The following is an excerpt from my interview with Rachel Martin on my podcast, You’ve Got This.
I love that finding joy is your theme because shouldn’t motherhood be about joy?
Rachel: That’s exactly what it should be about! But I really think there’s a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is about a birthday, a surprise party, a cup of coffee—that’s in the moment. But joy to me is this deeper heart posture looking for something that’s good and beautiful in the midst of whatever situation or season we’re in. And I think that’s really motherhood because there’s so many days where it’s just normal or it’s trying or it’s difficult, and you can have a posture of learning to be grateful for where you’re are.
That’s part of the reason I’m a parent coach is because I want to help moms and dads to rediscover their joy in raising kids. There are tough times with our kids but we can still have that joy and we should enjoy our children. But sometimes we get to the place where we don’t like our children very much because of a difficult situation.
Rachel: Sometimes it comes down to that idea that maybe you don’t like what they’re doing, and that’s a different thing to me than not liking them. That’s okay for us as parents. I think when you can recognize that you don’t like certain behaviors that it’s almost this freeing place. I tell my kids, “I love you so much but I don’t like this choice that you’re making,” and within that there’s this margin of freedom and grace for us as moms as well.
I think it frees our children to know that they aren’t tied to their behavior.
Rachel: And I want grace for the times that I mess up. I put a story on Instagram about one of my sons who all weekend kept wanting me to play a game with him. I kept pushing it off. On Monday, as he’s getting ready for school, I noticed that the game was put away but still on the table. It was like a knife in my mom heart and all this guilt. I told my son, “Hey, when you get home from school, let’s play that game.” And he thought that was awesome. He had more grace for myself than I did. Yeah, I stumbled, but what mattered most is that I stood up again and played the game.
When we make those little mistakes, when it’s something that should be an easy yes—like playing a game with my kids—but I can’t for a variety of reasons, we do feel that guilt. I need to remember that my kids need that connection with and meeting that need as soon as I can or replacing it with something else. We can make different connections with our kids—sometimes it’s not about the game but spending time with mom, having mom notice them.
Rachel: It’s all a different story. There’s not one formula for us as parents because every child is totally different. What works with one doesn’t work with another. I really believe it’s kind of a season and figuring out what matters to your child in that moment.
It’s so important for us to pay attention to our kids and find what’s important to our kids and find ways to help our children feel that connection. When we have that connection with our kids, it helps them to feel loved, and it helps us when we have to do that connection and discipline.
Rachel: It’s that investment into who they are as people and I can see that reversed back to me. I love to play classical music on the piano, and my 13-year-old son will come down and say he loves to hear me play the piano. He knows to invest in others and I can see it with his younger siblings. It has to be modeled, level of modeling and investing in others in that way.
Rachel: Our kids live in a different type of environment than we grew up. In. I don’t know about your kids but I can go onto the computer and see almost in real time their grades in school. I have to allow them to be kids and allow them to make mistakes before I’m on them about a missing paper. It’s a level of pressure that I certainly didn’t grow up in, also because my parents didn’t see the grade until the teacher called or the report card came out. If I’m the one constantly hounding them, then they’re not learning it on their own. There’s a balance of me kind of knowing something’s not handed in and setting this expectation on myself to wait seven days to see if my kid will self-correct without me always being the one on his case. I think there’s this beautiful balance there of teaching them to be responsible and teaching myself to not be hovering over them, giving them the field to roam in as a child. And telling them that I don’t mean to put this noose around your neck but you have this space to roam in and if you make mistakes, try again. But if you keep making them, that field is going to get a little bit smaller. Respect the space I’m giving you.
It gives them the ability to have their own story without me or my husband always being the one to define what should be important to them.
Rachel: The pressures that are on us from all the different teachers and all the different apps, and everybody always mean well when they want to communicate so much information to us. There’s a lot of us who feel overwhelmed, and so many things to respond to and there’s always another decision to make. But I think it comes down to making the best decision you can, and loving and letting everyone else make the best decision they can. And if your decision doesn’t match with them, it doesn’t become that your decision is wrong. It’s just that everyone else has the same freedom to make decisions and that’s where that exhale of decisions can come.
To hear more great advice and stories from Rachel, listen to “Finding Joy in Motherhood” on the “You’ve Got This” podcast.