“I would be a calm mom if I had fewer kids,” I say when I feel overwhelmed by my five children– ages eight and under.
Before having babies, I was pretty easygoing, but as my brood of children grew, so did the chaos and so did my loss of control. I want peace and reasonability; they will have none of it.
Oh, you’re not interested in that plate of delicious food I just spent hours preparing for you? Did you just shove your plate off the table? Don’t step in it! WHAT IS HAPPENING?!
I started going from 0 to 10 (peaceful to raging) in a matter of moments. Toddlers can trigger this. Multiple children under the age of eight WILL TRIGGER THIS.
Did my husband and I make a mistake? Surely people warned us about getting in over our heads (yeah, thanks mom, I know you’re nodding). It all happened so fast!
You may have similar thoughts. Insert “I would be a calm mom if…” for yourself.
What does it even mean to be a “calm mom”? I used to have visions of this perfectly pleasant woman responding to her children with empathy and ease, laughing at spilled milk, and singing as she cleaned a gallon of it off the floor. That organic stuff is expensive!
A few years ago, I met a mother with four kiddos, “Julia,” who appeared perfect. She homeschooled, facilitated arts and crafts, and had the most well-behaved little crew. When my own children were misbehaving or I was failing to achieve what I thought was the perfect way to be a homemaker, I would think “Julia’s kids would never do that, or Julia would never serve cereal for dinner!”
In my mind, Julia supported my belief that I wasn’t a good enough mom; that I wasn’t enough. If she only knew.
Oh, aren’t we our worst critics! And we use the photo-worthy highlights of others’ lives (thanks, social media) as proof that we just aren’t cutting it.
We think, “I would be a calm mom if I was more like her, or if I had more money, a partner (or a better one), less stress…” and the list goes on.
What if being a calm mom had nothing to do with what’s going on around us, and everything to do with what’s going on inside of us?
We all have a personal narrative about our life. You know, the story we tell ourselves that is often fueled by how we feel. The story I find myself repeating about my parenting experience is that I’m outnumbered and parenting alone, which only serves to evoke a feeling of being overwhelmed. In the midst of my everyday chaos, I lose it because my brain wants to confirm my story!
I’m not alone though (my partner’s like, “what the heck?”) and my children fill my day with love, energy, and joy.
What story about your life are you telling yourself? What feelings are coming up for you?
Are you worried about one of your children, frustrated with your work situation, or wondering how you’ll pay your bills? All of these topics can be difficult to acknowledge. Yet, we often ignore our feelings by burying them alive deep inside and pushing through life. (I do this. Trust me, they come out raging later). Other times we drown in our feelings, leaving us spiraling out of control. There is, however, a third option.
We can pay attention to our thoughts, allow ourselves to identify our feelings (“Oh, hello there fear, I see you”), sit with our feelings, and trust that the feelings will pass. This may not change your circumstances, but it will be calming. This is mindfulness at its best. This is how I am learning to be a calm mom.
A simple cup of tea, a lit candle, or sitting quietly for a few minutes helps the overwhelming feelings pass. Not avoiding, but simply being with your feelings, as they are. With this, we can replace, “I would be a calm mom if…” with “I can be a calm mom” or, “I am a calm mom.”
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