When my husband and I first got married and started talking about having kids in the distant future, I remember saying to him:
“You can be the disciplinarian. I want to be the Fun Mom.”
I was only half joking.
Even back then, I knew deep down in my gut that setting limits and being an authority didn’t suit my personality . As a people-pleasing fun-lover, boundaries seemed mean and restrictive. I didn’t want to spoil anyone’s party. (I obviously did not have much experience with kids!).
So you can imagine what the first few years of my child-rearing experience looked like. Everything was about fun. Every day was a YES day. My goal was to make each day a new and exciting adventure.
Deep down, what I wanted more than anything was for my kids to know that I LOVED them.
What I didn’t understand (and still don’t sometimes) is that setting a limit or saying NO can be the most loving thing you can do. I mean sure, I get setting limits on things that are dangerous, like not running wild in a parking lot. But it’s the little things that aren’t so easy for me to say no to, like when they ask for one more show, one more minute to play, one more book, one more toy. I err on the side of giving in and saying YES because I want to please them and make them happy. And that’s not always a bad thing.
But I do know this: When I make it a habit of saying YES to everything, it is a LOT harder to say NO. When I say no, they often whine, plead, beg, or throw a complete tantrum. And then, because loud noise and disappointing others totally freaks my people-pleasing nature out, I change my mind and say okay, fine. Of course, what message have I just sent?
Oh, if I get really loud and throw a big fit, mommy will change her mind.
And that is how the first 3 years of parenting went for me. Lots of whining, flailing, tantrums from the kids. Lots of appeasing, avoiding and catering from mom.
I was a little toy soldier, a circus monkey, a slave to my children. As long as they were happy, everything was great. You can imagine how exhausting that would be.
When my need for sleep went way up (10-12 hours a night) and I started to carry around a heaviness like a big boulder on my back that I never could seem to shake off, I didn’t get what was happening. When my ears would start to buzz at certain noises and my arms felt on fire and I started hiding in our bedroom closet, tucking myself between the soft folds of my husband’s cotton t-shirts in a tight little ball, like I used to do in elementary school for ‘duck and cover’ tornado drills, I thought I was losing my mind.
I felt completely out of control. On the outside, my kids were running me ragged, exhausting my physical and mental reserves. On the inside, my confidence as a mom was increasingly shaky. I felt all weak and soft inside, like I had no backbone, like I had no idea how to do this thing called parenting. And I didn’t. I don’t think any of us really do, do we? But I thought I was the only one who felt this way. And that’s part of the lie of depression and anxiety. Thinking you are weird or something is wrong with you or you are just weak-minded for having these fears. Once the cycle of self-derision started, I just kept spiraling down further and further.
I could barely get through the day. I remember just trying to hang on until 5pm, the homestretch, when Daddy would walk in the door and take over and I could go to bed. I had no energy to stay up and watch a show with my husband. I had no energy to exercise. I had no desire to read or write. Things I love. Sometimes, I was so exhausted that I just fell asleep in the kids’ beds after saying goodnight to them.
Okay, how does this relate to being Fun Mom?
Well, I learned that I need boundaries. Not only for my kids, but for myself. For my mental and physical health.
And as a mom, that’s really hard to do. As a stay at home mom, I tend to want to pour myself into my kids’ lives and carry their burdens for them. As a part-time homeschooling mom, I tend to take on all of their academic ‘failures’ and ‘successes’ as my own. As a part-time working mom, I tend to take on more work than I can handle out of a desire to please my boss. All of these are boundary issues.
Fun Mom needs boundaries.
Everyone needs boundaries. We don’t always like them, but we need them.
Look at the 10 Commandments. God didn’t tell us: Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not commit adultery because He wanted to be mean and the Fun Killer. No. He knew that those boundaries would protect us from hurting ourselves and others.
I am still learning that boundaries aren’t bad. l hate saying NO to anyone, but especially my kids. I still give in like 25% of the time (confession!). Yet after being in a dark place that I believe had very much to do with not setting appropriate boundaries – I know I don’t want to go back there.
Fun Moms: Set those boundaries, if not for anyone else, do it for YOURSELF. God wants you to nurture your own soul so that you can be the best person, wife, mother and child of God that He made you to be.
To Moms Who Are Naturally Good at Setting Boundaries (You know who you are! I’m always studying you and watching how you parent and trying to use your phrasing with my kids and envying your darn well-behaved, polite kids at the restaurant while mine are completely melting down!!): Perhaps you need to let go a little more often? Perhaps you need to relinquish control and let kids be kids? Perhaps at times, it’s okay to let them get messy or climb that tree or go on that outing to the park even though it wasn’t in the schedule. I know you and I admire you and know that your kids will grow up feeling safe with those clear boundaries set for them. But make sure to loosen up those reins occasionally and let them play!
Hope this is of some encouragement to some mom out there who is struggling through the daily grind of parenting.
Praying for you!