Patience is a topic we usually reserve for our relationship with our children. Developing patience in the face of screaming babies, whining toddlers, dawdling preschoolers, forgetful grade schoolers and headstrong teenagers can be considered the tour de force of motherhood. Once you’ve mastered patience, so many other things fall into place. Not only can you enjoy peace amid the insanity as the “eye of the storm,” but you can actually help your children with whatever it was that was driving you crazy in the first place.
But what about developing patience for yourself as the mother of these demanding creatures? Do you work as hard at having patience with yourself as you do at having patience with your children? Do you try to be as kind and as merciful? Just as it damages our relationship with our children when we fly off the handle at every misbehavior and mistake they make, we damage our own self-esteem when we refuse to treat ourselves benevolently.
And why is that, anyway? Is it because we’re all “grown up” that we expect ourselves to always do everything right and be able to handle the almost insurmountable responsibilities of motherhood without a glitch? If you stop to think about it, it’s really quite preposterous — especially if you are a new mother who didn’t receive much “training” during your growing up years.
Like the backup system on a computer that is constantly scanning and saving information on a hard drive, my brain is constantly scanning the “cache” of responsibilities that I consider to fall under my jurisdiction as a mother. But unlike a computer, I have a lot of emotion wrapped up in tracking these responsibilities, and sometimes the sheer enormity of it all can feel quite heavy.
I thought I’d share the list with you today for two reasons: 1) to validate the feeling you have of sometimes being overwhelmed, and 2) to make it as obvious as possible that an enormous amount of patience is required for every mother trying to figure this stuff out.
It is by no means exhaustive, but here’s the list. (I’m sure you could add to it with your own concerns and areas of importance.)
- helping your children develop good habits of nutrition, sleep, and exercise
- taking them to doctor and dental appointments
- getting their hair cut
- shopping for needed seasonal clothing
- teaching them basic hygiene and sex education
- dealing with special allergies or other dietary needs
- handling bigger physical or emotional issues that require medication or treatments
- helping them choose good friends
- teaching them how to be a good friend
- guiding them in the process of figuring out their talents and passions
- nurturing their self-esteem
- aiding good relationships with siblings
- teaching them resilience, self-discipline, responsibility, manners, stress management, anger management, money management, time management, and a gazillion other life skills
- choosing how and where to have them educated (home school, charter school, public school, montessori school)
- helping them with homework and projects
- keeping up on all the paperwork that comes home from school
- volunteering in the school
- communicating with teachers and attending school events
- choosing the right classes and teachers at the high school level
- SAT/ACT preparation
- choosing colleges and filling out applications
- figuring out college financing and housing
- attending a house of worship together and trying to instill the values of your faith through extended education, conversations at home, service to others, and personal daily worship
And that’s just the kids! What about the home? There’s meal planning, shopping and preparing. Daily, weekly and monthly housecleaning. Regular home and car maintenance. Laundry, de-cluttering, organizing, decorating, budgeting, and the list goes on and on.
I don’t mean to suggest that you carry all of this on your own. Hopefully you have a spouse or other “helpers” in your life that are shouldering some of this burden with you. But even with all the support in the world, can you see why it might be reasonable to have a little patience with yourself as you try to get these things down?
So as you gear up for that next inevitable toddler tantrum, try to reserve some of your emotional stamina for the time you screw up today — because it’s bound to happen. And as you become the eye in the storm for yourself, not only will you feel a greater sense of peace and acceptance, you’ll be showing your children how to do it too.
QUESTION: Are you as patient with yourself as you are with your children? Why or why not?
CHALLENGE: Try practicing as much patience for yourself today as you do your children.