Cultivating Better Relationships With Your Kids

The moving brigade!

Moving Day is supposed to a fun exciting day, right? Moving into a new place?

Well, not in this picture. We were moving because I had foreclosed on my beautiful home (with a basement they would never let me forget), I had declared bankruptcy, and we had to move into a rental house with shitty carpets. (More on that later.) I felt I had failed my children, failed myself, and failed at everything. On a positive note, my dad asked some people from his church to help me move, and they literally had everything I owned packed, moved, and unpacked before 10 am. It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen. And free. I was super grateful. I couldn’t afford movers. I couldn’t even afford my own laptop.

I grew up in a traditional Mormon family (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS for short) and the majority of the women in my family are stay-at-home moms. I thought that good moms stayed at home with their kids. I’ve actually always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom my entire life, but my twenties introduced me to marketing and business, and I was great at it. I loved it. I didn’t think I could afford to stay at home when my son was born, and it killed me to go back to work. But my career was thriving, and when my daughter was born two and a half years later, I was itching to go back to the office. My marriage fell apart a year later.

My babies on moving day.

Don’t give in to the pressure

My upbringing created the belief that working moms can’t be good moms. I tried to do everything I could do, spent every waking moment with my kids on the weekends, but I always had this pit in my stomach that I was ruining them. I was never doing enough. I never spent enough time with them. I wasn’t giving them everything they needed.

There is so much perceived pressure being a parent. Especially being a single parent. I felt like I had to be the mom and the dad. I felt like I had ruined their lives when I divorced their dad, and I felt like all of their struggles were my fault. I always felt like I was required to do a million different things in order to “be a good mom”. I felt pressure to join the PTA, get them in sports, karate, music, playtime, outings, games, lessons.

And everyone has an opinion about parenting, don’t they? Your mom thinks you need to do this…Your dad thinks you should do that…Your ex thinks this…Their parents think you should do that.

Everyone has different opinions about what good parenting means.

I found myself running ragged 24/7 making myself crazy trying to keep up with all of the “duties” I felt were required of me. I also found myself exhausted trying to keep up the appearance that I wasn’t exhausted and running myself ragged!

Your children were given to YOU. Nobody else.

The hair can’t be a tangled mess, I can’t be late, shoes have to match, no stains the clothes, no holes anywhere (yeah right), be on time, get the homework done, get the right uniform on the right day remember PE, get the right shoes. Oh, and make yourself presentable, get all your work done, make sure you’re available for all emergencies and sickness, pretend like you’re a professional, be available for all client calls, and pretend like you have your shit together at all times. I think I made on average 9 trips a day to the school when my kids were in elementary school.

Guess what?

Your children weren’t given to your mom, aunt, sister, ex-in-laws, or anyone else.

They were given to you, by God. On Purpose. Because you were the ONLY person who could be their mom. Because you are the person He chose for them because you would be the best mom for the job. You know them the best. They know you the best. No one else’s opinions matter, unless it’s someone who you highly revere and want their opinions.

If we just stop the insanity and take a moment to examine what is actually important, everything can change.

What matters to YOU the most?

What matters to your CHILD the most?

What do they need the MOST?

That’s all that matters. Then, we start to be calm so we can be guided to what they need the most and how you can cultivate meaningful relationships with your kids best.

You. Will. Be. Guided.

Long ago, when I was talking to my sister about possibly homeschooling my kids, I was expressing all my concerns: would they be weird, would I teach them enough, would I screw them up for life? How do you structure the day? She told me a wise woman stopped her and said to her:

You. Will. Be. Guided.

We don’t have to accomplish 947 tasks a day when all they care about is spending time with you when you’re not being distracted by your phone. That’s all my kids cared about. For me, reading books to them was the most important time. It meant alone time, uninterrupted time, all my focus was on them.

It’s your call, no one else’s.

Creating that knowingness that we will be guided to what is best for our children creates faith and calmness. Once I settled into the fact that I wouldn’t have all the answers, and I didn’t have to run around like a psychopath to be a good mom, I relaxed in knowing that I would be guided when questions came up. There’s no instruction book for raising kids. (or is there???)

One of my favorite lines from any sermon ever was: Our prayers are us talking to God. Our intuition is God talking to us.

So if we don’t pray, it’s like God is calling on the phone and we don’t answer! The instruction book to what our kids need is our intuition!

What if there is a guidebook and it’s our GUT?!

Create small, quantifiable goals

Once I settled into the fact that my gut was God telling me what to do, I asked myself what was the most important thing to me, and I came up with this list of small quantifiable goals I could easily accomplish:

Read every night

Game night once a week – get on the floor and play

Outing every weekend – park, zoo, science center, whatever.

Dinner at the table most nights.

Then once you determine what it means TO YOU to be a good mom, you can make small quantifiable goals that help you strengthen your relationships with your kids. Why quantifiable? Because you can’t measure “I want to be a good mom.” How do you know if you have been a good mom today? What do “good mothers” do? It’s up to each of us to decide that. If you believe good mothers take their kids to sports every day, then there’s your goal. If you believe that good mothers have their children help them make dinner, then there’s your goal. If you believe good mothers make their children make their bed every morning, then there’s your goal.

I made my list of small quantifiable goals. Yours will probably be different. And your list is constantly changing with the ages and needs of your kids.

You can’t measure “I want to be a good mom.”

So even if the entire day was a shit show and we had cheerios at midnight for dinner, if I read to them for 30 minutes before bed, I was doing OK. I knew for myself I was doing OK. I didn’t need anyone else to tell I was doing a good job. I KNEW. I made the decision about what was best for them, and then I made one small teeny tiny quantifiable goal, then did it. Most of the time. It’s a great way to build our relationship with ourselves as well. You get the added bonus of keeping your promises to yourself! That’s how you build self-confidence.

Maybe you’re not sure what goals to chose. You could look at some of the parents you know who you really admire. Maybe you could identify what is it that you admire about some of the really great parents you know.

A relationship by definition is an ongoing process every day. If we just take it one day at a time, and concentrate on ONE thing that we can do to strengthen our relationship with our kids just on that day, it doesn’t seem so insurmountable. My daughter just turned fifteen this week, and it’s been the hardest year yet. Just being fourteen is hard enough, but I don’t remember that. I don’t remember having nervous breakdowns every day. I might have had them, but I don’t remember them. I didn’t have to deal with a pandemic and shut down and isolation from my friends when I was fourteen. I think this house arrest BS has been the HARDEST for teenagers. At least teenage girls. Their social lives are the most important thing! So every day I pray for guidance for the right words, the right timing, and the right tone. Every day. I thank God in advance for guidance for how to help Leah, the words Leah needs me to say, and the right timing and the right tone, and I’ve had two sessions with my therapist. She helps me because she knows the teenage brain and she knows bout the development. She explains that teenage girls want their independence AND they need their moms the most, and they are always going to act out with the one they trust the most: me.

Don’t be ashamed if you need a coach. My therapist is a lifesaver. I don’t speak teenager. She does. As soon as you feel like everything is going OK with your kids, they change! It’s a constant game of trying to figure out what they need the most, and making quantifiable goals. Obviously, I don’t read to them anymore (I wish I did) but I still have a goal to have a game night once a week. No phones, just cards. And dinner at the table together most nights. I don’t always succeed, but I also give my self grace. No one said you have to be perfect. Most of the time is just fine, mama. If today sucked, try again tomorrow!

Wishing you lots of love!



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