The other day, a few friends and I spent an afternoon chatting while our kids played together. I’m not sure how it happened, but our conversation turned towards our failures. We spent the afternoon together lamenting just how bad we sucked at motherhood lately.
I think it was supposed to be cathartic. Most of us have newborns at home and big kids. Some of us work from home, meaning we have a whole lot to juggle and very little free time. I think the conversation was probably intended to make each of us feel that we weren’t alone in our failings.
Instead, I walked away from the conversation feeling worse. That day I felt like if everyone else feels this way about being a mom, will I ever feel like I'm making progress? Will I ever be content with who I am for my children and what I bring to the table as a mom?
This got me thinking that maybe the way I was thinking about motherhood was the problem. I began to wonder if I had become too focused on my failings. What would happen if I started paying attention and watching for mom wins, for the moments I knocked it out of the park in the little interactions with my children?
So, I started an experiment. I started spending a little time at the end of each day meditating on my day. There was only one rule: I couldn’t think about how I had failed. I had to think about the things that had gone well during that day.
This new habit meant stopping those thoughts in their tracks and replacing the with things that had gone well.
It wasn’t an easy habit to get into. Most days, I fall into bed, exhausted and overwhelmed. My brain rushes through the things left undone and then as I start to settle into the silence of my home after my three children are finally asleep, the deep thoughts emerge.
I can’t believe I yelled at her like that.
I can’t believe my kids have been eating Frosted Flakes every day this week.
I can’t believe I’m not better at this.
This new habit meant stopping those thoughts in their tracks and replacing the with things that had gone well. The first night I did this, it was a little awkward. It felt like I was tooting my own horn, in the silence of my dark bedroom. My husband snored next to me and I went over a moment in the day when I could have lost my cool, but instead pulled my daughter in close for a hug and calmly talked her through her issue. I congratulated myself on a yummy dinner.
The next day felt a little more comfortable, but it still took a lot of thought to think of my strongest points of the day. I got three kids loaded up in the car without yelling. I took care of my body by eating good foods. I played with my kids without my phone in my hand.
As this past week went by, it started to feel more natural to think differently about who I am as a mom. My negative thoughts and self-criticism certainly haven’t disappeared. It takes more than a week of positive thinking to rewire a mindset, I’m sure.
But what has happened is that I think I have a more accurate view of myself. I’m not puffed up or overly confident in my parenting abilities, but I do know my strengths. And those strengths? Well, they seem to be giving me the confidence to face my failures creatively, to began working through them instead of merely berating myself for their existence.
To say my life has been change by this week would probably be dramatic, but my life is certainly changing. A short week of focused rerouting of thought patterns was enough of a taste of what motherhood could be like if I were kinder to myself and I liked it. I plan to keep it up. And you know what I think? I think you should try it, too.