My Boys Don't Wear Jeans and That's OK

Being a Mom is HARD. Here’s How to Make It Easier (Just in Time for Family Day!)

Feb 10, 2016

I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to balance it all. Being a mom is easily one of the toughest jobs on the planet, and I genuinely struggle like crazy to raise my three boys. The worst part? I catch myself in self-criticism mode on the regular, and the guilt—ooof! Self compassion rolls so easily off my tongue for other people, but when it comes to myself…’nuff said. (I’m working on it. Scout’s honor.)

After all, it’s not like as moms we give ourselves a promotion, reward, or positive monthly reviews in a throwback to our office days. Heck, we don’t even acknowledge the little wins, brushing them off with a shrug of our shoulders so we can keep going about our business. Sometimes, motherhood feels both (nearly) impossible and thankless.

But it doesn’t have to be. 

I’ve been reflecting non-stop on why I chose to be a mom in the first place, and I’m reminded of a concept from my Positive Psychology class: intrinsic (inside) vs. extrinsic (external) motivation. When I think back to my younger days when I was dreaming about having babies and a family, I thought becoming a mother would be the ultimate DEFINING moment of my life. I figured once I became a mom, I’d automatically have a sparkly brand new level of maturity, easily accomplishing something more meaningful than I’d ever had in my life. I really believed my life would be complete.

Fast forward 20+ years to this very moment when I am fully in the mess of motherhood. I’ve signed up for the world’s most challenging job, and I’m realizing that all of the extrinsic motivating factors that made me have kids in the first place—pleasing my family, fitting in, and seeking outside validation—don’t do it for me anymore. (And thank goodness for that, because extrinsic motivation just doesn’t bring any sort of lasting happiness.)

So what’s the solution now that my previous motivation well is starting to run a little dry? Well, I’m definitely not going to fake it ‘til I make it. Motherhood just doesn’t work that way. My kids’ll see right through me, and then it’s game over. But the answer is simple: it’s time to switch my focus from outside validation to internal motivation—or intrinsic motivation.

Ultimately, intrinsic motivation runs off pure, genuine desires. It thrives off your real values and interests. But most importantly, when we come from a place of intrinsic motivation, activities are “enjoyed more, pursued with greater vigor, and savored once accomplished” (Adams-Miller & Frisch, 2009, p.55). This is where we all wipe our brows in relief because we actually have a fair shot at all this mom stuff after all.

All it really takes is finding those common interests with my boys—or at least learning to like theirs (like football.  The Superbowl party with 16 teenage boys was a big hit by the way!). By sharing values and interests, which gets easier since I’m teaching them mine, and tapping into my genuine desire to guide my boys so they find their own version of happiness, I’m able to step up and (mostly) be the mom they deserve. With Family Day fast approaching, I’m determined to incorporate values (family yoga), common interests (dinner out at a new place), and a hefty dose of fun. 

That said, how can you bring more of what you intrinsically want into your family life?

This is an important question, because it all comes down to this: 

Tuning into your core beliefs isn’t about feeling like a good mom (even though that’ll happen, too). It’s about approaching every day with a full and happy heart.

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