Stuck in a rut? Got no idea where to turn next? Going around in circles and not sure how to get out of the cycle?
As a mother, you are in a long-term relationship with your children, and your problem-solving skills get a good workout – every day. Even if you have a very unmusical child, who so enthusiastically beats out careless rhythms on his guitar, you can work this out!
Welcome to Motherhood!
You are on a challenging, slightly scary, and also very exciting roller-coaster. In reality, you have a long-term ride to look forward to.
Your task on this adventure is to bring your precious baby through the childhood years, and then help transition him or her into adulthood. Ideally you want this lovely one to be a fully functional and contributing member of their community. That’s your “project”, if you like. And you have 18-20 years to do it!
Becoming aware of that project was my big realisation when I was pregnant the first time around, at 24 years old. The tragedy was, I’d lost my mother to breast cancer at 16. And while I was surrounded by great female role models, I still felt quite alone. The lack of my own mother caused me to be fiercely independent, but it also increased my isolation! (Oh . . . I can be quite the independent soul! How about you?)
The Key to Problem-solving
When I started my journey, I had a sense that every step of the way I would need to be good at problem-solving. And I was not wrong. This is why motherhood is one of the most difficult, and most rewarding, jobs on earth.
While lots of mothers have masses of instinctive ability in this area, many also wish the job came with a manual! The good news is: no matter where you are between those extremes, you can do it. Stick with it. Keep looking at the long-term view, and remember you are running a marathon, not a sprint. So it’s important to look after yourself in the process.
I had many moments of frustration as I worked through having a colicky baby, sleepless nights, toddler tantrums, issues with friends at school, issues with teachers at school, sport/dance/music clashes, teen tantrums – and the list goes on. Soon I realised I could not do this motherhood thing on my own. And here’s the problem for us independent souls. Sometimes it is necessary to swallow our pride, and ask for help (even if it means reading a blog! Howdy!) In fact, this is the next level of maturity as a person moves forward. It is about being “interdependent“, or mutually reliant on others. That’s the BIG key to problem-solving.
So, here are my tips to problem-solving for you . . . And where to get help when you are stuck.
1. Prayer is my Number One place to start (which is usually when I am desperate!)
God understands, and because can see things from beginning to end, he has a unique view to offer. He was part of the creative process, not just when your baby was being formed, but also when you were being formed. He knows you through and through, even to the number of hairs on your head.
He wants to work with you, and walk beside you on this motherhood journey. Ask him for help, and he’ll be there for you. Work on all of the points below, with prayer for wisdom as your constant back-up.
2. Journal Writing
Taking time to regularly write in a journal is an amazing tool for problem-solving that many people swear by. Sitting down for half an hour or so, every morning, and hand-writing three pages is a spectacularly simple, and yet unexpectedly effective way of dealing with issues that come up. These can be as simple as problems such as “I don’t know what colour shoes to buy,” to complex relational, “why did my father do that to me?” questions. You can hear me talk about using a journal by listening to a Treasuring Mothers interview HERE.
3. Talk to friends
The value of being part of a community cannot be underestimated. The old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” is true now, as much as it ever was. Watch how your friends and family do parenthood, and ask them what they did when they struck similar issues. Maybe you could ask a trusted friend or family member take your child with a problem under their wing to coach or mentor.
The community can be church family, extended family, school, sporting club, or even an online community. However, just be careful these people are safe and that they hold the same values that you want your children to aspire to.
Oh my goodness – what is Google for, but to research parenting issues! Don’t forget though that there are still good resources at your local library, your infant welfare centre, your doctor’s office, and your local community health centre. Keep looking, searching and checking out until you find advice and wisdom you are happy with. You will be surprised to realise how you will know, intuitively, which advice is right for you.
As well, I have made lots of boards especially for Mothers on Pinterest. I have collected hundreds of articles for you. Check it out. You might find an answer to one of your problems there. In fact, why don’t you follow me on Pinterest?
5. Talk to family: mother, siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents
Your family members, particularly the females, are a fantastic resource. Older family members can see family traits coming through in a generational sense, and can offer a broader perspective with some wisdom. There is a treasure trove of experience, stories galore, and new perspective available if you go and ask them.
6. Talk to your spouse
Your partner is also a great person to talk to as you work out and work through the problems you are having. I was always grateful that SB could bring his male sense of strength and authority to a situation. That’s not to say females do not bring strength and authority, but it’s different.
For example, the long-term perspective was something that I kept forgetting, and SB reminded me so often – it’s not all about this battle, it’s the long-term picture we have to remember too. Somehow that always made a positive difference.
7. Professional advice: psychologist, infant welfare sister, GP, school teacher
There is so much assistance available from professionals. That’s what they are there for. See if there are free services available to you before going down the path of paying big bucks. You never know until you ask. I mean, what’s the worst thing they can say? At the very least you are to be commended for taking action and asking for help.
8. Learn how to deal with conflict
Often the biggest problems are relational ones that happen in your own family. Learn how to do problem-solving of the dealing-with-conflict kind. Find helpful and respectful ways to address issues. If you can teach your kids about dealing with conflict you are giving them a skill which will help them for the rest of their life. Here is a good article about resolving conflict.
There are many great parenting courses around. Do your research and find a good one in your area. In Australia, I highly recommend the Families course. Check out the website to see if there is one in your area soon, and if not, send a query to suggest they get one happening near you!
The Final Word
We all have to work on our problem-solving skills. Sometimes it can be tough! While coping with the day-to-day struggle, it can be so tempting to yearn for the next stage. I remember thinking things like:
“When she gets to pre-school, things will settle down.”
“Oh I can’t wait for this teething stage to finish!”
“One day, everyone will leave home, and then we’ll have some peace and quiet.”
But as John Lennon famously wrote, “Life is what happens while you’re making plans.” In other words, things can slip you by if you focus on the future too much.
Soooo . . . Make sure you stop and smell the roses right where you are. Enjoy those toothless grins, the cuddles in bed, the tuneless songs and the funny moments. Be present with your family, and take time to love on your children, as best as you can, day by day. Even with all our great technology, we do not possess time machines, and probably never will! Days are going to pass you by, and you will not get them back again.
My biggest lesson in this problem-solving life to pass on? Learn to enjoy every moment!