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My Super Easy Trick for Turning Those Crappy Parenting Days Around

Photograph by Twenty20

It was a bad day in a bad week of a month I wasn't loving.

At the time it started, my son had awful gas. His feeds ran together and he couldn't eat for more than 30 seconds at a time without crying, I would spend hours rocking to try and soothe him. Getting a newborn to burp sounds like a little thing if you don't have a baby, but it was ruling my life.

I was shedding weight from living with the baby in his sling, where he was calmest, as I seldom sat down because he needed to be soothed almost constantly. Baby movie time? We stood at the back. Lunch with a friend? We left early to rock on the street corner. Riding public transportation? We'd get off to sway on the platform where evil looks during crying fits were the norm.

This was not the dream of motherhood, but it's a scenario that will be familiar to any of you with a gassy baby, just like spending your days covered in spit-up is familiar to reflux moms or weeks feeling unearthly is normal for parents of poor sleepers. We all know the feeling of a day where nothing seems to have gone right.

I knew I needed something to remind me that I was doing more than being cried at and crying. If I could record those small things that were working, it might set me on a path to better handle the days on my feet.

That's when WWRT entered my life. WWRT stands for "What Went Right Today" and its really helped turn my perspective around.

WWRT has its home on my mom group’s Facebook page. We met on an online birth club forum and migrated to Facebook and eventually to real-life friendships. The 60-something of us are there for each other online 24/7. Our babies are all born within the same two-month window, so there is always someone going through the same thing as you. And, every evening as we're settling down to bedtime routines, we do our WWRT thread.

The principle is very simple: Make a short list of what went right today.

The person who starts WWRT more often than not has had an awesome day or a truly terrible one. The WWRTs range from new jobs and house purchases to the small things like "the baby peed on me—the WWRT is that it wasn't poop." Sometimes seeing your WWRTs takes a dry sense of humor and a sideways look. The thread often starts with the words "I really need this today."

I hope I am not overstating its value when I say that for some of us—me, included—there are days where it has felt as essential as sleep or a decent meal.

We aren't alone in doing this. In a recent interview with the The Guardian's Decca Aitkenhead, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg talked about a new habit she picked up since her husband's sudden death of writing a daily list of three joyful moments. She also writes a daily list of three things she's done well. Like us, she started simple—making tea was one example.

Today's list, building up as I am writing, lists everything from a nice cheese omelette to a baby that took a bottle of formula from a mom fed up with breastfeeding. We celebrate the big successes, commiserate when someone is trying to make the best of a bad lot, and recognize achievements that might seem trivial or meaningless elsewhere but are invaluable in the land of new parenthood, where sometimes it seems like everything that could go wrong, does.

At its simplest, WWRT is a mundane collection of everyday happenings, but none of them bad. At its best, it's good for our mental health and adds to a sum of happiness at an incredibly challenging time of life where self doubt and disorientation are frequent visitors. I hope I am not overstating its value when I say that for some of us—me, included—there are days where it has felt as essential as sleep or a decent meal.

And it doesn't have to a complicated venture. A group text with some mom friends, a post in an online mom group or a quick call with your sister; however it makes it easy for you to share WWRT, the important thing is just just do it.

My son's gas issues are better now. We have moved on to more sophisticated struggles, like how to get him to sleep for more than five minutes or how to get strawberry seeds out of his eyelashes. My WWRTs are different, but I stick with it: every day, a short list. It's a habit I hope I never break. Collecting every day's successes makes you more mindful of the next day's when they come. Little marks bedtime in a better way than thoughts on what went right today and little sets you up better than knowing something will go right tomorrow.

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