When my kids come home after a test day at school, I ask, “Did you give your best effort?” I doubt they would ever say, “No. I phoned it in,” but usually their grades will reveal the truth. Some nights I ask myself the same question. “Did I give my best effort today?” If I’m honest with myself, I admit when I phoned it in or had my priorities out of order. I’ve had days when I was so busy with outside obligations that my family only got my leftovers. I’ve had days when I was so preoccupied with a to-do list that my family got the autopilot version of me.
But I’ve also had plenty of days when I gave my family my best—days when I parented intentionally and stopped to correct behavior because it was needed and not because it bothered me. I’ve had days when I pushed pause to play with my kids and stopped to listen to their stories. How about you? Are you mothering in default mode or parenting with purpose? Here are 5 ways to give your best to your family.
1. Don’t overcommit.
I watched a mom the other day hurrying her two kids into the car with an escalating voice that they were going to be late. I’ve been that mom plenty of times. When we overcommit, we set ourselves and our children up for a rushed lifestyle. Overcommitment leaves us no margin to deal with discipline issues or to engage with our kids. And children don’t do hurry well, which just leads to frustration and conflict. Learning to say no will make it possible for you to say yes to what really matters.
2. Stop, look, and listen.
When your child comes to you to share something that happened at school or relay a problem, stop what you’re doing (put down the phone), look him or her in the eyes, and listen closely. Being available when our kids are ready to talk is an open window into their world and their hearts. And giving children our full attention helps them know they matter more than our to-do list.
3. Know that parenting comes in seasons.
Giving my family my best often means giving up something I love. I’ve shelved hobbies and the tennis league I wanted to join because of the demands of parenting children in this season. While I do take some time for self-care, I know my family needs me now and it won’t always be like this. This season will pass quickly and another season, with more time to pursue interests, will come. I’m OK with pushing pause on some interests to give my family my best now.
4. Get enough sleep.
It’s so tempting to stay up long after the kids are in bed for some alone time or to get work done while the house is quiet. But in my experience, it’s not just me who will pay for it in the morning. My family also pays when I try to skimp on sleep. Sleep-deprived moms are less patient, more crabby, and more prone to anxiety. Turn off electronics early in the evening and aim to get around eight hours of sleep each night.
5. Love their father well.
One of the best gifts moms can give to their children is to love their father. Prioritize time to grow a strong marriage and show your kids how much you love and admire your husband through your words and support. Single moms can do this too by resolving conflict so that issues aren’t simmering, and by not allowing issues with their dad to spill into conversations with your children.
Tell us! Which one of these 5 ways could most help you be the best for your family?