I don't have any children of my own, but like everyone else, I am someone's child. I am one of four children, to be precise. I am the middle child of Don and Gail Hamilton, amazing parents, role models, and human beings.
My mother, in my opinion, is the most humble, generous, loving, and beautiful woman and mother imaginable. I've been known to exaggerate on occasion, but let me explain that this is not one of them. In all honesty, I cannot imagine a mother with more admirable qualities than those of my own.
Mother's Day was last weekend and so the idea of motherhood has been on my mind. I do want children of my own someday. Many that know me well might laugh at the idea of me wanting children seeing as I, for many years, wasn't keen on children in general. However, as I've grown, that instinctive yearning for motherhood has slowly crept into my mind. And, luckily, my husband agrees. This interest in motherhood has had me asking many questions about what it's like to be a mom.
I think it's important to explain something further. My mom is currently battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Her prognosis is grim, but she is staying strong in spirit and mind, leaning on her faith and hope in Christ. This unfortunate circumstance has also weighed into my thoughts about motherhood in the future. I had the opportunity to sit down with my mom to get some feedback on her view of motherhood as it related to her own personal experiences. My hope is to use this information in my own life when becoming a mother and I hope it proves helpful for other mothers as well.
What challenges did you experience as a mother?
There were moments when I felt overwhelmed with things like keeping up with laundry, and everyone's schedules. I worked part-time. I don't think I could have worked full time and had kids and also balanced my time as worship leader at church.
We didn't overly cater to our children's schedules, or baby them all the time. We just took them where we went. We never had our kids on a strict schedule. They had a bed time that we would try to shoot for, but if they didn't get to bed on time, we didn't freak out. Our children learned to roll with our lives as much as we did with theirs.
How did you manage a love life once you became a mother?
We would always make sure that we had time to go out or times away. We knew we needed that time away just for the two of us. Our children grew up knowing that there would be times that were just mom and dad's time. We also had the advantage of having family close by to watch our kids. That time has always been a priority, but it definitely got more difficult when we had kids.
What were some of your most memorable moments as a mom?
I think anytime we got to see our kids do well at things or excel were memorable moments. As our kids got older, those times just continued to increase. I also think memorable moments were time spent taking vacations, from camping, to beach vacations. I wouldn't trade those times for anything. Those times helped to solidify the feeling of family, having fun together, being who you are, learning more about each other aside from the chaos of schedules. We definitely made sacrifices, but chose our family over other things.
What were the most difficult times you experienced as a mom?
The most frustrating times were just a matter of trying to keep up with everything. It's not like we had a really rebellious child like some parents have had issues with. Of course, we heard stories later of things we probably would have freaked out about. We never thought our children were perfect, but they were pretty darn close.
There are choices that you hope that your kids will make and if they don't make the right ones, you hope that they'll figure it out fast or come for help. I think that learning early about the different personalities of our children was really helpful. As a result, we weren't creating unrealistic expectations.
How did you learn how to deal with the different personalities in your children?
We went to a parenting class at our church. It was a video series. Gary Smalley and John Trent used some of the ideas of the DISC profile test, and created a personality profile using animals, the otter, the lion, the beaver, and the golden retriever. It was probably at least school age until we started to see our kids settle into certain profiles, and even then it changed as they grew older. Just having that knowledge was really helpful. I think the big thing is, don't pigeon hole your children into certain things because they'll wax and wane into what is natural for them.
How did you handle discipline with your children?
It was hardest when our children were very little. We did do the threatening of spanking, which isn't done so much anymore. Although, all I would have to do was threaten a spanking and the action would be corrected, I didn't actually have to spank my kids that often. The biggest part of it is consistency. If you say your going to do it, unless it's said out of rage, you need to follow through. Most of the time it was a matter of following through. If I told one of my children that they would sit in the chair when we got home, then I had to follow through when it came time.
At early school age, we started family meetings. We would have something special prepared for dinner, then we would sit down with a note book and let the kids be a part of determining discipline. We let the kids help decide what would be the appropriate discipline for different things and helped guide them to what would be good for a specific age. We did a lot of time outs, but the kids helped to determine that. If they did something wrong, they knew what was coming and they would get the notebook and look up what was determined to be the right disciplinary action. They accepted discipline better because they were a part of determining it.
If we felt like the kids were getting lackadaisical on it, we would call another family meeting to reevaluate. After time, our kids would actually ask when we were going to have another family meeting because we made it fun. That always worked really well for us.
What would your tips be for a new mom?
It's sometimes helpful to read parenting books, but don't try to follow them to a T and force your child into a role that is not natural for them. Books are good guidelines, but don't follow them as a rule book. I didn't have much of that when I was having children but I see a lot of it today. Mom's and dad's get all stressed out because they aren't on a schedule, which causes the baby to be stressed out.
Make sure you're getting good sleep, even if that means calling in a friend to watch the baby so your not all frazzled.
Make sure that your husband doesn't become too much less of a priority. He can feel like he's not as much of a part of your life and he doesn't have as much of your attention as he did before. That can cause a lot of stress too. Make sure that you're setting a time together. Marriage is a priority.
Take everyone's advice as a grain of salt. You don't have to do everything the way that your friends are doing it. All new moms are going through the same kinds of stresses. Some things that work for one baby, might not work for another baby. And if you feel like you're going to lose it, call in the help.
Making time to socialize is good. Spending time with moms in the same situation is helpful.
Use the church nursery. You won't get as much out of the sermon otherwise, and your child won't get used to it if you don't let them cry every once in a while.
Learn to appreciate your child's uniqueness. Talk to them about the good things they are doing. Sometimes that means knowing better your child's personality and what works for them. You might tell your child to clean their room and notice they only threw everything in a pile in the corner. To them, they might see that as clean. Instead of criticizing, make it a game and help to teach them what your idea of clean is. In other words, compliment as much as you're correcting.
Ask questions. Even if you don't get answers, your children will know that you're watching and that you care.
Thanks, Mom, for your words of wisdom! And to everyone else, I hope that some of these tips serve useful during your journey as a mom. Feel free to share with us some of your tips as well!