Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, including Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. She has a passion for encouraging and helping women fulfill their potential as mothers. With Mother’s Day here, she wrote a special letter to moms everywhere.
I know that many of you are worried that you aren’t doing a good enough job with your children. You watch your friends parent, and you want to make sure that your kids don’t lose out or fall behind their’s. Your job, you believe, is to make sure that your child feels just as important as other kids do.
You worry about when or if you should immunize your babies, if you should work outside the home, if it’s okay to let your toddler cry at night, if he should use a pacifier, when to start feeding her meats, when she should start kindergarten, what school he should attend, the sports she should play, and how much fat and sugar he eats in his diet.
Then there’s whether or not to let her drink juice, the choice of car seats, how much fast food is okay, and which veggies and fruits need to be organic. And this is just scratching the surface. You who have older children worry about what your child will see on the internet, how much screen time is okay, and what to do if your son won’t stop playing video games.
Then there are drugs, driving dangers, sex, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, dating and R-rated movies. Ahhhh! You want to pull your hair out or crawl into a hole and hide. How can you be everything to your child?
I have great news for you: you can’t, so stop trying. Take a deep breath and know that who you are is good enough. Trust me. I’ve known thousands of mothers just like you, and I’ve watched their children grow up. Those kids are alive and thriving, and most still love being with their moms. So let me help you out on this Mother’s Day.
First, understand that you have what it takes to parent your kids really, really well. Stop comparing your kids to your friends’ kids. You’re not parenting their kids—you’re parenting yours. Do what you believe is right and stick to your instincts. Don’t buy your child a cell phone just because his friends have one. If you have money for only one car, so be it. If you don’t want to work outside the home because you want to be with your children, good for you. If you do work outside the home, make your husband pitch in. You work hard, and I know you do more work at home than he does even though you both provide incomes. No apologies. You aren’t superwoman and your children don’t want you to be. They simply want you. Quit the guilt. Whether you stay home full time or work outside the home, always let your children know that they are your priority. You feel this, so rather than act apologetic all the time, tell them. Be confident in yourself.
Your kids have told me what they want and need from you, and it’s so much simpler than you can imagine. Here’s what they want—no more, no less. They want your time, your attention and your love. They don’t care what you wear or how much money you do or don’t make. They don’t want a bigger house (most kids like smaller homes because they like sleeping on the same floor as their parents). Your kids want to know that you are happy and that you like being their mom. Their security comes from knowing that they—not your friends or your work—are your priority. They watch you for clues regarding what you think about them and how you feel about them, and then they internalize those clues. They literally see themselves the way you see them. If you think they’re smart, they’re smart. If you think they’re strong, then there’s no doubt about it.
When you walk in a room, they feel safer. They cower if you yell, and they love hearing you laugh. Your teens don’t want to share clothes with you. They want the spotlight, and they don’t like it when you wear smaller or cooler clothes. Your sons want to know that you always have their backs. They don’t want to talk to you, but they want you in the same room.
While you sweat the small stuff, they don’t even see it. You worry about their sugar intake; they worry about whether or not you like them. You want them to perform well in sports and excel in school, and they want to know if you enjoy their company.
I am convinced that if mothers could sit behind their child’s eyes for 15 minutes and see themselves as their children see them, their lives would never be the same. You would do a whole lot less. You’d spend more time walking in the woods or in the neighborhood with your children. And you’d know in the depth of your heart that you—and no other woman—are the center of your child’s life.
This Mother’s Day, give yourself a reality check. Tell yourself the truth—that you have everything you need to be your child’s greatest mom. Slow down, keep life simple, and start living like you are exactly the mother that your child wants and needs.