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6 Lessons that Made Me a Better Mom

May 10, 2018 | by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

Practical advice that made a big difference.

I’ve been blessed to have wonderful mothers who’ve touched my life. Not only my mother and mother-in-law, but also friends and relatives and neighbors who’ve all been fantastic role models as we negotiate this crazy journey called motherhood. Here are six lessons that have made me a better mother.

1. Look at the big picture

When children are born, observant Jews wish the parents, “May your merit to raise your child to Torah, chuppah (marriage) and ma’asim tovim (good deeds).” In Judaism, we don’t wish material success or fame or fortune on one another. Instead, our greatest hope is that our children manage to fill their lives with meaning, fulfilling relationships and kindness.

I still think of those blessings my kids received when they were born; it helps me keep things in perspective. When life gets too stressful, I take a deep breath and focus on the big things I want for my kids in the long term.

2. Enjoy the moment

I was waiting in line, in a rush, and my young son was shouting, “Mommy! Mommy!” Even as I shushed him, I knew I was being unfair, and then my friend’s words entered my mind: “Make the most of it; you’ll miss it one day.” Her kids were already out of the house and she told me how happy she’d be to hear them shouting, “Mommy!” one more time. Suddenly, my son’s prattling didn’t seem irritating and I tuned in to what he was saying, understanding that one day I’d long for just this moment.

3. Choose the right community

My oldest child had just finished his first year of preschool and my husband and I decided to send our kids to a school that had more Jewish content, where they will learn to be proud Jews.

We chose the right school that created a warm community with caring families that also wanted to give their kids a strong Jewish identity. Looking back, choosing that school set us on our lengthy path to increased Jewish commitment and observance.

4. Don’t be afraid to tap into the Divine for help

I once asked a beloved teacher for advice on raising my kids. Instead of offering what I thought of as practical advice, she told me to pray. For months I resisted. I was looking for help to real-life problems and couldn’t see how turning to God would make a difference. One day I finally gave it a try.

After a period of intense frustration with one of my kids, I poured out my heart to God, and as I prayed for my child, I felt a huge sense of connection and purpose. Putting my concerns into words helped me prioritize what I wanted for my child, and praying to God helped me feel like I was doing something instead of going over the same failed arguments and strategies.

The clarity I gained helped me be more patient and by acknowledging that we couldn’t do it alone I feel our home became more open to receiving Divine assistance in ways we never imagined.

5. Start small

“How can you bring this into your life this week?” That question, gently asked each Saturday afternoon by the rabbi’s wife in our old synagogue, changed the way I relate to my kids and the world. For years, each Shabbat afternoon a group of women would gather to study Jewish texts. Rebbetzin Berger was our guide, and she’d always come back to that central question: what was one concrete step we could work on that week to help us grow into the people we longed to be?

Try to adopt one new behavior each week felt manageable and the effects were profound. One week I concentrated on not flying off the handle whenever my kids behaved in ways I didn’t want. Another week I made a concerted effort to be cheerful and upbeat, creating a much more relaxed feeling in our home. The great parenting advice I was learning finally started to make a slow and practical impact in our home.

6. Spend more time with my kids

My young son was asked to write about his parents. He wrote, “Daddy plays with me and Mommy washes the dishes.” That’s when I realized that I needed to make playtime with my kids a higher priority than having a clean kitchen and empty sink.

I also started including my kids in those very things that were making me busy. I invited them to help me make dinner and prepare for Shabbat. My kids love braiding challah dough making matzah balls. We get a lot more together time, and as a bonus we foster a feeling of purpose and tradition as a family.

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