Everyday Motherhood

That's why my mom, Linda, and I wanted to write down some of the things we've learned along the way - some of the 'secrets' that have helped us through the trenches of motherhood.

Some of these secrets will be old hat to you. Some will be new. But it's always invigorating to think through things over and over again. After all, motherhood is something that must be made and re-made.

Traditions - by Shawni

Family traditions tie love strings around your family. And if you can start them early, they're one of the best-organized offenses you can come by.

We had some crazy traditions while I was growing up. One of my personal favorites was my dad's birthday tradition. His birthday fell in October, and he was the type who was enamored of fall leaves. So on his birthday we would rake up piles of leaves and jump in them. Simple, right? But we loved it.

Traditions don't need to be anything fancy. One Tuesday night last year I let my older kids stay up with me to swim laps in the pool. It turned out to be a magical night of togetherness, so we decided to form the Tuesday Night Swim Club. My kids got to the point that they would look forward to it all week. When it got too cold to continue, we had to give it up, but the second it started to warm up again, they were on me to head out to the pool on Tuesday nights. They love it, and so do I.

So, the secret is family traditions are the glue that holds your family together . . . an offense that is much bigger than you can know until you look back and see the difference it has made in your family.

The Balancing Act - by Linda

How often do you find yourself feeling out of balance? As if there are so many things in your envelope that you just can't cram in anything else?

Your life is full of stuff, and sometimes you feel that you are in the thick of thin things. My husband is the one who has kept me balanced. He figured out a secret that has helped immensely with my peace of mind with nine kids - along with all the other demands on my life, including him! This helps me feel happy at the end of the day, even if I haven't accomplished much on my list of things to do. I hope it'll do the same for you and help you realize that you're having more fun than you thought you were!

Begin by drawing three lines on a blank piece of paper. Write one thing on the first line that you are going to do for yourself that day. It may just be reading the introduction of the book you've been dying to get to for the past month. It could be making time to exercise for fifteen minutes. On the second line, write just one thing that you want (not need) to do for someone in your family. On the third line, write something you want to do (not need to do) in "your world." If your work is at home, that could be cleaning out the junk drawer that drives you crazy every time you open it. Your world that day may be serving a friend or neighbor.

Determine that even if doing what you have written on those three lines is the only thing you accomplish that day, your day has been a success! You'll feel a little more balanced because they usually have to do with relationships - with yourself, your family, and your work. They are things that keep you thinking about the most important things in your life.

Number One - by Shawni

Sometimes I miss my husband. We live in the same house, sleep in the same bed, sit at the same table for dinner, and raise the same kids. But sometimes, when things get really crazy, it's like we're strangers passing each other in the hallway.

On a typical evening as we try to talk, me asking what he has on the agenda for the weekend and he telling me some story that happened at work, Grace is interrupting to tell me (in a very dramatic way) every detail from her field trip, Claire's crying in the corner because she got her feelings hurt about something or other, Max is pounding on the piano, and the others are all clamoring for attention in their own ways.

I love being a mother with all my heart, commotion and all. But as much as I adore those kids, Dave is my "number one." My sweetheart. My best friend. And when I'm a shriveled up little old lady, I want to remember this: he was my first priority. He's the one who lights up my heart with something as little as giving me a wink. He's the one I want to be with more than anyone else in the world.

Take time to analyze your relationship with your spouse - how can you make it better, more fun, more consistent, more "number one"? Doing so will make all the difference.

Goals - by Linda

The more that Richard and I speak with parents, the more we realize that one of the greatest secrets of raising successful, responsible children is to give them ownership. As we use this concept in our counseling, we realize it is the solution to most kids' problems. Usually we suggest that this transfer of ownership (from parents to kids) happens at about age eight - the age of accountability.

Ownership is key to changing your job description as a parent from taskmaster, referee, and drill sergeant to one of consultant. But how does ownership relate to goals?

When our kids were growing up, we gave them each a piece of poster paper at the beginning of each school year and had them use it to plan out their school year. We asked them to figure out their theme for the year. (One year one of our son's themes was "Step It up a Notch.") Then we asked the kids to divide their charts into three sections. The first was to write their academic goals, which could include the grades they wanted to earn or specific things they wanted to learn. The second section was for extracurricular goals. The third category was for character goals; we asked them to think about goals to improve their empathy for other people and issues concerning values like honesty, self-reliance, and courage to do what is right.

Suddenly, instead of us standing over them saying things like, "Have you got you homework done?" or "Why can't you be nicer to Amy when she needs your support?" we could instead ask, "What can I do to help you with your goals?" What a paradigm shift! We couldn't believe the difference this ownership of their goals made in our kids' abilities to take responsibility for their actions and in our relationships with them.

Sure, there were kids who weren't that motivated in any case and had to be reminded over and over to look at their goals and let us know how they were doing, but you see the value of having that be their responsibility, not yours!

Your children's goal-setting process will help you see what a difference it makes when your kids feel ownership of their own goals. It is an incredible secret to creating a happy, self-motivated child.

Adapted from A Mother's Book of Secrets; Deseret Book. Now available. Click here to buy it.

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