How I Finally Started Enjoying Motherhood

 Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. I’d take a bullet for them, or donate a kidney, or trash my waistline, sagify my bustline, ruin my sleep schedule, and jeopardize my sanity for them–oh wait, I did most of those things already. But if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t really ENJOY them all that much until the last few years.  

See, I’m not really a kid person. Or even a baby person.. It’s just that kids are just kind of small and meh. I’m not that fond of other people’s kids or even my own relatives’ kids. Don’t be mad.  I don’t hate your kids when they come over, and I’m not lying when I say your baby is cute, I just didn’t really enjoy spending time with my kids.

My husband likes little kids, which is a good thing because he is an elementary teacher. I just figured that he’d be the good cop to my bad cop for this decade. I’d tolerate them till they became teens and then it would be my turn to enjoy parenting.

This sounds horrible, I know. There are dozens of decent mothers reading this that are truly shocked that I’ve just admitted to not enjoying motherhood and just doing what was expected while my kids were around.  But, I don’t think I was really conscious of it.  Part of it was that so many OTHER MOMS weren’t really enjoying their kids either.  We were all being miserable together, waiting for naptime. We love our kids, but we didn’t ENJOY them.

But a few years ago, I realized that I was missing it. Honestly, I was losing the opportunity to enjoy their childhood by hiding out on my blog. I was so busy pining for a different stage in their lives, wishing they were bigger, assuming that my day would come, that I was MISSING IT.

So I decided to make a concerted effort to enjoy them, to like them, to engage with them.  Rather than figuring out how to AVOID them or OCCUPY them so I could do my own thing, I decided to interact with them . . . on purpose. Consciously or unconsciously, I started making a few changes that have helped me not just LOVE, but LIKE my kids, you know, as humans. 😉

1. I stopped trying to be consistent. (Sometimes. Not all the time. Whatever. ;))

Every parenting and discipline book sings the praises of consistency, and I get the point, but frankly, nothing I’ve ever implemented with my kids has lasted more than a month. See, KIDS CHANGE CONSTANTLY.  Why are we so hell bent on being so structured? Maybe it helps some moms to feel a sense of control and organization, but I feel crippled by insecurity every time I fail to complete the chore chart, or allowance system, or daily routine.  They just make me feel overwhelmed.

Now, when I implement systems, I take a Mary Poppins approach.  We’ll stick with it until the wind changes, or our mood does, or the season changes, or we’re sick of it. Consistency is for old people; not kids. Consistency with kids is an oxymoron and it makes us miserable. We dumped it.

IMG_0351 2. We do what I enjoy doing.

I think I believed that I had to be long suffering to be a good mom.  I had to enjoy doing all the things my mom did, or you do, or the pinteresting Facebook mom does against my will. That’s awfully tiresome if you’ve tried it.

I stink at sewing. And scrapbooking. And decorating cupcakes. And birthdays. And sports. And playdates. And video games.

But there is some kid-stuff that I like.  I rule at braiding hair. Finding good library books. Making pizza dough. Talking about feelings. And spelling. (There’s other stuff.)

In relationships, people do what they agree upon with their friends.  So I decided to form relationships with my kids around mutual interests instead of martyring myself to activities that I hate just so that I would be a cool mom or like moms I admire.

If my kids want to paint or play basketball or do Wii, they can do it without me.  I smile and say, “I don’t like to do that.”  Does that sound selfish? It’s not. They don’t really know what they like and don’t like yet, but I do. :) I introduce them to things I enjoy, hoping we can enjoy it together.  I spent MONTHS trying to get them to listen to audiobooks, which I adore, but they refused.  It took some persistence, but eventually, a rainy afternoon and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory made audio book listeners of my kids. Now we all enjoy listening to Harry Potter, and Junie B, and Wonder and so many other books that are better on audio.

My point is, I stopped trying to enjoy things with them that I’m terrible at and wouldn’t enjoy anyway. I’m the grown-up, so I taught them to enjoy things that we can do together. Win-win.

3. I count it a privilege to be their mom.  

In order to explain, I need to give you a strange parallel. The other day after a conversation with my brother about our marriages, I got to thinking about the fact that there are really no other men who are my age-peers that it would be appropriate for me to talk to in that way. My brother is the only guy, other than my husband, who I can talk to about deeply personal stuff, knowing that we have shared history, he loves the Lord, and he cares about me.  That’s a pretty cool privilege to have a relationship like that with a family member.

So as my kids’ mom, I have the privilege to have this unique knowledge of them, and an opportunity to invest in them and train them. As much as it’s daunting and scary, it’s AMAZING! There are three people on this planet that I get to be the mom of and that is a priceless gift that I don’t want to miss by avoiding them or handing them a tablet continuously. (I can still inconsistently hand them a tablet. ;))  They are cool little people and getting cooler by the minute. Sure, they are equal parts wretchedness and sweetness, but I get to be their teacher, their caretaker, and their one and only MOM.  So when the pile of papers come home from school and there’s one stuck in there that says, “I love you Mom!” I want to pause for appreciation and enjoyment (before adding it to the recycle bin–cause sheesh, there are so many PApERS!) Even though there are millions of moms, I’m the only mom for them. That’s a privilege.

4. I treat myself as well as I want them to treat me. 

After I had Anika, I started attending a little class my sister-in-law taught called Sanity Strategies. At the time, her kids were 6, 4, and 2 year old twins, so I figured maybe she knew what she was talking about.  One of the things that she mentioned several times, was the need to sit down for meals.  I remember thinking that was just nutso.  I ate half my meals standing at the counter while preparing meals for the kids.  There was just no other way, was there?

Then I started realizing that eating while standing up was just one of many ways that I had started to treat myself badly, like I didn’t matter, like my mealtime was unimportant compared to serving them.

Do I want my son to treat his future wife like she has to stand up while eating all her meals? Do I want my daughters to expect that of themselves? No way!  I started to realize that I wanted to take care of myself IN FRONT of my kids so that they would treat me and someday themselves with as much respect.  For me this means, no kids can sleep in my bed. Kids are not allowed to come in my bedroom or bathroom without knocking. (This is an ongoing battle.) I get to sit for meals and the family cannot start eating without me.  I don’t always take the smallest or last piece of food.

My friend Lisa shares that through counseling she has learned that Jesus teaches us, his followers, to love others as well as we love ourselves. Therefore, if I don’t show any love and respect for myself, my children and spouse won’t either, and then I won’t enjoy them because I resent them for being self-centered little meanies.  When we all show mutual love and respect for each other, then we can enjoy each others’ company more fully.

5. I remember that all their feelings are real and valid. 

At my mom’s annual granddaughters’ Valentine’s day tea, my mom asked us all to share something we appreciate about our mom.  Addie, my oldest, said that she thought I was really good at handling emotions. HOORAY!  A triumph! This is something that I have always attempted to do for my kids because I didn’t learn to respect my own feelings until I was an adult.

Sometimes, I still forget that all feelings (even mine) are real and valid. I shouldn’t dismiss or ignore feelings. Even if my kids’ reactions are immature or even sinful, how they feel is real–it comes from something.  If they are sad, or scared, or angry, or spiteful, that is a real emotion that comes from somewhere.  How they feel matters to them and it should matter to me–even if I have to deal with negative behavior or emotions.  Dismissing their emotions, minimizing their emotions, or ignoring their emotions almost always leads to an unenjoyable tension, distress, or distance. Even wading through ugly, mean feelings with them is better than the train wreck caused when my kid feels like I don’t care about how they feel.  It is hard for me to enjoy my kids when I’m reacting snappishly to their emotions. When I snap at them, they don’t trust me. And that distrust hurts me.  Even though kids can be manipulative or contrived, I can usually tell what they are feeling underneath.

When I remember that their feelings are REAL and valid, and I respect those feelings, I enjoy them more.

6. I remember they aren’t mine. 

IMG_0233Really, I’m already halfway done with Addie. She just turned 10 and that is totally terrifying.  I am just stewarding that beautiful girl for a few more years until she will be independent of me.  A grown woman. Everything she was created to be.

She isn’t mine anyway. She is God’s precious creation, made so uniquely. And the other two are not very far behind at all. Anika, my strong-willed daughter, constantly reminds me that I’m not in charge of her. 😉

When I remember that these children aren’t really mine, then I can let go of the anxiety that I might mess them up. I can release them to bask in the grace that will cover ALL of my mistakes and all of theirs too. I can enjoy watching their personalities, their strengths, and their struggles unfold. I can enjoy seeing who they are becoming without taking undue responsibility for producing them. I am CARING for them, but I’m not making them. I’m shepherding them, but I’m not designing them. I’m not writing their story; I’m in it.

The bottom line for my process of learning to enjoy my kids has been infusing more of MYSELF as Katrina, into their lives, instead of carbon copying some idealized image of motherhood behavior onto them.  When I am my inconsistent, emotional, audiobook listening, sit-down-eating, non-helicoptering self, I enjoy myself more; therefore, I enjoy them too.  Does that make sense?

Have you learned some tricks that have enabled you to enjoy motherhood more fully? Share them in comments below. :)

24 Responses to How I Finally Started Enjoying Motherhood

  1. Sarabeth Hudson May 14, 2015 at 7:00 am #

    Loved this post, Katrina! Really hit home.

  2. Anita May 14, 2015 at 8:08 am #

    I don’t get down and play on the floor with my kids, I invite them up into my world. They can build forts and have tea parties with eachother. Of course, i will o ccasionally need to sample a leaf and mud sandwich….
    I’m not a kid person either… And I’ve enjoyed teaching them to do pottery, to cook, to garden and enjoy animals and nature…. But I’m not that pinterest mom.
    I think thats ok. I love my kids, I value my children, I think they are wonderful…

    • Katrina Ryder May 14, 2015 at 8:17 am #

      Mud sandwich. Tee hee. I like touring fairy villages, but the food isn’t great; you’re right.

  3. Erin@The Humbled Homemaker May 15, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    This is SO good, Katrina! I can relate to this on so many levels!!
    Erin@The Humbled Homemaker recently posted…You Don’t Have to be the Perfect MomMy Profile

    • Katrina Ryder May 18, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

      Thanks! And thanks for sharing me on your weekend reads. :)

  4. Melissa May 16, 2015 at 1:15 am #

    I taught my kids how to enjoy the things I enjoy doing without even trying. Pre kids I liked to go out and see museums, explore my city, things like that (and reading and listening to podcasts). Well I used to think of art museums and such as places that weren’t for kids, but you know what? I take them and we have a blast and we all enjoy ourselves. I too can not really sew, but I can immerse them with a love of culture and learning. That’s my special thing I can give to them. Great post, I loved it.
    Melissa recently posted…#ETHANProject Blogger Kit ReviewMy Profile

    • Katrina Ryder May 18, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

      EXACTLY! I think it definitely gets easier the older they get and the more they are able to appreciate cultural experiences. Also, I find other moms (like my own) that can give them sewing lessons. :)

  5. Sarah May 16, 2015 at 8:20 am #

    Very well said!! Loved reading this. :-)

  6. Bethanie May 16, 2015 at 10:02 am #

    “See, I’m not really a kid person. Or even a baby person.. It’s just that kids are just kind of small and meh. I’m not that fond of other people’s kids or even my own relatives’ kids.”

    I am an after-school teacher for kindergartners and I adore my students and I am so excited for motherhood one day, but this is the first time I have ever heard a mom express this shared sentiment!!! THANK YOU. Now I know I’m not the only one! I plan on returning to this post when I need encouraging reminders in teaching and parenting :)

    • Katrina Ryder May 18, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

      I DO like other people’s teenagers. Hopefully I will like my own when they get to that age. :)

  7. Sarah @ little bus on the prairie May 16, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    This… just… Yup.
    I really enjoyed and related to everything you said. I especially loved the bit about self care. It’s something that I always feel so selfish doing (like telling them they need to wait until I have finished eating my own first serving of food until I will get them refills) but it is really important to show them that adults are not just here to serve them.

    The rest is also a work in progress :)
    Sarah @ little bus on the prairie recently posted…On “Simple Living”My Profile

  8. Shaundra May 17, 2015 at 10:04 am #

    Thank you for sharing this with us!

  9. Betsy@BeautifullyChaoticHome May 18, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    This is AWESOME! I always feel like I am not doing something right by doing stuff with my kids all the time! I love the part about sitting down for the meal, I too have just given up on that and everyone eats where they want and I eat when I can, but no longer!
    Betsy@BeautifullyChaoticHome recently posted…Why I dread going to church…with my kidsMy Profile

    • Katrina Ryder May 18, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

      I’m not saying it is easy or that my kids suddenly treated me like royalty, but changing my expectation for how I should be treating myself made a difference. I DON’T want my daughters to martyr themselves to motherhood, so I refuse to do it myself. One thing that helped (from a practical standpoint) is making up all the plates for the family and then carrying them to the table only once I was able to sit myself. Asking them to sit in front of bowls of food (family-style) while I finish bringing the meal, is too torturous. They can’t wait. They are barbarians. What can I say? :)

  10. Ashley Jones May 18, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    I relate with this so well, thanks for posting Katrina! I always stop if I find myself rushing my kids. I think, why be in a hurry, we’ll get where we need to be or do what we need to do just the same (and better) if I’m not frantic and rushing my kids. I also tell myself, and my kids, that they are not kids forever, but they are adults forever. One day my 4 yr old will not need my help with shoes, or clothes, or fixing toys, my six year old won’t need me to spell words for him or google something for him, and my three year old won’t want to hold my hand every time we walk up the stairs together for the rest of her life. So I just pause and say, one day soon you will be grown, so I will cherish this moment while it lasts. Thank you again and blessings in your motherhood journey!

    • Katrina Ryder May 19, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      YES! Exactly! You get it. :)

  11. Christina May 18, 2015 at 10:26 pm #

    i like this except for the consistency part. I think she means that she doesn’t make systems last forever, which is fine, but what most parenting advice around consistency … um, consists of (hahah), is regarding discipline and house rules. If sometimes it’s ok to wear your shoes inside, and other times you get massively punished, without any discussion of “policy change,” that freaks kids out and breeds insecurity. If sometimes pushing your brother gets a calm reasonable consequence, and other times it’s ignored, and other times you get grounded for a month and prohibited from sitting down at dinner… you get my point. Or if kids go to bed any time they fall over, and eat at 10 some days and 2 another, that isn’t good for their little bodies. All that to say– consistency IS needed and helpful for both moms and kids. I think what she means is to not be afraid to try new things or let go of systems/procedures that aren’t working. That is adaptation, not inconsistency. :)

    • Katrina Ryder May 19, 2015 at 8:30 am #

      You’re right. That is what I mean, but to some degree, I AM inconsistent (or adaptable) with discipline because each situation and child is different. I mean, even God varies WIDELY in the way he responds to His children and He says so in Scripture. Lots of times he gives grace where he promised punishment. Sometimes he burns them up with wrath. So I don’t apologize if each kid doesn’t get the same or if the punishments change. (Within reason.) I think as long as LOVE is consistent and they know that I AM FOR THEM then everything else is secondary. And I err on the side of grace.

  12. Amy May 18, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

    Oh, I sat here reading this (it’s after 11 pm, and my house has finally quieted down)….and I’m totally feeling what you’re saying! I do like babies and little kids, which for me is fortunate, as we have 5, all 7 and under :) Most of my kids are proud when they learn a new skill, but I have one who just would prefer to stay little forever….I have to practice lots of patience with him.
    Today was a rough day. I realized halfway through your post that I haven’t been enjoying him. He’s imaginative and funny and engaging, and I’ve been missing it! Thank you for the timely reminder!

    • Katrina Ryder May 19, 2015 at 8:25 am #

      Thanks for the comment! I too ebb and flow in my enjoyment of them, but every now and then, God reminds me that I need to zoom out to the big picture and not get too bogged down in the moment. It is VERY hard to do when they are little because their neediness is constant. :) I can’t imagine it with 5! Kudos to you!

  13. Gabby@MamaGab May 27, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    I can relate to this so much! I’m wired for teenagers, and in fact, I taught high school English for years and loved it before becoming a stay at home mom.

    A few years ago, I realized the importance of #2 on this list and I’ve never looked back. I’m not crafty so we rarely do crafts. I consider it a gift to my kids, a true sacrifice, anytime I break out paint, beads, or even glue! But I don’t have to be crafty. We can cook together, read stories together, and do all sorts of things that I love and we can all have fun together. It sure beats the drudgery of forcing ourselves into molds we’re never going to fit.
    Gabby@MamaGab recently posted…Homeschooling When You’re Too Tired to Teach {and a Giveaway!}My Profile

    • Katrina Ryder May 27, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

      I was a high school English teacher too! Maybe we are just meant for big kids. 😉 Thanks so much for your comment.

  14. Katrina Ryder May 18, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

    Not that it’s a big deal, but my site is just Katrinaryder.com and my middle initial (which isn’t in my URL) is actually E–not A.

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