder they can lean on. Not only will everyone else love you, you will love yourself.

Don’t you feel better already?

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