I like to think that I am a good role model for my children, but the reality is that I mess up a lot. This is something I am very open and honest about. While I do know and understand that I am getting motherhood pretty darn right in a lot of ways, there are areas where I can and absolutely should improve.
Some would say that unhealthy habits are a part of everyday life for people, and I get where that idea is coming from. At the same time, these unhealthy habits don’t need to be a regular part of our day.
Healthy is not just about your physical well-being. Being of a healthy mind is equally, if not more important. Also, just being “healthy,” both physically and mentally, isn’t enough.
Our children are looking to us to be their constant example, and I will tell you that I am not all too happy with the modeling I have been doing as of late.
Here are 10 unhealthy mom habits we need to get rid of, pronto.
Giving into anxiety and worry.
Not all moms are as anxiety-ridden and worrisome as I am, but some are right there next to me. For those of us that do get anxious, it is typically a completely involuntary response to our stressors and can often be very debilitating. The problem with us openly feeling our anxiety and stress in front of our children and around our spouse is that our negative and fearful attitude can rub off on them; your spouse may not like that and it sure as heck isn’t good for the kiddos. Authors of You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking and Taking Control of Your Life, neuroplasticity researcher, Jeffrey M. Schwartz, and psychiatrist, Rebecca Gladding, teach us that the best way to rid ourselves of anxiety, worry, and other unhealthy habits is to “make your brain work for you” and “to starve” your fears, ultimately decreasing the influence and strength they have over you.
As mothers, we tend to move through life and our day at an accelerated pace because there is always just so much on our plates to get done. But when I am rushing, do you know who suffers? I do—my children and my spouse. My whole reason for being so fast paced is to keep our little family “machine” running, but when I speak and act like a rushed lunatic, no one in my family wants to be on the machine. And then guess what? I get upset that no one is doing what I need or want them to do, as quickly as I want them to do it. So, what is the lesson? That rushing can be deceiving.
You may perceive that you are getting a lot more done at hyper speed, but honestly (most of the time) you’re half-a**ing your to-do’s, and frustrating all those in your path in the process. Check out this popular book, Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path, by viral sensation and HGTV.com star, Erin Loechner, who decided to slow down the pace of her life, refreshing her perspective, and renewing her priorities. By following her story, it may enable us to want to shift our focus to the journey and to transition with grace.
Living in fear of judgment.
Judgment from our spouse, our friends, our parents, our children’s teachers, their pediatrician, the local moms’ group — you name someone, and I am pretty darn sure that I probably fear judgment from them. But why? Why in the world do I live my life this way? I want my children to know their mother as someone with strong opinions, who has her convictions from which she doesn’t stray despite the negative words or glances aimed at her. What’s going to help me get there? I think this will: You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. This book, written by bestselling author, speaker, and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, will supposedly take us on a wild joy ride to own transformation — into someone who doesn’t give other people and their opinions power over themselves.
Poor eating habits.
Why in the world I act as though I am so deserving of the indulgences I take, and why I feel as though I have earned them after a long day, is beyond me. I have a strange relationship with food in that I think about it a lot, and often spend so much time contemplating what should be allowed or not based on what my scale might say. Momma should not be eating cheese and crackers for dinner while serving everyone else a hot meal, just so that she can splurge after the kids go to bed. If my children have to eat from the five food groups, so should I. Food Psychologist, Brian Wansink, PhD., author of, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, encourages us to change the way we look at food, helping us to make smarter, healthier, more mindful food choices easily.
We need to start saying “no,” and saying it a lot more often. In The Power of a Positive No: Save the Deal, Save the Relationship and Still Say No, William Ury provides concrete examples and stellar advice on how to productively and respectfully say ‘No’ so that alternatively you can “say ‘Yes’ to what counts–[your] own needs, values, and priorities”.
Not making self-care a priority.
When I don’t take care of myself, take breaks, and find time for balance not only do I suffer but so does the rest of the family. Parents (and mothers, especially) can feel so guilty about taking any time for themselves. But the truth is when we decompress, we return to our family in a better state of mind. Just ask Julie Burton, veteran mom and author of The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being.
Letting your voice be silenced.
I raise my children to have a smart mouth, but when it comes to my own, I censor it — depending on the crowd. Why do I do this? How confusing must that be for my children? I need to be a model of respectful communication for them.
Playing the comparison game.
This gets you absolutely nowhere, and it gets you there fast. Or actually, it gets you somewhere — it takes you to jealous town, and you know what? No one looks good in all green. Check out I’m Happy for You (Sort Of…Not Really): Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison, by Kay Wills Wyma, as she discusses the problem of excessive comparison and competition, and the fact that it steals our joy. Additionally, Wyma offers simple remedies to help you reboot your perspective and live more authentically.
Not focusing on your marriage.
Your relationship with your spouse is the basis for how your children will compare all of their relationships. In most cases, whether they mean to or not, they will attempt to duplicate a similar partnership to the one they grew up observing. This is why more than anything, you need to love your wife as you want your daughter to be loved, and why you must be willing to ask “what about us?” consistently.
As you can see, this mom still has a lot of work to do to become the healthiest version of herself and the best role model and example for her children. But wouldn’t you say that one of the healthiest decisions you can make as a parent is to recognize and modify your unhealthy habits? Well, I’ve got it started for you. Now, it’s your turn.