Early on I learned to love thrill of working hard and performing well. In elementary school I struggled with reading. I didn’t understand what was “wrong” with me and felt stupid, insecure, and ashamed because I wasn’t like the other kids. Thankfully with the help of my parents and teachers I was able to overcome my learning challenges and in the process developed a strong work ethic. Yet, my scars of insecurity remained.
Striving for excellence helped me chip away my shame and nasty insecurities. Throughout high school and college, my efforts lead to success both in and out of the classroom. After college I worked hard and eventually landed my dream job, where I was again praised for my performance. But we all know even the most admirable pursuits can be taken too far. I became a performance-driven person, looking for security and worth in working hard and getting results. The pressure of constantly needing to do my best and always striving to prove myself was my achilles heal.
Fast forward several years and I’m now a stay at home mom. As a stay home mom I do not get a grade, earn a paycheck, or receive performance reviews. During the newborn days the only consistent feedback I had was a crying baby and overwhelming fatigue. I watched my son’s progress along the growth charts like a hawk as if I was solely responsible for his development. I evaluated each day by how productive I was and by my son’s mood. This was a loosing game to play. I became discouraged. Yes, my husband told me I was doing a wonderful job, but I needed to do some major soul searching. I needed to liberate myself and my baby from the burden of performance-driven parenting. Here are some truths I preach to myself when I need to a healthy dose of perspective…
1.Your child cannot and should not carry the weight of your self-worth. Evaluating my worth by my son’s mood or development is unhealthy and will strain our relationship. When my son has a rough day it does not necessarily mean I’ve done something wrong. Growing up is tricky business and sometimes kids need room to struggle.
2. You do not have to do everything all the time. I used to have a daily list of things I had to accomplish: take care of the baby, make sure he has perfect naps, workout during those perfect naps, get myself put-together, tidy up the apartment, meal plan, do diaper laundry, blog, read parenting books, etc, etc, etc… While I still have mental lists, they are much tamer now and I know if something doesn’t get done today there is always tomorrow.
3. The comparison game is a rip current; it’ll suck you into dangerous waters. Every child and every parent is different so I’m never comparing apples to apples. In the age of social media people often seem more together than they truly are. I should be open to learning from other moms, while guarding myself against using those “perfect mothers” as a metric by which to measure myself.
4. Each day is precious and time is fleeting. Soon a day will come when I’m not the most fascinating thing in the room to my little boy. Someday he’ll be more interested in playing with toys than he is in playing with me. Someday he will not need my snuggles and lullabies at bedtime. I must daily remind myself to slow down and enjoy the precious moments of mothering.
5. I am me and that is enough. I am who God made me to be. I am a women, I am a wife, I am a mother, and that is enough. Jesus, my Creator and Savior sees me as forgiven and loved so I have nothing to prove. I am secure and loved just as I am.
Let’s be honest, performance-driven parenting takes the focus off of my son and puts it on to me. It is an honor to be entrusted with nurturing my boy and helping him grow. I pray that I will mother well, not because I need to prove anything, but because I love my son. Love should always be the driving force behind one’s parenting. So friends, what motivates you? Are you ever tempted to be performance-driven in your parenting? If so, I hope these truths help you keep perspective and parent out of love. You have nothing to prove. Love on!
Wife, work at home mom, and bassoonist, Laura Ankrum lives in Iowa City, Iowa. Prior to the arrival of her two children Laura taught elementary music and band in the Boston area. Now her home is her classroom and music studio. Laura is passionate about education, encouraging other moms, and eco-friendly living. She is the social media coordinator at Thirsties Inc.