I was never a ditcher in high school and sem, but I think I may have missed an essential class.
You know, the one called Motherhood 101.
Because when my twins were born, I found that I, along, apparently, with most other young frum mothers, was just tossed into a morass of mothering. Of winging it, flying by the seat of my pants (er, skirt), and just trying to get through the day.
No strategy – definitely no long-term strategy – and no rhyme or reason.
Make It Till Bedtime was the name of the game.
And, all too often, that’s how so many mothers mother — until they find themselves neck-deep, with things completely not how they’d anticipated.
So if you’re a new mother, or mother of a young family, the time is now.
Motherhood 101 may not have existed in your schooling, but now is the time to set the stage for what your family and mothering-style will look like in 10, 20 years down the line.
And it starts with your family culture.
Who do you want to be as a mother?
Your family culture starts with you: the mainstay of the house.
No, that doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect (there’s no such thing as a perfect mother anyhow), but it does mean that you want to be intentional with how you parent, how you nurture, how you prioritize the many tasks on your list as a mother.
So who do you want to be?
How do you want to show up for your children?
How do you want to model marriage and relationships for your children?
How do you want to model nurturing yourself?
And then: how do you get there? Books? Mentors? Programs? How can you grow and develop into the best version of yourself?
What are your house rules?
I know people look at me funny when I ask them about their house rules – especially when they only have one baby, or a couple little kids.
But house rules isn’t just about curfews for teens; house rules is about getting the expectations in your head out of your head and into reality.
And what will you choose to let slide? What is not important to you? Or, what is important to you, but not as important as those really important things?
If, for example, your children getting an age-appropriate amount of sleep every night is something important for you, it’ll be easiest to maintain that expectation if it’s something that’s established right away. And, it’ll be something that will be more likely to survive Chanukah parties, Friday night meals, even having teens and toddlers in the house if this is the family culture you’ve established from the beginning.
If you want your children to clean up after themselves regularly, that’s something that you can start practicing with your oldest when he’s still an infant, slowly handing the reins of responsibility over to him as he grows.
If you want to encourage independent play, start from babyhood with some interactive play, some cuddle-with-mommy time, and some independent play time.
If there’s a particular parenting technique that speaks to you, look into it and start implementing it as early as you can (I read and began implementing some Love and Logic techniques when my twins were 6 months old!)
These house rules may shift and morph over time, but setting the foundation for things that are important to you (both technical things mentioned above, as well as ruchniyus aspects) in the beginning will establish your family culture so things roll more smoothly in years to come.
Use an investment mentality
Remember that the beginning will take some time.
Starting off on the right foot takes energy, patience and diligence. But: it pays off.
By investing this time, focus and energy now, when your children are babies, you’ll roll into a routine, develop a “normal”, that will keep on giving back to yourself and your family in the years and decades to come.
So as you dive into this investment, what will you implement now to establish your family culture?