Have you ever tried to go to the bathroom with someone leaning on your leg? Because that’s motherhood.
There are no secrets from your kids; or, rather, there are, but they are carefully concealed while the rest of who you are easily shines through with very little filter—it’s why we have such power as parents to mess our kids up.
They see that time I lost my temper, even if no one above four feet was here to witness it.
They see if I have a glass of wine while I’m cooking dinner, and then another wine when I finally sit down.
They see how I look at myself in the mirror, they listen to the things that I say about my body; in short, kids see everything we do, and then take that in and process it.
In other words, we have a direct ability to choose what our kids see us do—and what they don’t.
So my kids won’t hear me call myself fat.
My kids won’t hear me call something “retarded” or “gay” or a number of other derogatory words that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but often are.
My kids will, however, see me do these things—thank goodness.
I’ve worked exceedingly hard, as someone who could exercise for hours given the opportunity, to understand what’s a healthy amount of exercise both for my body and my life. I never want to be a mom who places a workout above my children.
This said, last night when my body really needed to move, I parked my purple yoga mat and my oldest daughter’s pink one on the floor in front of the television, placed the baby in her swing facing us, and put on a Kristin McGee Pilates DVD.
Was it easy? No. Did the baby whimper every now and then because she’d rather be practicing how to sit up on floor? Yes. Did my oldest daughter attempt to “help” me during my ab work? Yes. Still, I soldiered on and, afterwards, thanked my girls for helping mommy workout because it made me feel so much better.
2. Drink wine.
Alcohol is a very private thing. There’s a great amount of shame attached to alcohol, as well as a strong amount of (appropriate) responsibility. Because of this, I’m trying to show my children that drinking alcohol moderately is acceptable.
Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t have my weeks where I give up my nightly glass of wine completely because I need a break from it—because I think part of being a responsible drinker is checking in often with intention.
For example, I don’t want to need a glass of wine. If I’m having a day where I fee like I really need a drink at the end of it, then I’ll have a 20 to 30 minute yoga practice instead and, if I still want the wine after, then I’ll ask myself why.
But, generally, I think it’s perfectly okay to let my children see mommy have a couple glasses of wine while we’re kitchen dancing and cooking. I think this helps teach moderation rather than bingeing.
3. Argue—and make up.
To be fair, I don’t like arguing with my husband in front of my kids. Regardless, I think a healthy display of differing opinions (like that?) followed by a solution is helpful for our kids to see that, first, people who love each other do fight from time to time and, also, that we can be models of healthy conflict resolution.
4. Lose my shit—and then belly breathe and regain it.
Any mother who stays at home with small children will lose her shit on occasion. Period. She may not admit it like I am right now, but she will. Because it’s downright frustrating to be in this situation all day every day. What’s important, though, is that our kids see us have a mini freak out—and then they see us calm back down.
5. Walk away.
My children will also see me walk away.
When I cannot control my anger or frustration, the best thing for all parties is to walk away and wait out the adrenaline rush. This is part of being a responsible adult, plain and simple.
Our kids might not be fully capable of doing this themselves yet, but they will be someday—and they’ll have a much easier time learning how to walk away instead of blowing up if they see us do it too.
6. Not attach shame to food.
I loathe the current “it” phrase “clean eating.” To me, it’s a new way to attach shame and guilt to food.
Do I try to eat few processed foods; ones that make my body feel good after I enjoy them? Yes—but I won’t call my diet “clean,” because it conversely implies that some foods are “dirty.”
Another thing I won’t do is use food as a reward. My daughter gets “treat” foods because she ate healthy food beforehand, period. We’re also learning that we don’t eat a lot of some foods at a time or every day, not because they’re “dirty,” but because this won’t make our bodies feel good. So, no, we don’t attach shame to food in my house.
7. Take time outs.
Another thing my daughters see me do is take a mommy time out.
My husband comes home from work and it’s been one of those days where I’m biting my tongue off to not lose my temper. So I hand him the kids and go take a “time out.”
Maybe it’s a short yoga practice in another room, a quick spin on my bike downstairs, writing in bed or a glass of wine on the couch with a crappy Netflix show. It doesn’t matter—what does matter is that my children see me using a period of alone time to self-soothe and regroup myself.
8. Eat ice cream. (Or any other indulgent food.)
I already touched upon “clean eating,” but what about when we really are trying to fit back into our jeans after having a baby or just all-around shape up and feel good?
I’ve been on a weight training kick lately, and it feels great. I’m seeing muscles pop up and my pants fit after having my daughter in October. And, hey, we’re all about to wear much less clothing here in the Midwest.
Yet I took my daughter out for a surprise ice cream date on Friday, where we usually share a small bowl.
But I was feeling extra motivated and geared up to shape up that day, and, for a brief moment, I contemplated not having any with her—but in that instant of hesitation I saw who I want myself to be.
And I want myself to be fit and healthy and strong, but I also want to be the kind of mom who eats cake at birthday parties and has a couple mouthfuls of ice cream on an ice cream date.
Also, this is a great time to help display healthy moderation.
Because kids pretend they are not listening—my four year old is quickly becoming a pro at acting like she didn’t hear me ask her to “pick that up.”
But they are listening—and watching.
(Like how my daughter places her hands on her belly and breathes when I send her to time out. Or how she does downward-facing dog in the hallway while I put my make-up on in the bathroom.)
My kids are watching me and right now, when they’re small, is maybe one of the very few times in our lives where my opinions and example matter much more than their peers’ or anyone else’s.
So I’m taking advantage of that.
And while I’m sure that, some day, my daughters will be the first to admit that mom is far from perfect, I can only hope that they’ll also be the first to recognize that mommy loves them so much—she let them in.
I’ll let them in to see the real me, so that one day they’ll be open with me about who they are. And, no, I won’t share everything with my kids, but I will share these things and gladly.
Because one day much too soon, there will be no one hanging on my leg when I’m reaching for the toilet paper.
Photos: Author’s own.