Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Why your kid needs YOU to be her Mother...

There were so many days when I was a new mother that I thought about going back to work full time and putting my baby in some sort of childcare. Maybe my Mom could watch her all day? Full time Nanny? I could work nights and then be with my baby all day (aka-run myself ragged and never sleep again). 

I funneled through the choices in my mind and scoured "Help Wanted" ads trying to find the perfect fit which would allow me the freedom to pursue work and also squeeze in mothering.  In the beginning, I sometimes found "giving up" my career to be with my baby all day so discouraging, especially when I was surrounded by smelly diapers and unmade beds and loads of baby laundry. 

If you are like me, there have been days when I've easily rationalized why my kids might be better off with SOMEONE ELSE taking care of them during the day, especially on the days when taking care of littles seems mind-numbing, and long, and flat out tough.  Especially on the days (when I convince myself) that it seems like so many other mothers leave their little children (without a second thought), while they drive away (by themselves, listening to the radio not veggie tales!) wearing clean clothes (I'm sitting here in sweat pants), off to conquer the world using their gifts and passions and brains (which if you talk to most of these mothers, this assessment is SO NOT TRUE, it is torture for them to leave their babies behind).  And especially on the days when I feel like what I'm teaching them isn't making a lick of difference anyway. 

As mothers, it's easy to convince ourselves that someone could easily take our place. 

We hear the lie that there is someone out there with more patience, more grit, a softer tone, more consistent discipline...
the list can go on and on. 

We believe someone else can be a better Mother. 

And so if you are sitting there, on the other side of the screen, and reading this as you constantly battle the urge to leave your kids during most of the days because you feel ill-equipped, or frustrated or that when they are this little (and napping so much of the day anyway) it just doesn't really matter who they are with all day because they will never remember this phase....

Let me whisper some truth into your ears this afternoon.

When they are little, before they enter school, 
the majority of the day...

Your kid needs a Mother. 
Your. Kid. Needs. You.

There. Simply. Is. No. Substitute. Mother.  

You, with your flaws and your short-temper and your disorganization and your tendency toward discouragement or perfectionism or need for hyper-control.  You and your crazy "requirement" for Starbucks coffee or Chick-fil-A drive thru to survive.

Your kid needs you as his mother. 

And when he's little,

This idea of "quality" time is completely hog-wash. There simply is no replacement for long, uninterrupted hours spent with your child. Your boy needs quantity. For it's in the "unplanned" hours where the most opportunities to love are found.  In the interruptions and unprompted conversations where you can best help mold his heart. 

He needs you, all of you. Fully present and engaged. 
And there is no alternate for you. 

And let me tell you why...

Yesterday, I sit on her couch and she shows me the diagram and my eyes linger on the small child she's pointing to...
It's a picture of a baby, just starting to crawl.

This ball of wisdom, sitting across from me, she's birthed eleven kids. Poised and professional, I am seeking her learned ear to help me mature and grow out of my struggle with anxiety. And she's wise and she speaks slow the truth that she has learned from both academic study and from being a Mama and now Grandmama all of these years. 

"And here is what we KNOW to be true about human development. Your security and self-esteem starts to be established just moments after you are born. A baby naturally cocks his head and looks up. Opens his eyes and is searching for one thing. He desires to see the eyes of his mother. He desperately needs to know she is there. That she sees him. That she loves him."

And I tear up for all the babies who never got this, got this gift of security and love and "I'll-be-there-for-you-no-matter-what-stare" back from their mothers. I shudder as I think about the babies, who just weeks new, look intently for their Mother's smile, for her face to be watching theirs, and get blank stares back instead.  My heart races as I read the fact that a baby's eyes at just 6 weeks old, are only able to focus on an object 9 inches away. 9 inches. The exact distance between a baby's eyes and his mother's face, when he is laying cradled in her arms.

A baby needs his mother. 

Your baby needs you. 

Your eyes matter. Your arms matter. It is your gaze he longs to see. Your face he wants to touch when he's happy. Your lap he reaches for when he skins his knee or gets a boo-boo.

And when she gets to this next part, it makes me feel a deep warmth in my spirit. I exhale huge relief at my own mothering choices and then say a quick prayer of thanks that I had a mother, a fully present mother, who was willing to give up in order to give to me. 

"When a baby starts to crawl he initially only goes as far away as he can see his mother. Watch a baby do this. He moves and then pauses to look around. He turns a corner, but if he can't see his mother, he comes right back. He is always looking to see if she is watching. If she sees him. If she cares. Her presence and her applause is what gives him the confidence to keep going. 
Keep exploring. Keep growing.

But, the most interesting part that we've learned about healthy emotional development ? The baby isn't satisfied if SOMEONE NOTICES. Even if someone "loving" is there, a friend, an aunt, a grandparent...these people provide important relationships for a child later in life but in the earliest years? The baby is always looking for one particular person to notice him and what he's accomplishing. HE WANTS HIS MOTHER TO SEE."


He wants your attention when he pee-pees on the potty. He wants it to be your voice reading him books before nap. You picking him after he's fallen (yet again). You making his lunch sandwich and tucking him in at bedtime and taking the time to sit to teach him how to tie his shoe.

Your kids needs you.

Today I unloaded the groceries and then blinked twice to make sure  I was seeing it right. It's there in bold letters. 

"Play with your child 15 minutes everyday," the grocery bags begs, with tips below on how to make that happen. 

My Mama-sisters, your kid needs YOU more than 15 minutes.

And it's tough to remember this when we see Mamas plastered across tabloid covers and anchoring Fox News who say, "Of course you can have it all. You have work 14 hour days and have three kids under the age of 4 and make your marriage work."

But when you read between the article lines, you see brokenness behind the claim. As my favorite female anchor recently explained what her tactic was on how to "reach" her three small children children, I make sure I see them for at least 45 minutes each day. But it still breaks my heart how they all scream every time I leave for the day. They seem to never adjust to me not being around most of the time...They always prefer their Mother. 

My Mama-sisters, to raise healthy, confident, God-fearing kids...your kid needs you more than 45 minutes a day 
when he's little.  And he's worth the time. 

Over the course of his life, he will have a ton of school mates, and excellent school teachers, loving family members and Lord-willing grandparents and special-friends, 
but he will only ever HAVE ONE MOTHER.


Now let me pause and be clear - your little needs a HEALTHY Mama, not an exhausted, frazzled one.  And this is where we put the judgement card down and celebrate each other as Mamas, acknowledging we all have different gifts and need different outlets to help us mother at our best. What works best for me, is probably not what will bless you.  I'm not at all saying that we shouldn't work some outside the home (I do!) or hire a babysitter some (yes, a life saver for me!) or let the littles stay at the Grandparents every once an while so we can have a overnight with our hubby (I just did this a few weeks back and it was so helpful!). No Sister-Mamas, let's not take what I'm writing and get all black and white. 

But what I am saying, 
I think our generation of Mamas really needs to hear. 
Because I needed to hear it.  

The days are long with little ones at home, 
but the years are short.
So when you have the choice, PICK YOUR KIDS. 
When you are at a crossroads, choose your littles. 

And yes, this requires constant sacrifice. 

Like Winston Churchill said, 
"It often means choosing not what is best (for you), 
but what is required." 

Will you have to (often) say no to work promotions and picking up extra shifts and following headlines and sleeping in and bachelorette weekends away and fun nights out to be with your little? 

Well, quite simply, yes.

And it can feel quite frustrating to feel left out and left behind and like you're missing out on so much when you say a "no" for now to hang with your toddler.

But all the parties and the work accolades and the weekends away have one thing in common. Those invitations are fickle. If you say no to one today, there will be another one in your inbox tomorrow.

Contrary to how it feels right now, you will have a chance to do all of those things again. They will come back around. 
You'll get a second chance. 

But your baby boy? Your little girl? 
That time when they hang on your every glance and light up when you clap and praise what they are doing? That time when they fall down and only want "Mama" to pick them up? Yes, that time is expiring. There is no do-over for this season. 

And with my heart pounding and tears rolling down my face as I type, let me assure you I have given up much to be with our kids. 
It has not been easy. 
But, as I witness our kids growing up and out 
(and yes, they are far from perfect!) 
and blossoming as they grow in relationship with the Lord, 
let me tell you that

Because on some days do I miss the accolades from my job? 
Heck yes! 
But my true reward?
It is not of this world. 
 Lord willing, my best "work" will be still curled in my Mama-lap, singing praises by my side for all of eternity. 

Every NO is a YES to something greater and something better. 

Your kid needs you. Needs all of you. What a blessing that he has been gifted you as his mother. You are irreplaceable.

***This is me and my "namesake" Josie Rose, my sister's beautiful little girl who just turned 2. Diana, there is NO replacement for your mothering! You are doing such a wonderful job with your children and I could just squeeze my precious niece all day long!