Editor's note: This article was originally published on The Abundant Mama Project. It has been republished here with permission.
Somehow, at some point over the past several months, I turned into Ms. Critical.
Part of it had to do with feeling pressure for my children to do well.
Part of it had to do with needing to raise the expectations of my children because they are older and they need responsibility and independence and to feel grateful for the world around them. This is always a delicate balance for any parent - trying to figure out just how much to push and how much to hold on and not let go.
But an even larger part of it had to do with ME and the vision I had for them, the kind of children I wanted them to be and how I envision them in this world.
So when I saw my 8-year-olds turning away from books and reading and creative adventures - the very things we've always built our family life upon - and only wanting to play with friends or watch TV when at home, I felt like I had failed. I had a lot of "I'm not enoughs" going through my head. I was discouraged.
This wake-up call hit me one day recently - and thank goodness.
I had started turning into the very mother I never wanted to be.
SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY, BETWEEN LAST SCHOOL YEAR AND THE START OF THIS ONE, I HAD SUDDENLY STARTED TO EXPECT PERFECT CHILDREN.
And it wasn't planned " it just happened. Like all moms, I had only the best of intentions.
One thing led to another and I was saying no a whole lot. I was questioning and judging THEIR choices and THEIR likes and desires. I was upset over how they were choosing to spend their free time. They weren't reading enough. They weren't being creative enough. They weren't happy enough. They weren't eating well enough.
I WAS DESPERATELY TRYING TO GENTLY ENCOURAGE THEM TO BE THE CHILDREN I ALWAYS THOUGHT THEY WOULD BE, BUT WHAT MANIFESTED INSTEAD WAS ME FALLING FACE FIRST INTO THE LAND OF BITTER AND SOUR.
It's so easy to layer expectation upon expectation on them - and on ourselves.
It's so easy to see all that they are capable of and so hard to see that potential being unused at different phases in their lives.
It's so easy to put our ideas of who they should be and how they should act and what they should do because we know how great they could be in this world.
It's so easy to let our powerful love for who they can be take over and edit out who they truly are right this moment.
So, I spent a lot of time trying to change them back into the curious, imaginative children they used to be when they were a little younger - gently, of course, but enough that it all came crashing down on me.
"You're expecting me to be perfect," one told me one night when she was doing her homework.
"I just want you to do your best," I said.
But she was right. I know her best is really good and so I was expecting that to be what I see day in and day out without fail.
I really began to dislike who I had become at that point despite my best intentions.
And I had a heart-to-heart with their father that night on our patio under the beautiful night sky.
"I just hope that the foundations I've given them will eventually click," I said, crying. "But I have to let go and trust them more. I have to let them make mistakes and learn things the hard way."
Being the wise yet quiet type, he assured me that all of the hard work we've put in will reveal itself. They are still young. They have so much time to grow and evolve. Let them play and have fun now.
THIS MAMAPIPHENY CAME AT A GREAT TIME - BEFORE IT WAS TOO LATE, BEFORE I LET ALL THOSE EXPECTATIONS THAT WERE PILING UP IN MY MIND ACTUALLY START PILING UP ONTO MY DAUGHTERS.
I caught myself NOT being the mom I want to be, but it's not too late for me.
"Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance." " Brené Brown
I am ready to start fresh with a new attitude of gratitude for who they are right now, even if it's not what I would choose, even as mistakes and missteps happen.
Because it's their life. They get to experience it the way they want to as long as they are safe and sound and happy.
And I get to sit back and watch it all unfold without trying to mold them and shape them into what I want them to be.
MY FOCUS THIS MONTH, AS I PREPARE TO LEAD MORE THAN 100 MAMAS ON THEIR OWN ABUNDANT MAMA PATH, IS REMEMBERING THAT I AM ENOUGH - AND THAT MY CHILDREN ARE ENOUGH AS THEY ARE - AND TO LET GO AND TRUST A WHOLE LOT MORE EACH DAY.
Every session, I ask the mamas in the program to set their intention for the four weeks as we walk our way through feeling gratitude and abundance in this life we are living right now.
The intention, for me, changes every single time because my motherhood season changes so often, too. These seasons require a different focus and a different perspective in order to reach a feeling of true abundance.
So, I'm here to declare my Abundant Mama intention to the world:
TO FIND PEACE IN THE MOTHER I AM RIGHT NOW AND TO GIVE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE TO THE CHILDREN I HAVE RIGHT NOW. TO LET GO EASILY AND TO TRUST FEARLESSLY.
Maybe your focus is in a completely different place. I would expect that. We've had moms who enter the classroom feeling lost in their identity. We've had moms set their intention around being more present and less distracted. We've had moms who wanted to stop yelling. We've had moms who wanted to feel happy again.
No matter the intention for being in the program, the goal is the same - to walk away from that four weeks feeling true abundance as a peaceful, playful and present mama - no matter the challenge happening in or all around you.
I built the program around my own desires to be the mom I want to be " and I still use every single lesson as if it's brand new to me. And reading every mom's story of hope, love, successes and failures from around the world changes me and reminds me to wake up and remember what being an Abundant Mamais all about.