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We all want to be good moms.
We want to give our children what they need when they need it, and we know the early years are important years. But we're often overwhelmed with all the questions and choices. "What does my child need the most?" we ask. "What does my child need right now?" We're bombarded with advice and opinions. The possibilities often confuse us and rob us of the joy of mothering.
Another question, equally as unsettling, rises to the surface: "What if I know what my child needs, but I'm too tired or too impatient or too busy to meet my child's need at that moment? Then what?" Such an honest question troubles us as we seek to be good moms.
THE "HEART" OF MOTHERING IS LOVE
This book seeks to answer those questions, combining the real-life voices of mothers with the research of experts. MOPS International, an organization founded in 1973 to nurture mothers of preschoolers, asked more than one thousand moms from all over the country: "What does your child need the most?" Not surprisingly, we kept getting variations of the same answer: "My child needs my love." "My child needs me." "My hugs." "My attention." "Unconditional love." "'No matter what' love." "Tough love."
It seemed that the "heart" of mothering is love. Digging a little deeper, however, we found that these mothers recognize their children need different kinds of love at different times. So we identified a child's nine basic needs, using the unique language of love that reflects those needs from a child's perspective, especially during the first years of life.
This book is different from other books about mothering. It's not another one of those "scary mommy" books that makes you worry or feel guilty about all the things you haven't done or can't do. You've seen enough of those. It's not a parenting manual that makes you feel inadequate. It's not a pediatric guide to medical mothering or a child psychologist's book on development.
It is a book written by moms for moms who want to meet their children's most important needs. It slices through all the possible things we could do as mothers and frees us up to do the one thing that matters most: love our children. That's the heart of mothering. It's written to bring confidence that even when we miss doing some things, when we keep our eyes on the heart of mothering, most other things will fall into place.
MOMS HAVE NEEDS TOO!
This book also takes a realistic look at a mother's ability to meet all of her children's needs. The truth is, we cannot meet all of our children's needs all of the time. In an earlier book, What Every Mom Needs, we wrote about the nine basic needs of a mother. We said that a mom who recognizes her own needs can become a better mom. In this book we look at the needs of children, but we also look at the ways a mother's needs sometimes bump up against the needs of her child.
Sometimes you are talking on the phone, and you can't give your child the attention she requests. Sometimes you have to be away from home, and you'll miss the opportunity to comfort him when he scrapes his knee. Sometimes your frustration with other problems or your fatigue distracts you from listening well. Sometimes your agendas differ: you want your child to dress a certain way for a certain event, and she wants to choose her own outfit. You need your child to look nice for your friends; your child needs to express her independence. We've all been there. We know about those conflicts of needs.
One woman sent us a prayer in which she expresses this constant conflict as a mother of three.
When they scribble on the walls, please help me to see a rainbow!
And when I've said something a hundred times, please give me the patience to say it a hundred times more!
And on those particularly annoying days when I tell them to act their age, please help me to remember that they are!
And while we're on the subject of age, Lord, when I begin to lose my temper, please help me to remember to act mine!
And through it all, Lord -- the fingerprints and runny noses, messy rooms and unrolled toilet paper, destroyed videotapes and broken knick-knacks -- please help me to remember this:
Someday, these will be the days I will long to have back again.
HOW TO MEET YOUR CHILD'S NEEDS
Mothering matters. But mothers also matter. Therefore, when it comes to recognizing and meeting your child's needs, remember this:
• You can begin to meet your child's needs by recognizing that you, too, have needs.
• You can best meet your child's needs by understanding and accepting your child, but also by understanding and accepting yourself.
• You can best meet your child's needs by realizing that you can't meet all of your child's needs all the time and other people can help.
• You can best meet your child's needs by examining what you liked and didn't like in the way you were mothered.
• You can best meet your child's needs by focusing on the main thing: loving your child. The rest will eventually fall into place.
In the pages that follow, you'll find descriptions of your child's nine core needs, followed by "Love Handles," or suggestions on how to meet these needs starting today. Yes, we all want to be good moms. We hope this book will encourage you and help you understand the important ways you can meet your child's needs by focusing on the heart of mothering.
Getting to the heart of mothering together,
Elisa Morgan and
for MOPS International