The 5 Hardest Things About Being a Mom
Mom Challenge #2: Letting Dad parent, too
It's natural to want everything to be perfect for your kids, and the feeling that they depend on you completely can be downright intoxicating. So how do you share this awesome responsibility with Dad, who in your opinion fastens their diapers too loosely (the pee will drip out!), doesn't feed them enough vegetables (they'll grow to be short!), lets them wear mismatched outfits (they'll be social outcasts!), tosses them in the air (he'll break their little necks!), and plays monster chasing them around (exactly when they should be winding down for sleep!). Who needs this kind of help? The answer: You do.
How to Cope
"In this culture of perfectionism, it's easy to fall into the trap of 'If I don't do it, it won't get done right,'" Raskin says. But as frustrating as you may find Dad's fast-and-loose parenting style, recognize that it's actually a great change of pace for kids. While you may be horrified to see your son wearing a zany, clashing outfit, for example, he may feel proud because he chose his own clothes. "Kids want to be loved in different ways, and to experience different aspects of love," Raskin says. "As long as Dad's ways aren't dangerous, it's a good idea to let it go."
Another motivation for making peace with your husband's parenting: When you refrain from criticizing his every move, you preserve a sense of mutual respect and harmony in your marriage. "Anything you do that strengthens the relationship of Mom and Dad is by definition good for children," says Raskin. It's hard to let go of the heady thrill of being your kid's everything, but when you do, you give him more relationships to rely on — and you give yourself a break.
Mom Challenge #3: Separation anxiety (yours!)
For weeks Kathie Papera, 36, dreaded 4yearold Ella's first day of preschool. "I pictured her crying and holding on to my feet," says the Manhattan Beach, CA, mom. To her surprise, however, Ella, who is usually of the hide-behind-mom's-leg variety of shy, stopped acknowledging her mother's existence after about 10 minutes with her new teachers and friends. "At some point Ella ran up to me and whispered in my ear, 'It's okay, Mommy, you can go now,'" Papera says, so she slowly backed out of the room and cried the entire drive home.
How to Cope
For starters, recognize that your emotions are separate from your child's. "You have to know that what you're feeling is your own anxiety and sadness and not theirs," Raskin says. Even if your child is bawling and freaking out, you must realize two things: (1) He'll probably be fine five minutes after you leave (most kids are), and (2) the challenge of adapting to a new environment is one of those life experiences that will help him grow and develop. "If you block the separation, you end up fostering excessive dependency," Raskin says. "Remind yourself that your goal is to raise a happy, independent child." And when you break down in tears anyway in spite of all the logical reasons not to, go sit in your car and have a good cry. "It's okay to feel sad. You're grieving the loss of your baby on some level, even if that baby is 18," Raskin says. "But by the same token, you get a little piece of your life back!" Maybe you get to take an unhurried trip to the supermarket or read the newspaper — the whole newspaper — for the first time in years. "Your child's independence is a mixed blessing," Raskin says. "Find the gift that's in it for you."