Thursday, January 5, 2012

Treating Motherhood as a Profession in 2012

The name of this blog is Motherhood: My Full Time Job.  I have been thinking lately about what it means to treat motherhood as a profession and have made it a goal to do so in 2012.

What does it mean to make motherhood your profession?  As I pondered this question, I realized that it was a lot more than just staying at home with your kids all day. 

When you have a career you wake up and report to work at a specific time.  You adhere to a dress code.  You become an expert in your field.  You have goals and expectations.  You are always looking for ways to improve.  You record your work and progress.  You prioritize, schedule, and make a plan of attack.  And last, but not least, you take a break from work!

You can probably see where I am going with this.  We can do all these things in our careers as mothers; most likely with the effect of feeling more satisfied and accomplished at the end of the day.  I don't have all of these down, but I am working on them and the few that I have fully implemented have made a huge difference!

Wake up and report to work at the same time every day.
Set your alarm clock for the same time every day; approximately 30 minutes before your kids wake up.  If you have children in school, you probably already do this.  If you have young children, I have found this makes a huge difference!  I use this time to shower without interruption, get dressed, start breakfast and read my scriptures.  You can choose how you want to use this extra time.  It will be hard at first, but I promise the organization that results is well worth it!  Along with this goal I would recommend having all your kids ready by a certain time every day.

Adhere to a dress code.
We always laugh at the commercials where the mom is vacuuming while wearing high heels and pearls, but how good do you feel when you put on a string of pearls, or a pretty dress?  Now I'm not saying to only wear dresses or professional wear, but feel good about the way you look.  Put on attractive clothing, do your haid and makeup.  It really makes a difference in just feeling like you've got it together.  Already do this?  Add that string of pearls! ;)

Becom an expert in your field.
Some people like parenting books, some people don't.  I personally love them, but I think you have to find the kind of books that fit your style.  Do you have a parenting style?  Do you know what it is?  If you don't have a set idea of the way you want to parent, I challenge you to browse around Amazon for a few different parenting books that look interesting and then read them!  I am a mix of attachment parenting, waldorf early childhood learning,  and a firm belief that in a lot of things, less is more!  My current favorite parenting book is "You Are Your Child's First Teacher" by Rahima Baldwin Dancy.  I recommend it to anyone and everyone.
 A word of caution.  It took me a few years to be able to do this, but when you read a parenting book it is imperative that you learn to keep an open mind while at the same time sift through the information and be ok with agreeing with some of it and discarding what doesn't sit right with you.
Already feel like an expert in your parenting style?  Find books about other aspects of your parenting as they come up; Early childhood education, learning styles and disabilities, child health,etc.

Have goals and expectations.
We have all though about it, but now lets write it down.  Think about the kind of adults you want to raise.  I'm not talking specifics like profession, but generals like happy attitude, grateful, helpful, good citizens, hard workers, life-long learners, etc.  Keep this big picture in mind when you do the next exercise.  Think about some short term goals for your actions as a mother that you hope will help your children achieve the big picture.  These goals may help you model this desired behavior, or maybe you will engage in these behaviors as a family, etc.  You can set it in a time frame of a year, a month, a week.  The important thing is to write it down, hang it where you will look at it often and evaluate frequently.  You may change your mind about a certain goal, or you may realize that you have accomplished it.  Don't expect perfection, just progress!

Always look for ways to improve.
Of course as a mother there are no pay raises, quarterly evaluations, performance reports or promotions; but you can still always be looking for ways to improve your mothering.  Develop a new skill, hone a talent, try something new, take a challenge!  You have to decide how to do this.  I personally like to try a new recipe every week.  This year I am trying to increase the number of things I make from scratch, as well as grow a garden and lern how to preserve my harvest.  Perhaps you want to improve your efforts at being eco-friendly, a better budgeter, a historian, gardener or whatever you want.

Record your work and progress.
Kids grow up so fast, don't let the memories fly away with the time!  Take pictures, write in your journal.  I can tell you after only a few years of parenting and looking back on pictures and blog posts, you forget so much!

Prioritize, Schedule, and make a plan of attack.
I don't think children should have a packed schedule.  They need plenty of time for free play and family time.  Prioritize all the demands on your family's time and determine what is truly important and get rid of the rest.  Set a flexible schedule with breakfast, lunch, and dinner at certain times.  Choose a certain day to do your grocery shopping, go to the library, etc.  What time of day will you read books?  I suggest setting up a schedule more along the lines of a sequence of events with a few specific times rather than trying schedule everything down to the minute!
One thing I have started doing that makes a big difference is sitting down every night after the kids go to bed and making a plan of attack for the next day.  I look at my calendar to check for appointments, I write down things I may need to get from the store.  I plan my menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  Then I think of things I want to do the next day.  I always try to plan at least 2 games or activities to do with the kids (they can be as short as 30 seconds or as long as an hour).  I also try to plan an activity for the kids to do on their own that I can pull out when I need a few minutes to get something done.  I personally put down time frames for everything, but rarely follow my schedule to the letter.  It just reminds me of what I want to have done by the end of the day.

Take a break!
Unlike other jobs, being a mom is not a 9-5 job, but you can still take a break!  For starters put your kids to bed at a regular, early time, every day so that you can count on some time every evening without the kids.  I would also find an activity to participate in outside the house, without the kids.  One that will give you a much needed break but not have you always away from your husband in the evenings (spending time with him is important too!).  I have found this respite in book clubs, service clubs, and currently in a community orchestra!

Well there you go.  Take a look at this list.  What do you already do?  What do you want to start doing, or do better? 

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