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How To Be A Good Mother – And A Happy One

Written by: Eszter Zsiray, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

There is nothing more natural and eternal than motherhood, how to love your baby and how to take care of them – therefore, there is nothing easier and more innate than being a good mother. Except that it is not.

Happy mother and daughter playing inside the house.

A client of mine just gave birth recently to her beautiful son, and even though they are all well, she still carries the experience as trauma as things didn’t go as expected. Another client is working with me on how to focus on herself as a mum of small kids, she is the last priority and it has already taken a huge toll on her health, she became overweight and she is having critically high blood pressure. My friend, a fantastic single mother was literally panicking as September was approaching as the school system kind of made it impossible to get ready for the first day while working a full-time job. To be completely honest here, my own experience is that I find motherhood way more stressful than I imagined and I need to keep a close eye on the stress factors and the relaxation factors in my life to not get overwhelmed and there are times when I do struggle. The common theme in all of us is that we are all mothers who have difficulties juggling all the challenges, while society kind of expects us to be the happiest ever, full stop. But why is that so difficult, and how could we still work towards peaceful, loving motherhood? Here are some thoughts to understand better what is happening with modern women and what we could change to improve our lives and be those good enough mothers we always wanted to be.


1. Change in the family structure


It is just human to compare ourselves to the previous generations, and even if we don’t do that, our mothers and grandmothers tend to remind us what they were doing better than us ‒ at least my grandma likes to tell me how her children behaved way better than mine and what mistakes do I commit regularly. But if we look at the social and economic changes, there is a huge gap between the previous generations and us, and that has a big impact on motherhood today. While it sounds great to live according to the motto `It takes a village to raise a kid,` these days we hardly ever have a real support system around us. We are lucky to have a grandparent we can count on from time to time, but often they are still working or living far away, and we are left there with our partner or even alone to make a one-man show. One of the biggest prices we need to pay for our individualist society is to deal with the challenges alone.


Coaching tip: it is not a secret that it is hard to handle things alone, but maybe you don’t need to. A support system can be created consciously, with special care. Think about the following questions and maybe one of them resonates with you – these are just some ideas, but there are always things you can do to get more support. Do you allow people (co-workers, friends, neighbours, relatives) in your environment to actually help you when in need? Do you have any associations or ONGs supporting you as a special situation/single/expat mum? Are you a member of any social groups where there are mothers in similar situations like you to share your problems, your struggles and ask for advice? Would you consider looking for a grandma program where elder, retired people are looking for a close connection with young families?


2. Information explosion


If I go back to the example of my grandmother, she has very clear ideas about what to do with a child. Every woman knew how to educate, feed, take care and overall, how treat a child. Maybe most of that common knowledge became obsolete by now, but at least they had no doubts about how to bring up a child and even less second-guessing regarding their abilities as parents. Today we have as many philosophies on parenting as stars in the sky and you are lucky if you could decide on which one to follow. And even if you managed to select some which feel a good fit for you and your family, it can generate huge pressure and then frustration when you are not able to follow them all the time. For example, I personally try to follow attachment parenting and I love the approach of Montessori parenting, among others. However, it made me extremely stressed out when I tried to follow Montessori advice on teaching tidiness at an early age by using one toy and putting it then back immediately with my kid before reaching out to another one. My son couldn’t care less about being tidy, he loves just throwing everything to the middle of the room, and as my intentions all failed, I already imagined how I will need to clean up after him until he moved out and I saw myself failing as a mother as I can’t even teach my son this simple thing.


Coaching tip: I know it is easier to say than to practise it, but don’t be hard on yourself when following different parenting theories. Take them as a guideline, depending on how they fit your family and the personality of your child. None of these ideas is the one and only golden method so try not to put extra pressure on yourself if something is not working for you, just try something else that fits better.


3. Look at the whole picture


My suggestion is not only to select carefully between the different parenting methods but to consider your whole family’s needs. I know that we want to do what is best for our kids, but sometimes that is just not good for you or for the whole family and it is worth considering the necessities of other family members. To give you a bad example, I was so demanding on myself as I wanted to avoid any breastfeeding problems, so we even didn’t try to feed my son with a nursing bottle filled with my milk – even though that would have allowed me to sleep a good 5-6 hours at nights, which believe me, I really needed. Still, I wanted to do it perfectly, and I rather sacrificed my own sleeping. For my baby, that was the best choice. However, it was not the best option for the whole family, as I was way too exhausted all the time and let’s put it like that, it did not help me to be in the best mood for long months, impacting my relationship and my wellbeing.


Coaching tip: while we consider more and more our children’s physical and emotional needs and that is a fantastic improvement, children arrive into a family system and we can’t just ignore the needs of all the others and the general health of the family. What are the biggest pain points in your family where you might strive for perfection? Can you lower your standards to gain more balance for the whole family? What is the price you are ready to pay to get more balance?


4. Expectations


And we just got into one of the most important topics – the ideas in our head vs. reality. Well, first of all, to the hell with Hollywood and Disney, who created all these pink images in our heads about motherhood, about all the perfect births, children and families. Spoiler alert: none of those exists. Life can be perfect, but with its beautiful imperfections. Did you expect to have a natural birth in water but end up with an emergency C-section? Did you expect breastfeeding to come naturally and it didn’t? Did you think that you would be able to juggle easily work, motherhood, me-time and having an exciting sex life with your partner? Did you expect yourself to be always patient and never raise your voice with your kids?


The role of a modern woman is so challenging and we still want to nail it. We expect ourselves to thrive in all life areas, have a great career, be loving partners, be gentle and attentive mothers, and besides all that, have fun in a well-maintained body. If we again go back to the life of the previous generations and we quickly compare the two, life becomes extremely fast and demanding, we don’t typically live a simple life anymore but we have more complex challenges than ever. So how realistic do you think it is to do all that perfectly?


Coaching tip: whenever we have an expectation, it is typically followed by frustration as it falls far away from reality. While I believe we are here to learn and improve ourselves and get better and better, it might just mean to slow down and expect less – especially from ourselves. The more open we are on our learning journey as parents, the easiest it gets. We can try to slow down and see what our kids are teaching us – mine is definitely teaching me acceptance, patience and being in the moment ‒ and I am not the best student. We can also try to focus every day on the achievements, on the precious moments instead of all the things we still lack. We can simply try to be a good enough parent and not a perfect one and accept that we commit errors but that is not a failure but an important part of the learning curve.


5. Understanding the phases of the kids


Whenever my kid is going through a new phase, life kind of gets more difficult. He is struggling to learn a new skill, a new competency and these learning phases just get him out of his balance, which gets the whole family out of balance. He is just in the 'terrible two' phase, meaning that he is the sweetest little boy, of course, but the default answer is no for everything, he is often insisting on doing complicated things alone in the middle of the morning rush, like putting on clothes and shoes, which might take a good half an hour, and the most frequent expression I hear is basically ‘No, Mama, no!’. It is a very challenging time for all of us, I am learning patience more than ever in my life, and I say it, sometimes it is difficult not to take some stuff personally. What helped me a lot was to understand what is happening biologically and psychologically, how his brain and nervous system is developing and how that manifests in his daily behaviour – so to understand why these all challenges are great and necessary.


Coaching tip: information is golden here. When we understand what is going on with our kids and/or with us, what we feel and why, that is already half success for accepting it. Today you have so many sources to get quality information, there are great videos, articles, and books, or you can even consider talking to professionals to get personalised explanations.


6. Charging your batteries


There was a fantastic psychologist in my country who said once that children suck our blood and chew on our flesh – so from time to time, parents need to get alone time and just breathe so that the kids can get back a more relaxed and chewable parent. I cannot agree more, kids are wonderful and sweet but they do need a lot of attention and energy, so it is just logical that we need to recharge our batteries and that is very difficult without alone time. The emotional well-being of the mother is key, kids need balanced parents and sometimes you just need to do adult stuff for that so that you can be with your family filled with joy and not stress.


Coaching tip: it is more and more accepted in society to prioritise the mother’s needs and not just the kids, but there are still a lot of taboos and shame around the topic. What are the things you would be ready to do for the sake of your emotional health but for some reason, you still hesitate to do? It is absolutely okay if you want to be present in your family, but how much do you feel that you have your own space to refill your cap, to spend some quality time with your partner, friends, or just alone? Being a mother doesn’t mean that you just need to serve others and your needs don’t count, you, your personality, your dreams, and your aspirations did not stop existing. What could be the best way to give you more time to just be you and have your family covering you during that time? Again, relying on your support system doesn’t mean that you are not a good mum, it might just mean that you are not a superhero.


Being a mother is one of the most beautiful and most difficult experiences in life, with so many urban legends around it. But that is not true that it needs to be a struggle, and you can always improve your experience a lot by introducing some changes while working on your own mindset and perspective.


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Eszter Zsiray, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Eszter Zsiray is a Certified Life Coach, author, blogger, and creator of the program VELL©, supporting her clients on three continents to successfully transform their lives. With 17+ years of leadership experience, she is passionate about human potential and growth. Her research areas are ownership & responsibility, self-sabotaging behaviors, the positive impact of confidence and empowerment, a growth mindset, and healthy habits for mental and physical wellbeing. As a mother herself, she is committed to serving women and mums, and she created a special program for new mothers to adjust to new life challenges and a program for women entrepreneurs to shift into the proper mindset and to thrive in their professional and personal lives.

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