The old trope that no one knows how difficult parenting is until they become parents themselves is often repeated for one plain and simple reason — it’s just true.
No matter what personality traits you’ve honed or how much parenting advice you’ve read, being a mother raising actual human kids is an endeavor like absolutely no other.
For as far back as I can remember, I know I wanted to be a mom. I couldn’t wait to have a few little ones of my own. I thought I would be the perfect mother … No, scratch that. I knew I would be!
And then, I had my kids.
And it was HARD. Way harder than I thought it would be.
It’s now 23 years later and fortunately, my kids are both amazing. My daughter just graduated from NYU with a degree in filmmaking and my son is a senior, also at NYU, planning to study law. They are both kind and loving human beings who I am proud to call my own.
How did they get there? For a lot of reasons, but I do take at least some of the credit. Being a parent is hard work, no matter who you are, and I definitely I learned a lot.
One thing I realized along the way is that there are some specific characteristics that make people more or less effective at parenting.
Here are five personality traits I believe can be found in the best moms out there, all of which can be cultivated in yourself as well.
First and foremost, to be successful at any job, a woman has to know herself.
A woman who knows herself knows both her strengths and her weaknesses. She uses her strengths to her advantage and knows what to do to manage her weaknesses.
A woman who knows herself can go into a challenge confidently. She will leave her personal issues aside to be the best that she can be.
A woman who becomes a mother brings herself into the role in a big way. She brings the things that she learned as a child, the lessons that her parents taught her and experience that she has had living her life.
A woman who knows herself, who has accepted and understands her past and her relationship with her own parents, is a woman who has the ability to raise children without passing on baggage from her own childhood.
If a woman has not been able to address, head on, the pain and bad habits from her life before having children, she will most likely pass those things onto her children, whether she wants to or not.
So, do your work before you become a mother.
I thought that becoming a mother would fix what ailed me, but it wasn’t so, and it never is. All of the pain that I carried with me was amplified in the beginning. It was only once I started working on that pain that I was able to stop it being passed down to my kids.
A woman who makes the best, most effective mom is a woman who listens to her gut and follows her intuition.
Women are born to be mothers. We have generations of instinct and experience behind us. When we carry our children in our bodies for approximately 9 months, our chemistry changes in ways meant to aid with our transition to motherhood.
In fact, one study conducted at Leiden University in the Netherlands showed that “[pregnancy] alters the size and structure of brain regions involved in understanding the thoughts, feelings, beliefs and intentions of others.”
As mothers, we know instinctively what to do, so it is essential that we listen to our gut.
In this day of the Internet, there is a lot of information out there about how to be a good parent, and some of it is very helpful. But some of it … not so much.
It is your job, as a mother, to gather information from wherever you can and then use your gut to decide whether to use it or not. Every parent and child relationship is different and what might work for others might not work for you.
So, do your research, but pause and listen to your intuition before deciding what course of action is the right one for your and your kids.
3. Active listening
As my kids became teenagers, I noticed that many of their friends spent A LOT of time at our house. I always assumed it was because I made really good chocolate chip cookies, but then I learned it was something else.
I learned that my kids’ friends liked to hang out at our house because I was a good listener.
When people listen to others, we tend to filter what we hear through our own experience, and there is nothing wrong with that, because all we have is our own experience to measure things by. But listening and truly hearing means stepping outside of your own experience and listening for listening’s sake, and then not necessarily responding. but just listening.
So many kids feel like they aren’t really heard by their parents. They believe that their thoughts and feelings are overruled by what adults think is “right” or “should be.”
So, make an effort to really listen to your child. Make sure they know you are there for them and will listen to them without judgment and without trying to fix them.
It’s tough, but you can do it!
Isn’t it the plight of every woman that she believes that she can do it all herself? And, even if she has more on her hands than she can handle, that no one can do it as well as she can?
Women with the ability to share their workload with the father of their children make the best, most effective moms.
A woman who enlists her children’s father to support her and collaborate with her in the incredibly difficult work of being a parent is a mom who has her priorities straight.
First, she knows that she can’t do it alone and that trying to do so will only run her down.
Second, she knows that it’s very important for her children’s father to set the example of being a father who is involved, who has a say in the day-to-day running of their lives, and who they can trust to be there for them as much as they can trust their mother.
Children have two parents for a reason. So share the burden — and the joy — with your kids’ father. Everyone will be glad that you did.
5. Advocating (rather than enabling)
I once calling a meeting at my son’s boarding school because they hadn’t let him choose his senior dorm room like the other boys were allowed to. I sat down with the dean and the dorm-head and listened to them NOT tell me that my son was causing trouble at school. They were using their words carefully so as not to paint my son as someone who unworthy of picking his own room, but rather to make it seem as though he simply couldn’t for some random reason.
I knew that my boy wasn’t the perfect student. He had gotten in trouble a few years before, as many boys do. But I DID NOT believe that this gave the dorm-head carte blanche to not give my son the right to choose his own room for senior year unless he had another good reason I didn’t yet know about.
So, I pushed and I pushed until the adults in the room were willing to admit that they were concerned that my son might cause some trouble senior year if he had the room that he wanted.
Was I happy to hear that? No. But now that everyone was speaking the truth, I was able to bring my son into the conversation so we could all work together to come up with a compromise that would ensure him a successful senior year in keeping with the school’s standards.
My son knew that I had his back, but that I also wasn’t going to let him skate past his own responsibilities to his community.
So many parents want to fight their kids battles for them, but doing so doesn’t allow them to learn the skills they need to be successful adults.
So, let them trip and fall. Catch them, but don’t prop them up.
Being the best, most effective mom is the goal of every woman who has a child.
Unfortunately, when we are given a child, we are not given a book of instructions as well. We are sent off into the world to figure it out all on our own. But luckily, every woman has it in her to be a great mom, including you!
So, know yourself, follow your gut, listen actively, share the work and advocate without enabling.
It’s hard work, being a mother, but totally worth it every step of the way. And seeing your child as a happy, well-adjusted grown up makes it all worthwhile.
Mitzi Bockmann is a NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate whose whose writing has been published in The Huffington Post, Prevention Magazine, and The Good Men Project, among others, and who works exclusively with women to help them to be all they want to be in this crazy world in which we live. Let her help you life the life of your dreams by contacting her now via email to get started!