I want you to know that I am writing this Sunday night, literally in my bed, while I stuff my face full of kit kats.
Hubby's been out of town all weekend again and let's just say, bedtime routine tonight would not be considered one of my more shining parenting moments.
Hence the kit kats.
Okay... who am I kidding. I would be stuffing my face with them regardless.
Still, you know when your kids start accusing you of being rude because your language and tone become more forceful after the 2,835,476,238,754,634th time asking them to do something, it would be considered less than one of your more stellar moments.
Anyway, it has been a bit of a rough day so bear with me as I try to assemble my thoughts and say what is on my mind.
I don't know if it's the change of the seasons or if women are just eating too much holiday candy, (Why are you looking at me like that? Oh dang, I think a piece of chocolate fell down in my keyboard...) but I seem to keep running into post after post written by young moms who are drowning in their frustrations over not being able to "keep it all together", to "do it all", or feel unable to "handle it".
You know, as parents we have the unique privilege of experiencing many of our children's hardest "firsts". Their first steps, their first bike crash, their first heartbreak, etc.
All of these firsts are what I've come to think of as "growing pains".
The thing about growing pains is, the first time you are about to experience something, you don't know what it's going to be like until you've done it. Like after that first awful and somewhat traumatic experience of falling off your bike, you know that next time you fall, it's going to hurt, so you brace yourself for impact and pain. But after a while, the more you do it you get the hang of it and so you fall less and less.
When I first got married it was a hard adjustment. I had expectations I didn't know I had, ideas I didn't realize I clung to. It's taken years of both of us falling painfully off and getting back on to be able to figure out how to maneuver this marriage thing. Now I fall less frequently, and I can enjoy the experience more.
When I had kids, I thought I should and ought to be able to do it all, perfectly, happily, all the time. Because hey, I'm the one who chose to have kids so I ought to be able to handle it, right?
Even when people told me it was okay to have bad days, or lazy days, or emotional days, deep down I felt like it wasn't okay, that I should be able to be in control, to be responsible for my emotions and choices.
And I certainly didn't want to ask for help because that felt like a sign of weakness, as though people were going to judge me and think low of me for having all these kids then not being able to handle it.
Ironically, I never thought that of anyone who ever came to me for help.
It's like when your toddler goes through that... *deep intake of calming breath* independent phase where they always want to do everything "all by myself". *cringe* We want, can, and are willing to help them, they just won't let us.
But seriously, we do the exact same thing. We just don't realize it.
I remember when I was a kid, up the street from our house was this cult-a-sac that had a HUGE down-hill road. It was our favorite place to ride bikes because we could go so fast!
One day when we were out riding, I watched as one of my older siblings threw their hands in the air and then take their feet off the pedals and balanced just on the seat. I thought that surely if they could do it, so could I. I steadied myself and about halfway down this hill, I threw my hands into the air and lifted up my feet.
My victory was ever so brief before I became unbalanced and crash landed in a heap of flailing arms and legs. When I finished rolling to the bottom of the paved hill, I didn't have much time to really take in what happened before the sound of barking reached my ears. Terrified, I leaped up and started running back up the hill with my bike.
I was more terrified of this dog which was known to bite then I was with how serious I was hurt. The adrenaline rush was epic. In that moment I was sure I was going to get eaten alive by this scary dog who was nipping at me heels as I was running with all my might.
I didn't really feel too much pain until I got home and was able to calm down. That's when the pain from the skinned knees, legs, arms, elbows, and face hit me.
Sometimes I think that's what happens with us moms. We jump on this exciting motherhood ride and we go hard and fast and we see other moms throwing their arms in the air and doing all these things so well that we think we should be able to do it too.
And that's when we fall. But at first we don't have time to think about it because there is always something chasing us. Dirty laundry, dirty dishes, dinner, homework, diapers, sleepless nights, etc.
Then we stop and catch out breath, and that's when we realize that our house isn't clean, that the dishes aren't done, the laundry is overflowing, and we've been yelling at and frustrated with our sweet children.
Then the guilt sets in.
I didn't notice this for a long time, but most (definitely not all) of the time when someone is beating themselves to a pulp over not being a good mom, a lousy wife, or a terrible cook or homemaker, they are younger moms just starting out in the early years.
It occurred to me that it is because motherhood is filled with intense growing pains and the beginning is so new and different than anything we'd ever done before, that we are stunned when reality doesn't meet our expectations.
Just as I could give you buckets and buckets full of amazing and fun filled memories, I have buckets and buckets full of examples I could give you of me sobbing in the shower or late at night from such intense guilt over being a terrible mother that I felt my heart would burst.
You know when women talk about how we forget what it's like to be pregnant or how painful child birth can be? Well, sometimes I would ask my mom, (who had eight kids super close together) how in tarnation she did it and how she managed to maintain (most) of her sanity. (Just kidding mom. You know I love you)
She would often comment on how she doesn't really remember those "drowning in frustration" times though she knows she had them, she really only remembers the good stuff.
At some point you have to make a decision to be okay with not being perfect.
Now I'm going to confess something.
I have been asked on occasion why I don't offer more parenting tips and advise. Well, I'm going to tell you.
First of all, my oldest is only eight years old so, pish, what do I know! Ask the moms with teenagers or who have married children, they're the experts.
But also and mostly because, I have tried to follow or use or incorporate someones ideas or methods and every time, I fail. I can't quite seem to make it work for me so I feel like a failure because hey, if they can take their hands and feet off the pedals, then I ought to be able to too, right?
Now I'm not saying people who do or have offered advise or plans or lists shouldn't do it, they should! Keep at it people! Others need your wisdom! And yes, I do read the lists and collect ideas and try them out. I guess it's just that for me personally I worry about someone feeling frustrated with themselves because they think they should be able to incorporate my ideas or follow my tips and do what I do, but can't.
So keep reading those lists and trying to apply them. But at the end of the day the change has to go deeper than a chart or a list.
You need to change your thought process.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,― Mahatma Gandhi
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
You have to stop thinking of yourself as a failure every time the house falls apart and understand that you are human with limitations.
Instead of focusing solely on the fact that you lost your temper at your children, focus on the fact that you apologized and told them you loved them.
You have to change your belief in yourself.
I'm going to get a bit spiritual here for a minute so, hang in there with me.
I use to pray for patience... a lot.
All the time.
And while the days that I started with sincere prayer often turned out better than others, I still felt like nothing was really improving, that I was merely, "enduring" my days.
Then one day it hit me. I realized I was praying for the wrong thing. Instead of praying to simply, "be patient" with my children, I prayed that my heart would be changed towards them.
I already loved them immensely, but what I needed was charity. So I prayed for charity towards my husband and for my children. Instead of asking God for a bandaid, I asked him to go in and help me fix the problem.
The changes have been coming on so slowly and subtly that I may have missed it altogether.
But the other day, I got really upset and I yelled at one of my sweet kids and it felt so foreign to me that I actually pulled up short in surprise.
It wasn't until that moment that I realized I'd been yelling less and less and that I had been feeling more patient. Not because anything about my situation has changed, but because I'm changing.
I still have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. But I am learning to accept that I am not perfect, and so that drowning in guilt feeling isn't nearly as intense as it once was.
Plus I've been doing this for eight years now, so the growing pains aren't quite as intense as they were at the beginning.
Like any good thing worth accomplishing, parenting will have a steep learning curve and it will take a lot of hard work.
So ladies, cut yourself some slack. If you're trying, then give yourself some credit for that.
You know what though? I could tell you that until I am blue in the face. But unless you find some belief in yourself and change the way you think about your imperfections, nothing I say will make much difference.
So hang in there warrior princess, you can do this.
|Not my most flattering picture to be sure, but the kids were so dang cute I swallowed my pride and posted it anyway.|
Serene is a highly imperfect mom of five children (born within 6.5 years) who blogs humorously about all her parenting misadventures at Serene is my name, Not my life! She also has a severe chocolate addiction and likes to pretend she's stylish enough to wear high heels.