I've decided to share some of my parenting challenges and insights here on the Sweetgoody-ness blog. For those of you who don't know, I'm Leah, the owner of Sweetgood and mom of Theo, 11, Elise, 8 and Gus, 5. And this is a little about my life!
My favorite/least favorite thing about being a mom is how my three kids bring up all of my crappy inner issues...and it's ALL THEIR FAULT! Ok...not really...I used to feel like raising kids (especially my kids) was really hard, taxing work. My latest realization is that it's not raising kids that is hard, taxing work, it's living in my self-created internal world, with all of my crappy inner issues, that is the hard, taxing work. But let me explain...I've been doing a life coaching program for a little over a year now and the main tenet of the program is the concept: everything outside of you is a circumstance and all circumstances are neutral. BAM. I know, it's crazy. So, your rambunctious kids having a pillow fight in the bedroom: neutral. The toys and random stuff strewn all around the house: neutral. All 3 of them talking over each other as loud as possible all at once to be heard but I can't understand any of it: neutral. My 8 year old boiling over in anger at my 5 year old for repeatedly singing "Elise is a poop": neutral. My 5 year old boiling over in anger at my 8 year old for repeatedly singing: "Gus is a poop": neutral. I could go on and on.
So last night my kids were having a pillow fight in the bedroom and when I yelled at them to stop, they started chasing each other around the house. My feeling (SUPER ANNOYED) was caused by the pillow fight and chase....or so I used to think. It turns out my feeling (SUPER ANNOYED) was actually caused by my thoughts. What were my thoughts in that moment? I actually had to stop and check in with my brain. And low and behold, it turns out my brain was saying,"Your kids are totally out of control and it's your fault for a) raising them wrong to begin with and b) not immediately coming up with an engaging and quiet alternative. You're a bad mom." (I love how my brain sneaks, "you're a bad mom" into just about every thought that rolls through my head. My brain is like "What a refreshing morning jog....and you're a bad mom...") So it makes sense that when I'm constantly telling myself that I'm a bad mom, my experience of parenting would be hard and taxing. And it makes sense that when I'm telling myself "Your kids are totally out of control and it's your fault for a) raising them wrong to begin with and b) not immediately coming up with an engaging and quiet alternative." that I would feel SUPER ANNOYED. And I notice that when I'm feeling super annoyed, the person I'm really annoyed at is: ME....B R U T A L.
All I want is for the kids to just make the charming choice to curl up next to each other in a giant adorable cuddle and read to each other quietly. Because if they did that, I would feel proud and warm and happy and loving. My feelings (proud, warm, happy and loving) would be caused by the cuddling and quiet reading....or so I used to think. But it turns out, if such a thing ever did take place in this household, those feelings would be caused by my thoughts in that moment. If I imagine that moment, I am pretty sure my brain would be telling me: "Look how kind and sweet and mature and well-mannered your kids are!!! You are such an amazing mom!" And then I would do two backflips and bask in the wonderful thoughts and feelings until one of them bonked the other one on the head with a book and my brain would snap right back to "See, that was just a blip. They're really a bunch of bad seeds and it's all your fault for being such a bad mom!!!" And then again I would be feeling super annoyed, probably flavored with disappointment and sadness.
The problem with all of this is that I'm allowing my feelings to be dependent on my kids actions, which puts me in such a weak position. To feel good I have to make sure my kids always behave calmly and pleasantly and considerately and quietly. Have you ever tried to force your kids to be calm, pleasant, considerate and quiet?! I've been working on it every day since they were born and I can tell you, IT'S NOT WORKING OUT FOR ME! The master life coach of the program I'm doing (Brooke Castillo) says (something to the effect of): "You can't control the uncontrollable and the uncontrollable is any other human being." How hilarious is THAT?! And the best part is that I turned 40 last year and when I heard this I was like..."oh yeah...that is so true..." For 40 years I've been trying to control people and failing...but never realized why?....Feeling a little dim but thank you Brooke!!! I've also heard her say that if controlling other people was possible, her whole program would be entitled "How To Control Other People" which really made me laugh. Because of course, how great would that be? I could make my kids behave so nicely and I wouldn't have to do the inner work of choosing to believe I'm a good mom even at a moment when by brain is telling me the exact opposite!
But that is THE WORK, to love myself and believe I'm a good mom even when the kids are acting like wild banshees. And to sometimes find the good in it...like who hasn't had a pillow fight as a kid? Am I really going to go on the record as being an anti-pillow-fight-mom?! So maybe I can think: "I'm glad the kids are having such a good time together. I'm a good mom for allowing it." Then, magically, from a place of self-love and acceptance, I can choose to stop the pillow fighting and chasing without yelling and becoming a wild banshee myself (which ironically further reinforced the idea that I was a bad mom). Sheer brilliance. It's so great to be such a genius....sigh....But here's the crazy thing: it's not that easy to make the switch. We think it'll feel like rainbows and unicorns to think good thoughts about ourselves but actually it feels lame and bad at first. Because choosing to give up the old thoughts is kind of like a mini identity crisis...that I'm choosing to have because I don't want to be annoyed and frustrated at my kids anymore. So it's actually a great challenge...and I love it so much more than the powerless feeling I used to have. I love having a way out of those situations...even if it's only after the fact that I'm able to go back and see what my thoughts were and rethink them for when future circumstances arise...luckily with little ones, there will be no shortage of "circumstances" in my near future. If any of this resonates with you, let me know. I'd love to hear it! Thank you so very much for reading this, you are a true pal! Also, if you want to get Diary of a Blah Mom entries direct to your inbox, please join my email list...you can sign up at the very bottom of the page!