Motherhood has taught me that I am capable of sucking the fun out of everything.
Being Type A and all, I tend to approach life with an I-will-conquer-you-and-be-productive-or-die-trying kind of attitude. And yet when I try to apply this attitude to motherhood—or, more specifically, to my children—I fall flat on my face.
But the great thing about falling flat on my face is that, after I’m done ugly-crying about it, I can share those failures with others and maybe—just maybe—it’ll help me learn. And maybe it’ll mean something to you too. And so, courtesy of my extensive personal blundering experience, here are 3 surefire ways to suck the fun out of your time with your kids:
1 • Make detailed plans and stick to them.
I love a good itinerary. Why? Because itineraries are beautiful little maps that show hour-by-hour proof that goals were accomplished. Structure is my good friend, and we get along great together. So, obviously, I’ve tried applying said structure to my children’s lives. No potential problems with that, right?
There’s nothing wrong with plans—in fact, my kids need a certain amount of structure to their day so they know what to expect. But I’ve fallen into the trap of being so rigid with my plans that when—shocker—my kids aren’t interested in a certain itinerary item, my lack of flexibility squeezes the joy out of what could still be a good time.
I’ve found the days that don’t go according to plan can be the most memorable. And if I’m honest with myself, the activities and special trips that I do plan are sometimes more for me and my sense of self-worth than they are for my children.
When I am less rigid with a schedule, I can relax and enjoy my children that much more.
2 • Document every moment. Every. Single. One.
If children do something super-cute, but no one takes a picture of it and shares it…did it really happen? Silly as that question sounds, I’m guilty of being held captive by my ability to document everything our family does.
One of my goals for 2020 is to take fewer pictures of my kids. Sounds terribly cold-hearted, right? But for me, taking hundreds of pictures or videos in order to find the perfect, shareable moment has kept me from fully experiencing the moments themselves.
Some of my favorite times with my children are the ones that no one else has ever seen. The belly laughs, the mastering of a new skill, the dance moves, the sweet brother/sister bonding moments—these are the moments that I treasure. I write a sentence or two about them in a small notebook so that I can revisit them later. Has anyone else seen them? Nope. Did they still happen and mean the world to me? Absolutely.
When I put my phone down, I can relax and enjoy my children that much more—and also take pressure off of my kids to perform.
3: Have high expectations.
This may seem super-negative, but it’s proven true in my life, so I’m sticking to it. Every time I’ve gone into a day/event/trip/activity with high expectations, I’m always, always, ALWAYS disappointed. And nine times out of ten, my high expectations are also unrealistic expectations.
Rather than expecting a day with a four-year-old and a two-year-old to go a certain way, I try to make a loose schedule, have backup options available, and then just go with the flow.
And you know what? When I have unreasonably high expectations that aren’t met, I miss out on so many teachable moments. And I miss so many opportunities to show grace to my children.
Example: Last year I took my son to visit his preschool class for the first time. My high expectations were that he’d walk right in, start talking to other kids, impress his new teachers with some kind of witty/cute comments, and then we’d leave and I’d look like a mom who has her life together.
I expected those things even though I knew that my son was nervous and had been clingy lately.
So when my son refused to go in the room, which resulted in a meltdown and a scene, I got frustrated, angry, and embarrassed. I missed a great opportunity to show my son some grace.
After talking with my son about his nervousness, we made a backup plan. His preschool class is in the same building where we go to church. The following Sunday, we waited until the classrooms were empty and then let him put on his book bag and walk into his class on his own terms. We explored the room and talked about how much fun his first day would be.
This time, I had zero expectations, even for this “low-risk” plan. And the outcome was so much better.
When I have realistic expectations, I’m able to relax and enjoy my children that much more.
A Recovering Fun-Sucker
There are necessary times for me, as a parent, to be a fun-sucker (discipline, setting boundaries, etc.). But I’m guilty of making things way more complicated than they need to be rather than enjoying this short time I have with my children.
What about you? In what ways have you struggled with sucking the fun out of motherhood, and what practical steps do you take to fight against it?
Mary Holloman is a wife, mother, and dark chocolate enthusiast. When not wrangling her kiddos, she works as the Communications Director at Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center in North Carolina.
Mary has written for Charisma Magazine, the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Her View From Home, and Just 18 Summers. She is a contributing author for When God Calls the Heart to Love: 30 Devotions from Hope Valley (Broadstreet Publishing) and The Power to Make a Difference: Strategies, Insights, and Encouragement in Forty Short Bible Studies (Lighthouse Bible Studies). You can follow her at maryholloman.com and on Instagram at @marytholloman.