How to Be a Good Mom: 7 Habits to Make You a Better Mom
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It's 4am somewhere in the world...
Maybe you're pacing the floor with a fussy infant?
Perhaps you're sitting in a rocking chair breast or bottle feeding?
Or are you wide awake because your toddler has taken over the sacred sleep space that once belonged to you and your spouse?
We've all been there.
But are we good moms?
If you have to ask the question, you may have doubts.
But here’s the good news…
You can learn how to be a good mom.
In this article, I'm going to offer seven ways to be a good mom... a better mom... a happy mom.
Some I've come up with on my own. Some I've borrowed from other moms. Some I've researched.
Life Before Being a Mom
You are not alone.
Whether you are brand new to motherhood, or have been at it for a while now, one thing is true... you were a woman first. An independent, single woman who had nobody to answer to. Nobody's life was in your hands on a daily basis.
You went on dates. You took time to do your hair and makeup. You went to the gym regularly. You had a great job. You had awesome friends. You binge watched tv dramas.
You had a life!
But at some point, you likely made a very conscious decision to become a mother. And with that, you took on this huge responsibility.
You vowed to keep your child safe. You vowed to love them. You vowed to cherish them.
What could possibly go wrong?
And after nearly eight years and four children, I feel I've got some good advice to offer for dealing with this trip called motherhood... and it starts now.
I will teach you how to be a good mom... or at least feel like one.
Let's get started.
Habit #1: Forget at least half of what your mother taught you
Did I just say that? Did I just tell you to disregard the advice your mom has undoubtedly tried to offer?
Yes. Yes, I did.
Now let me clarify.
Your mother is a grandmother now. And that is an entirely different ballgame. She's covered all of the bases, literally, when it comes to raising a child. You were that child.
But your child is unique.
And nobody knows your child better than you.
Period. Exclamation point!
Your grandmother raised your mother in a very different world than she raised you. The same holds true for raising your child.
The 1950s introduced us to the likes of Donna Reed. Lucille Ball. Barbara Billingsley from Leave it to Beaver. The mothers on those shows were always dressed to the nines. Always had their hair done. Dinner was on the table at the same time every night. They always smiled.
No mother smiles that much.
And it's ok.
When you were a child, you probably played outside until dark and disappeared with neighborhood friends for hours on end.
Things like attention deficit disorder and autism weren't mainstream issues.
Pediatricians weren't diagnosing thousands of children each year with celiac disease, nut allergies, or lactose intolerance.
These issues are very real and very serious ... today. How could our mothers possibly relate?
But here's the thing... they will try.
Because they love us, they will:
- Add their 2-cents on the matter.
- Try extremely hard to draw a correlation between your child and you. Key phrases like, "you were the same way" or "you did the same thing" will come up. A lot.
- Offer stories about a friend's grandchild that is going through the exact same thing.
- Argue with you to seek a second opinion on certain matters.
- Attempt to shed some new light on the topic that perhaps even the experts haven't even figured out yet.
Like I said, they will try. And you will be grateful.
But being a good mother is largely reliant on following your instincts.
Follow your instincts!
- Listen to the alarms going off in your head
- Hear what your child is saying.
- Observe how your child is behaving in various situations.
- Educate yourself.
- Be involved.
Stand your ground.
Never be afraid to say "thank you, but no thank you" to your mom for her opinion.
But always keep an open mind.
After all, you turned out ok. Right? Her advice may just spark something inside you that you overlooked, which can often happen when you're too close to a situation.
At the end of the day, however, the job is yours.
You've got this!
Habit #2: Use social media as a form of therapy
Let's be honest...
Unless your job prohibits it, or you live under a rock, chances are you've got at least one social media account.
Why wouldn't you?
These sites provide great avenues for:
- Sharing news and photos with family and friends.
- Reconnecting with long lost pals.
- Obtaining information and recommendations.
- Organizing events.
- Meeting new people.
- Getting into a heated argument about politics or religion.
- Discussing the latest trends.
Hear me out.
If you're like most moms, you post countless photos of your children doing adorable things.
And you should.
But it's somewhat false advertising. Isn't it?
No child is happy all of the time.
And you cannot be a happy mom all of the time.
Despite what the pictures show, my children are not:
- Continuously hugging their siblings.
- Always volunteering to share their toys without a fight.
- Waking up from their daily nap in the best mood every time.
- Waving and smiling at strangers.
- Sitting contently in a shopping cart while I stroll through the grocery store at a leisurely pace.
- Laughing all day.
I'd bet money they are not.
So I am laying down the gauntlet. Here and now.
Alert: motherhood challenge!
Whatever kind of day it is you are having, take pictures of it all.
Regardless of their mood or yours, grab your phone or camera and capture your child:
- When they first wake up in the morning.
- Eating breakfast.
- Toilet training.
- Getting dressed for school.
- Heading out the door.
- Playing with a friend.
- Food shopping with you.
- Coming home.
- Nap time.
- Dinner time.
- Bath time.
- Bed time.
Now post them. The good, the bad and the ugly.
Not only will you give your followers a glimpse into your "everyday"... but you will look at these photos and laugh, cry, smile.
Take it all in.
Your children are this age once. You will not get this day back, for better or worse.
Hang on to these moments. They are the battlescars of motherhood. Embrace them.
The comments you receive will likely be more than just smiley faces or thumbs up. You will see less little tears or mouth open emojis... and more actual words.
Moms will unite.
They will comment. Lend support. Share their own stories and photos.
You are not alone.
You will feel better about yourself.
A weight will be lifted.
Here is what my snapshot from yesterday would have looked like:
- Our 3 and 4-year-olds sleeping in-between my husband and I, kicking my face and lower back almost continuously from 5-6am.
- Our 3 year old throwing his water cup and pouring a bowl of yogurt on his head.
- Our 3 year old telling us he didn't have to go poop, then hiding behind a couch to do so in his diaper.
- Our 6 year old daughter screaming as I tried to brush her hair before school. Apparently I am the worst ever at this.
- Our 7 year old arguing over the shirt we picked for him to wear to school, resulting in a quick change before running out the door.
- Our 3 year old hitting his sister in the head with a Barbie because he wanted to be the mermaid.
- The 3 year old's tantrum in the grocery story over a cookie I wouldn't let him have, followed by a consolation prize of gum to keep him quiet. Eyes were on me.
- Said 3 year old falling asleep in the car while on a ride along the waterfront. He looked like a little angel, slept 2 hours. Victory!
- One kid wanted chicken for dinner. One wanted only french fries. No takers on broccoli. Two water cups thrown. One 6 year old yelling at me for never making what she likes.
- They play so nice together in the bathtub. The laughter warms my heart.
- Betime bargaining begins. Just one more show? One more book? Will you lay with me?
- The day ends with quiet cuddles with my 7 year old...who's growing too fast.
I'll miss these moments.
If you made it through the day, you possess the good qualities it takes to be a better mom. A happy mom. A good mom.
You will be ok.
Habit #3: Form a Tribe
I am going to credit my dear friend, Kat, for this tip. It's based on the old adage of "it takes a village" to raise a child... and it really does.
Today, that village is referred to as a tribe. Just a few people willing to help each other out whenever they can.
We've got your back.
And that's all you need to know.
Currently, I have three children old enough to take part in extracurricular activities. Things like taekwondo, soccer, dance, art, piano, scouts.
Our calendar has something on it every single day of the week... but sometimes we skip a day or two.
Don't judge me.
If it weren't for my tribe... I'd likely have to skip more than that.
What? Deprive my child of something he or she may excel at?
Sorry, but yes. I can only do so much.
I'm not perfect.
The tribe gathers weekly to help each other out - primarily with carpooling and babysitting. Playdates are a bonus.
One less kid to manage, even for just a little while, can make a mom feel like she's won the chore lottery.
Ahh... I see an extra load of laundry in your future. Or perhaps a quiet shopping trip to buy new jeans in peace.
When thinking about forming your own tribe... start with one simple question.
Who do I trust with my children?
My tribe includes:
- A handful of close friends
- 1-3 "mothers helpers" or babysitters
These people can be called upon, sometimes on very short notice, to help you out. Think of them as 9-1-1 responders for "momergencies".
See what I did there?
You don't have to do it all alone.
Hopefully you have a spouse or significant other who is hands on. That surely takes some of the burden off.
Or maybe you're a single mom... who I will now stop to applaud.
Being a single mom is one of the hardest things anybody ever signed up for.
You deserve all the praise in the world! And you also deserve a tribe maybe more than anybody else.
There is no shame in asking for help.
Surround yourself with the best... and you will be at your best for your kids.
Habit #4: Socialize like a kid
What if I were to tell you there was a way for you to be a good mom and still get your weekly exercise in, explore your artistic side, volunteer for a local charity, listen to live music, see a movie, rock climb, enjoy a cup of coffee and good conversation with grown-ups?
And what if I were to tell you this could all be done with your children in tow? Would you believe me?
You should believe me.
One of the best ways to be a better mom is to have some flexibility in your day.
And one of the best ways to be a good mom is to incorporate fun activities for you and your child into each and every day... even if just for an hour or two. The household stuff can wait.
Life is short. Childhood is fast!
Pencil in time with your child, just as you would a client meeting or cooking dinner. And if you really want to make the most out of that hour, schedule something you'll both enjoy.
Listen to your inner child!
There are so many "mommy and me" activities at our disposal nowadays, it would be a shame not to try them out.
Adventure is waiting!
There is something for everyone, and all ages. You just need to find them.
Start by turning to the Web. Here's a great list of ideas put together by author, Melina Gerosa Bellows, 21 Ways to Enjoy Being a Mom.
Or maybe you want to learn something new.
Here are some of my favorite things:
1. Visit a trampoline park or roller skating rink
You will burn tons of calories... and your kids will tire themselves out! It's a win-win! Just leave your inhibitions at the door.
2. Check out a paint your own pottery or canvas place
Some of these places have specific "mommy and me" or "toddler time" every day, where you might meet other moms. Even if they don't offer this, they all have open studio hours, where you can go at your leisure and unleash your inner artist.
3. Volunteer with your child
Instilling good qualities in our children at an early age will most certainly result in them becoming altruistic and empathetic adults. Our world needs more good people.
4. Listen to music in the park
As the weather gets warmer, many towns offer outdoor music. The best part? It's usually free. These family friendly concerts are a great way to expose your child to music other than Kidz Bop or The Wiggles.
Not that there's anything wrong with those... I actually quite like The Wiggles. But variety is the spice of life, and a well-rounded child is an interesting one. Not to mention, you may just get to relive your glory days as a single woman belting out some 80s or 90s classics with your girlfriends.
5. Find a drive-in or outdoor movie venue
Hop in the car with the family and go. While the drive-ins may be a little hard to come by these days, inexpensive (sometimes free) outdoor movies are popping up like daisies all over the country... especially during the summer.
In addition to the obvious allure of watching a movie from the comfort of your own car, or on a beach, your kids are allowed to speak! In fact, it's expected. And bonus: you don't have to worry about crouching down low when heading out for one of likely several bathroom breaks.
6. Find an indoor rock climbing gym
The benefits to be had from rock climbing have it fast becoming a popular pastime, for both adults and kids alike. The strength conditioning, especially for the upper body, is unparalleled for something so fun.
And then you have the mental component, pushing yourself beyond your limits until you reach the top. It's a wonderful lesson in never giving up... for both you and your kids.
If you don't have tons of time to research, or aren't sure what you'd be into exactly, contemplate joining a local "moms group". They typically have new member meetings at least once a month, which are often just informal get-togethers over coffee, where they go over their list of activities.
Whether you join or not, you're bound to get some fresh ideas and maybe even make a friend or two. Think tribe!
An active and well-rounded mom makes a happy mom.
A happy mom is a good mom. And happiness is contagious.
Let your kids see you happy.
Habit #5: Put some personal time on the agenda
This was always one of my favorite cartoons... because it's true.
Motherhood is a 24/7 job. There are no sick days, no vacation days, no overtime pay, no lunch breaks.
It is a labor of love.
And it can be thankless.
As supportive as your spouse or childless friends may try and be when it comes to your day-to-day routine... they can never truly understand until they experience it.
And to be honest, the bond between a mother and her child doesn't compare to that of a father and child. It just doesn't.
- When my child is sick, who do they want?
- When my child has a nightmare, who do they run to?
- When my child is hungry, who do they ask to make them something?
- When my child can't find their favorite shirt, who knows where to look?
Chances are, your answer to all of those questions is "mom".
Unless you are not around, the answer is "mom".
It's the truth.
As I grew older, and became a mom for the first time, it hit me... dads are kind of like substitute teachers.
When mom isn't available (which is almost never), they are an ideal replacement!
They are capable and charming. They can be really fun and lenient. They've got this... if they must. Until mom comes back.
One of two things is going through your head at this very moment.
- I have shocked and offended you... so you're going to stop reading
- I have given you a good chuckle... and you are feeling just a wee bit guilty for it
My money is on #2.
Don't get me wrong...
I adore my husband. He is an amazing father and very involved with the kids.
My kids adore their father. He makes them feel safe and they admire him.
In fact, I'm often jealous that he gets to do more of the fun things with them. He gets to come home from work and roll around on the floor with our sons, play dolls with our daughters, coach their soccer team....
He is done with work for the day and is all about them. It's great.
The laughter in the house when my husband gets home is music to my ears... and makes doing my "job" a little easier. Still, I wouldn't mind switching places now and again.
After all, being a good mom means that you are never really "off the clock".
You still have to get dinner on the table, pick up toys, do the dishes, fold one more load of laundry... all before putting them to bed.
You deserve a break.
And you shouldn't feel guilty for asking for one.
Turn to your spouse, your partner, your mom, a friend, a neighbor... your tribe. Ask them to watch the kids for a couple of hours so you can try out a yoga class, have dinner with a friend, walk around the mall and window shop, go for a bike ride, take a nap.
Or just sit on a park bench and play Candy Crush.
It doesn't matter what you do, just go.
I'm serious. Maybe you want to go for a run?
You can laugh.
That was funny.
A short break from your kids doesn't mean you love them any less. In fact, it's because you love them that you need the break.
You need to recharge your batteries.
Go into your head and shut everything off for just a while. Or at least try to.
Taking care of your mind and body will make you a better mom.
Mediation and relaxation are excellent ways to retain focus and center yourself. It helps put things into perspective.
If you're uncertain of how to do this, or just leery, try one of these great apps you can get for your phone. They are sure to help you get into the right state of mind.
Mental clarity leads to making better decisions.
It's as simple as that.
And exercise is proven to elevate your mood, fight illness, and improve sleep... among other things. The endorphins will keep you going for hours! If you don't believe me, check this out... but come back!
We're almost finished here.
The benefits of mediation and exercise will leave your feeling prepared for whatever motherhood throws your way that day.
I guarantee it.
Plus, you will be a happier mom when you return home... and that is something your kids (and spouse) will appreciate.
Habit #6: Schedule a "date night"
Before the children... there was courtship.
Swooning. Late night conversations. Quiet meals in fancy restaurants.
This was dating.
You loved it.
In fact, you loved it so much that you met someone to have a child with.
And if you were lucky enough to actually marry that person, the children are a reminder of that love each and every day.
But here's the twist.
You need to sustain that love.
Hanging onto the shear memory of it isn't enough. You need to actually show your spouse, every day, that you love him.
You loved him first.
Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the beautiful chaos that is raising children.
But you can't get lost in it.
You loved him first.
You still love him.
Studies have shown that children raised in a home with two loving parents benefit significantly from this. Among the many benefits of growing up in a two-parent household, your children will have a better chance of forming successful relationships of their own throughout their life... both personally and professionally.
Actions speak louder than words.
Children, especially young ones, are more likely to remember "snapshots" from their early childhood than words.
If they see you and your spouse being affectionate and caring towards one another, they will carry that with them. They will feel safe and loved because of how you interact with each other.
Show them that you are best friends.
Now tell them that you are going on a playdate with each other.
Kids can relate.
Put one "date night" per month on the calendar, but do at least 3 months at a time so you're not inclined to skip it the next month (if you can pull off twice a month... you go, girl!).
Secure a babysitter for all of those nights right away
Take turns planning the date with your spouse, leave fun hints or clues to make it a surprise
Do not check your phone on the date, set it to do not disturb. Only the babysitter needs to know where you are incase of emergency, and can call the actual venue if need be.
Do one spontaneous thing on the date
Do not talk about the kids once the date has started. If you feel the urge, discuss them inside the car or uber before you get to where you're going.
The point of date night is to remember why it is you fell in love... and to check in with each other so that the love doesn't get lost in the hectic day to day.
The kids will still be there when you get home.
Habit #7: It's ok to have a bad "mom" day
You are the first teacher your child has.
Lead by example.
You may not always succeed, but do your best to:
- Never argue with a loved one in front of the kids.
- Talk to your kids like you would an adult (within reason).
- Be affectionate.
- Yell constructively.
- Never go to bed upset.
- Spend a few minutes unwinding every night.
There are days when you will succeed in doing all of these things. There are days you will not.
Much like a bad "hair" day, you will have bad "mom" days... and it's ok.
Don't beat yourself up.
Nobody is perfect.
But we can all aspire to be "perfectly imperfect".
This basically means recognizing when you're wrong and doing your best to correct it.
Sure, you may bicker with your partner in front of the children. However, there is always a way to keep it friendly and productive.
In our house, if my husband and I are caught having a silly argument, we make it a point to explain to our kids why each of us is upset and draw a comparison to something they can relate to.
Here's an example...
Me: "Mommy is annoyed at daddy because he left me with one square of toilet paper instead of changing the roll."
Husband: "Daddy didn't want to waste the toilet paper."
Me: "Imagine your brother drank a big glass or orange juice and only left enough for you to have one sip. Would you be upset?"
Me: "But you would forgive him because he didn't realize how much was left. He was just filling his glass up because he was thirsty. He wasn't trying to be mean."
This simple dialogue, comparing what we were upset about to something our child can understand, is a good way to let them know that mommy and daddy will be fine.
Everything is fine.
No matter how rough a day has been, you can never hug and kiss your child too much. Genuine displays of affection lead to well-rounded children with greater self esteem.
According to an article from Parent Co., affection can go much further than yelling when trying to get through to your child. Plus, it just plain feels good.
There is a time and place for everything.
And there will be times you are going to have to yell at your child... when hugs just won't do.
Yelling does not make you a bad mother. Using demeaning language does.
Words can hurt. They are also harder to forget, which is why you need to choose them carefully when scolding a child.
Obviously, if your toddler is about to run into the street, you should yell first!
Then hug them.
Once you've all calmed down, explain to them that there are very serious consequences to be had from running into the street. What if a car were coming?
If your child smacks another child in the face, it's perfectly acceptable to raise your voice and say, "no!" Then perhaps put them in "time out" - whether that be a chair or a corner, their room, etc....
On the other hand, if your child throws his food on the floor during dinner, this may not warrant yelling as much as a stern look and, "no more food for you tonight."
If you threaten your child with a punishment... be prepared to commit to that punishment if they don't heed your warning.
Sticking by your words is a big play in the motherhood game. You don't want your kids not to take you seriously when the time comes.
Empty threats could truly backfire, especially as they get older. You will lose credibility and then likely become frustrated.
Frustration can lead to saying things you don't mean.
Whether you are yelling, or just threatening punishment, there is a way to be constructive about it. Whenever I've yelled at my kids, I made a point to go back once I'm calm and explain to them why I was so upset and lost my temper.
There is method to your madness.
When scolding a child, do use words and phrases like:
- Why did you do that?
- Don't do that!
- What are you doing?
- How could you?
- What were you thinking?
Don't use words and phrases like:
- That was stupid!
- You're stupid!
- Are you an idiot?
- I can't stand you!
- I'm so tired of you!
- You're the worst!
You may be thinking that you'd never say these things to a child, but rage can be a tricky thing.
Do not keep your feelings bottled up!
Think about the sound a tea kettle makes when the water is starting to boil. Imagine that is you holding in your anger, your blood pressure rising.
Emotions can sneak up on you.
So make it a point to communicate your feelings constructively before it gets to the point where you say something you regret.
Never go to bed angry!
One of the most important things you can do to turn a bad day around is to make amends before bed.
Make their bedroom a "no negativity zone".
Talk calmly and positively with your child. Reinforce one good thing that happened to you, or something nice that they did, during the day.
Find the silver lining in a challenging day.
Smother them with hugs and kisses, wish them sweet dreams.
Tell them you love them.
Then take a walk to your favorite room in the house, have a seat, and unwind.
Maybe that means opening a book you've been trying to finish. Maybe it's having a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate with your husband. Maybe it's checking your Facebook page. Maybe it's catching up on a show you've had DVR'd for weeks.
Whatever you need to do to rest, reflect and recharge.
Tomorrow is another day.
Giving a proper goodbye to this one before bed will result in a better night's sleep... and a better night's sleep will make you a better mom. A happy mom. A good mom.
A mom who wakes up in the morning with a smile on her face, confident she's ready to tackle the day!
You've got this!
But before I leave you…
Mark my words: You know how to be a good mom!
A big part of it is following your instincts.
And, of course, loving your child unconditionally helps.
But if you keep these 7 habits tucked away in your brain, you will be armed with all that you need to face whatever comes.
Afterall... motherhood, like life, is unpredictable.
What works for you one day, may not the next.
Routines change, people change, situations change.
Just roll with it!
Believe in yourself.
Utilize the online resources available to you.
Ask for help.
Make time for a little fun.
Make time for yourself.
Make time for romance.
Let yourself off the hook when things don’t go as planned.
Motherhood is an experience unlike any other.
And while you chose this path… know that it also chose you.
The sooner you allow yourself to accept the good with the bad, the sooner you will start to feel like a better mom.
The minute you let go of any negativity or guilt, you will become a happy mom.
Realize your limitations.
Allow yourself to be human, fallible.
Learn from every day.
This is how to be a good mom.
What do you think it takes to be a good mom?
So what are your thoughts on the habits needed to be a good mother? Do you agree with this list, or disagree? What are your favorite habits of motherhood?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.