I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be the mum I thought I should be, when I should have been embracing the kind of mum I am. I’ve compared myself to my stricter, tough-love fellow mums and admired their consistency, their ability to separate emotion from discipline, and the respect they’ve established in their homes.
I have the same motivations as any other mum. I want open communication, a place where my kids’ voices are heard and respected, and a peaceful home. Where I differ is I tend to bend more to accomplish this. Even if the rules aren’t obeyed all the time, it’s worth it to me to avoid the fight. Emotionally, it’s very hard for me to discipline. My heart races to find a good reason for what they did so I don’t have to. Sometimes I know I have to do the hard thing, and that is that. But I’ve fought my natural inclinations and berated myself too long for being too “lax”. I’m ready to stand up for my (our!) right to be a softie mum and embrace the positives that come from it.
I think there’s a soft side in every mum, and here’s what’s so great about it:
I’m a trusted insider. Because I’m so empathetic to my kids’ issues, they vent to me freely. I’ve learned so much about what’s going on in their lives by being nonjudgmental and soft in my approach to their problems. They don’t just see me as a mum, they see me as an ally, as a friend. I know that’s a dangerous line to walk, and we’ll see how this evolves as they enter their teenage years. But for now, having their trust is be a good thing.
My kids are motivated to behave, just not out of fear. My kids aren’t afraid of a smack or strong punishment, and so far thankfully, their crimes rarely warrant one. They feel guilty if they do something wrong because they know I’ll be disappointed. I’ve sometimes wished they were more afraid of me and more respectful of my authority. But at the end of the day, if they are behaving because they don’t want to see me upset, it’s just as effective.
They may talk back more, but they know their voice is important. My kids talk back more than the average kid. They argue, they negotiate, and I listen and debate much longer than the books say you should. But if I err on the side of letting their voices be heard, I think it will only help them be confident in speaking up for themselves later in life.
I have a hard time saying no, and it’s almost always worth it. When my kids need something or want to play, or read, or do a magic trick, or go to the park, and I’m really busy, I often relent and do what they want. Sometimes I get screwed doing this because I’ll then be up half the night catching up on work. But it’s almost always worth it. And, because I say yes more than no, I think they have a sense that anything is possible.
Do my kids ever take advantage of my softness? Sure. Am I still learning to be more balanced from my more stricter friends? Absolutely. Being a softie isn’t perfect. But it’s who I am, and I’m starting to embrace the strength in it instead of seeing it as a weakness.