I have been a stay at home mum for 14 years. When I made the decision to stop work and to focus full time on caring for my family, being a mum or a parent became my career. Just like any other profession or career, I want to be good at what I do, I want to excel at my career and feel as if I am having success frequently. I want to see results from my efforts and labours. The challenge I have found as a full time mum is trying to determine if I am being a good mum or a successful parent. Determining what success means for me has been a difficult process and I have finally found a comfortable guide to let me know how I am doing with all my efforts.
The greatest part of this challenge in my full time career is that what I exhaust myself with each day ends up with little proof that I have even put in any effort or worked hard for hours by the end of the day. I may spend several hours cleaning a room only to walk past an hour later to see it destroyed and back to the same state it was in before I started cleaning it. I may wipe a sweet cherubs face 15 times during the day and by the end of the day it will still look as it did when I first started that morning. I may spend time cooking a delicious meal only to find that nobody wants to eat it and I could have just served up butter on bread and used that time doing something else!
Spending 14 years so far as a full time mum has been very rewarding, a dream of mine yet at times I have found it very frustrating! I have to admit that in the early years I spent most of my life waking up as if I am living in Groundhog Day, stuck on replay. Some mornings I would dread the thought of doing the same thing over and over again and not seeing any change or results. I spent days thinking I was never, ever going to be a good enough mother. I was tempted to daily line all the kids up and to measure them just to make sure they were actually growing!!
In determining what my personal guide would be to determine if I was being successful as a parent, I spent a great deal of time thinking about what a successful parent was to me. Some questions I asked myself were:
Do I determine my success by the happiness of my children?
(With seven kids, someone in my home is always unhappy!)
((Actually, when I serve up ice cream everyone is happy!))
Do I determine my success by how clean my house is?
(I may have a spotless house and yet find my children are miserable because I don't have any time to play with them or I am exhausted every day because I am spending all of my nights cleaning when they are in bed.)
Do I determine my success by my children's behaviour?
(Children are children. They all misbehave at times!)
Do I determine my success by the manners my children have?
(I don't know about your family, but in my family someone always likes to burp at the table, fart when we have people over and to say words we don't approve of at the most inappropriate times!)
Do I determine my success by the rewards or achievements they receive?
(Well what if I have a child who never receive any rewards, yet you know they are trying their best?)
I personally found I needed to work out how I was going to gauge my success as a parent because after a couple of years as a full time mum, it really started to affect my self worth. I needed to know that I was doing a good job as a mum and I had to feel that within myself. I did not want to reply upon my the praise of my husband or children to tell me so.
Determining what success for you is as a parent is not an easy task. It can be very complex. We all determine our happiness and success in different ways. We also all have very different families and personal situations. What might be success for one parent is not going to be success for another. Along this parenting journey it is of no worth to compare ourselves to other families and other parents because our children and parenting styles are all unique. We need more parents who are willing to follow their own path, to be a tailor-made parent and who will parent the way our children need us to.
When I had three young children in three years, success for me was to simply have a shower every day. I would celebrate when I made it happen. I would tell myself I was a good mum because I took the time to do one thing for myself amongst all the craziness back then and having clean hair was definately worth celebrating!
As my family grew to include seven young children in nine years, the definition of success came each night when I fell into bed and announced that I had managed to keep all the children alive until the end of the day...success! My success became determined by my survival of the day even though at times I had days where I felt like I was a lonely mother.
It was also during this time that my feelings started to change and I began to have more and more moments where I actually felt that I was pulling this large family parenting gig off! You know those days where you know that everything just went well, where you stayed on top of the housework, the children played nicely, everyone ate most of their dinner and you found the time to give all the children the attention that they wanted and needed and where you fell onto the bed at night exhausted with a smile on your face because you had success! Yeah. That!
Now that my children are a little older and are able to take care of themselves a little better, my definition of success has changed as well. Now I determine my success by the relationship I have with my children. It has little to do with how clean my house is or what I cook for dinner, it has more to do with how close we feel to each other, how much love we have for each other and the unity we feel in our home.
I often look at my adorable family and feel so blessed that I get to be with them full time. I know that I still have so much more to learn about being a good mother to them and of how to be a successful parent the way they need and want me to be. Yet, I love the challenge of it all. I find motherhood is rewarding and has given me more skills than I could have learnt in any other environment. For me personally, I have discovered so much about myself and become a far more giving, loving and compassionate person because I am a mother. I have learned to lighten up on myself and to find success each day in the little things I do. I find it is often the little things that make the biggest difference as a parent.
How you do find success are a parent? How do you determine what success means to you?