When we had our first child, it quickly became apparent that the way we’d always done things were going to change dramatically. Having a child was one of the best decisions we ever made. It’s also been one of the most stressful, frustrating and exhausting! Our lives are no longer our own. Everyone thinks that their child belongs to them. That’s not true. You belong to your child! What makes it worse, is that a child has abundant energy…and quickly learns to be EVERYWHERE!
I’m not sure there is much that can be done to change a child’s possessive thinking. But I do think it’s important to set a pattern of behavior that makes it clear that Mommy and Daddy are individuals. And being individuals we need to demand a certain level of respect and freedom (what that level is should be decided by the individual…just decide earlier rather then later). We all have ideas of what we want our child to grow up to be, and I’m sure most of us have thought of all the things we need to teach them…the schooling, the discipline, the fun, the morals & values, the feeding, clothing, and so forth. But how many of us put much thought into the power of example? I’m going to put my foot in it here a bit. I think sometimes it’s okay…even vital…that we, as the Mom, set a better example and act a bit selfish.
But…but…but…(I know you’re all thinking that…or you’re just chomping at the bit to tell me how wrong I am. Hear me out.)
We want our child to grow up to be healthy, happy, productive members of society…whatever that means for each of us…and I’m sure most of us are thinking that “selfish” is the last thing we want them to be. So why should we be examples of this behavior?
Because it’s important for a child to learn that they’re not the center of attention. The sooner they learn that, the happier everyone around them will be. And one of the best ways, I think, to teach them this is for mom to be a bit selfish. I’m not advocating total selfish behavior…especially the kind of selfish behavior that endangers ourselves and our child. That level of selfishness is going to teach the exact opposite lesson we want them to learn. A little bit of Mom selfishness is different.
Plus it can save Mom’s sanity as well.
As a Mom of 6, I know how quick lost sanity can happen. Perhaps there are better ways, but for me, being selfish helps tremendously. Here are a few ways that I’ve learned to be a bit selfish about…
1 – Crying Happens. Let the child cry. I do this from almost day one. If the child’s needs are taken care of, it’s okay to let them cry for a bit…especially in cases of frustration and exhaustion. Burn out happens really fast when rushing to answer every squeak becomes a higher priority then sanity. When they’re older, my child knows that it’s okay to cry…in their rooms in cases of temper. On the flip-side…it’s okay for Mom to cry too. And it often helps to restore balance in a frazzled soul.
2 – Mom is NOT a chuck wagon. I plan out the meals, taking everyone’s likes and dislikes into account the best that I can, and what is made is what is made. If the child doesn’t like it…after a certain number of bites…then that child is welcome to make themselves a peanut butter sandwich. I will not make multiple meals to satisfy each individual daily whim and fancy. And sometimes I even make a meal because it’s something *I* want to eat. It’s okay to do that.
3 – Beauty Sleep. For everyone! Early to rise means early to bed. And every child in this house is an early riser! (More proof that God has a sense of humor!) Sleep is vital for health and happiness around here. When a child doesn’t sleep well, everyone suffers. When Mom doesn’t sleep well, everyone suffers. So bedtimes are enforced…and if a child decides it’s okay to wake mom…well that doesn’t happen much after the first or second time. Don’t get me wrong. When a child is sick, scared or hurt I’m the first one there…I’m fine with that. It’s the times they decide that they need to tell me that someone touched their toe or ate the last muffin or can’t find a sock that turns up this mom’s cranky meter. I think I’ve mentioned before how mornings really don’t like me, right?
4 – Quiet Time. More proof that my beloved God has a sense of humor. Naps stop happening between 12-18 months of age around here. Not because of any choice on my part…I’d be happy if they napped into their teens! CareBear was the only one who was a good napper. Quiet time becomes vital to my afternoon sanity. After lunch…for a couple of hours…quiet time happens. The little ones lay down with pillows and blankets to watch a quiet movie. The older ones can find something quiet to do…finish school work, curl up with a book, do a puzzle, etc…as long as it’s quiet. I did mention before, how much energy a child has, right? And how they use that energy to be everywhere at once, right? Quiet time lets me catch my breath…and sometimes even catch up on something like writing…or sleeping. 🙂
5 – Snack Attack. For Mom. Only Mom. No one else but Mom. No…I don’t starve my child…and sometimes I’ve even been known to share. There’s even a snack cupboard for them…and it’s even unlocked. 🙂 But this Mom often has her own snacks. Sometimes they’re even sugary snacks. Okay…most of the time they’re sugary snacks. I’ve heard all the arguments against doing this…eating “forbidden” snacks around my child. I don’t care to go into great detail defending my position. I’m just going to say two things. Sometimes Mom needs to be a bit selfish…and…being an adult has to have a few benefits…right?
6- Privacy Matters. Privacy is important. How important is really a personal choice…so I’m only going to touch on a couple of points that are required in our home. Remember…a Child is Everywhere…right? It’s important…sometimes even more then vital…to start teaching them to respect privacy at an early age. Even a toddler can be taught to knock when a door is closed. Especially a bathroom or bedroom door. Knocking…and waiting for an answer…is polite. Another thing this Mom insists on is that my bedroom is off limits without permission. My room is not the playroom…and it’s private. I’ve even been known…shock beyond shock…to lock it. Plus there’s a child door lock to keep the younger ones from giving into their urge to be Everywhere.
7 – Me Time. It’s taken me a lot longer then it should have to realize how important this is. Let’s face it. Being a Mom is a very busy job. There is no other job, that I can think of, that requires so much time, talents and effort. There’s also no other job more important. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day busyness…to be run over and dragged around by the be everywhere child. I can’t stress how important it is to find the time to refocus…refill…and just be alone. Go for a walk, read a book, watch a movie, do a craft, pray…something that is just for you. It’s a sanity issue…trust me.
8 – Date Night. For me this is the most important selfish behavior that I can ever teach my child. Again…it’s a personal choice. But for me, this teaches them several things…and is HUGE in keeping my marriage important and strong. Good examples of healthy couple relationships are hard to find in our society. It’s important to be a good example in this from the start…at home. Every Friday or Saturday, GadgetMan and I go on a date…and the kidlets have come to expect it. Sometimes it’s a fancy dinner date…sometimes it’s just a shopping date…sometimes it’s just popcorn and a movie at home date. But in every case it’s just the 2 of us (the only exception has been a newborn tag-along…which doesn’t really count). That’s important. Showing appropriate levels of affection are also vital. Hugs, a kiss, holding hands and even “I love you” said often helps so much. Another thing I like to insist on…when we sit together a child doesn’t come between us. There are exceptions…especially with a very young child and usually involving food…but for the most part this is a selfish behavior that teaches them to understand that Mom and Dad are together and strong.
I hope these few ideas will inspire you to be a little bit selfish when it comes to raising your child. Again I’ll say that total selfish behavior is immature and far from what I’m trying to share. But being a little selfish can help us raise an everywhere child into a healthy, happy and incredible adult. But that’s my opinion…and we already know how selfish I am.