Although Mother’s Day is half a year away, I am still reflecting on what I learned this year. That Sunday in May brought homemade cards, thoughtful gifts, and a few un-redeemable coupons (“Mom takes a nap, and I take care of the kids for 4 hours” and “I make breakfast lunch and dinner for a week,” for example. It’s the thought that counts, right?).
One of the highlights of the holiday was watching some heartwarming Mother’s Day videos. Many of the clips depicted inspiring perspectives during the hardest aspects of mothering. I completely related to one particular scene of an irritated toddler and an exasperated mom. Despite their obvious dilemma, I was filled with understanding and empathy. But I couldn’t understand—I’d been through something similar just the day before. Why weren’t my frustrating moments leaving me warm and fuzzy? I realized that it’s all a matter of perspective, and that altering my perspective has a powerful influence on how I mother throughout my day. Here are a few perspective-changing strategies that have helped me.
Just Add Music and your perspective changes. In the video, I was watching someone else through the lens of beautiful music and narration, and those elements altered the scenario completely. What would the narration of my daily activities say? Would music change my experience if it were played at a critical moment of my day? Since then I have thought about this often and found that humming a little tune (even if it’s hummed through gritted teeth), literally turning music on, or singing something fun or silly can help me through a tense situation.
Take a Bird’s-Eye View. Stepping back and looking at my day from another vantage point reminds me to take a break and rethink my actions. Where does my path trace daily? What am I scurrying back and forth for, and where do I stop in between? How many times am I checking my phone unnecessarily or snitching from the hidden stash of chocolate chips? There are days that I am endlessly running, and it helps to consider the view from above. It doesn’t eliminate what needs to be done, but it helps me to remember that my actions do matter—like putting down the phone, giving an encouraging shoulder squeeze, or stopping to admire my child’s block creations. Considering the view helps me be still long enough to read that requested book (three minutes—just three minutes!) or to mentally record the image of my baby’s chubby hands busy at play. On those days that my route is hurried, at least my laps can show love.
Look through Your Children’s Eyes. Sometimes I need to consider who I am in my children’s eyes. One afternoon I took a ride with my three-year-old daughter on one of those wiggle cars. We laughed and shrieked as we flew down the hill. As we hopped off I saw her look at me with excitement and admiration—almost like she was seeing me in a new light. Since then I have occasionally wondered, how do my children view me? Does my body language and eye contact invite them? What does my countenance show when I am pleased, proud, or frustrated with them? How quickly do I turn away from my project to listen to what they’re saying to me? How often do they see me happy and laughing? With practice, I am getting a little better at seeing them as they see me. And I surprised myself earlier tonight by showing I really enjoyed my daughter’s impromptu kitchen tap dance—I gave my full attention after only one “Momma, watch this!” request.
Act Like Someone is Watching. Fact: we really shouldn’t be interested in what others think about our mothering, but sometimes we do improve our own behavior when we know someone else is watching. Recently, while I was waiting in the doctor’s office, I had to deal with minor to major meltdowns from three of my children all at once. Being confined in that tiny space with those thin walls had a surprising reverse effect on me, and I treated the situation as though I had a panel of pediatricians evaluating me. My imaginary audience helped me stay levelheaded despite my children upping the ante in emotion and dramatics.
Use an Imaginary Camera Lens to Focus on the Good. I’m not a photographer, but I appreciate the skill that comes from understanding how to use a lens. When our home is looking very “lived in,” I am training myself to zoom in on the happy spots of play between the disaster areas. Other times I am zooming out to see the overall week. For instance, we mostly did what needed to get done, I read many of the week’s bedtime stories, and we got enough fruits and veggies into our meals. This selective sight can help me see what’s going right, on a large or small scale, instead of rehashing what I didn’t accomplish and what I regretted.
Ask Yourself What Someone You Admire Would Do. I need all of the mothering help I can get, and I’ve discovered there is value in looking to other moms’ good examples. Occasionally situations arise in which acting as someone else would helps me change up my same old solutions. Thinking of my friend Heather’s example helps me be quick to laugh and have a sense of humor when things go wrong. I think of Lacee when I need to work hard and fast so we have time to play and have fun! When I need to break up a fight or respond to tears, I am thinking of Brittney and her calm tone. I love learning from others and know I am better for it.
Retell the Story. I’ve found that it’s possible to change an experience by retelling it as it happens. What could I say about this harried experience now that I would say while laughing with a group of friends later? Framed in Instagram, would this make a memorable post? How would I reread this story from my journal in five years? It is amazing to see how experiences change with retelling (laughter included). Many hard things are softened through writing and reading. I had a particular stretch of time that was so hard to get through. Later, as things were improving, I was reflecting by writing in my journal. As I wrote, I saw my struggle becoming memorialized. Now I am considering the hard thing I am currently going through, and retelling my story as it is happening to see how it changes the real life ending.
As I try to apply these ideas, it’s refreshing to see myself and my family in a new way. I don’t make the right choice every time, but I am learning, and I am trying. It’s liberating to recognize that gaining a new perspective can help me truly appreciate how much I love the view.
QUESTION: What do you do to find a new perspective in a hard moment or while dealing with a challenging routine?
CHALLENGE: Try one of the strategies above the next time you are feeling stressed or encounter difficulty and see how it changes your perspective.
Edited by Katie Carter and Amanda Lewis.
Post photos from the author.
Feature Image from Shutterstock with graphics by Julie Finlayson.
Rachel Nielson says
Love this! It does help me in the midst of a chaotic moment with my kids to think about what a hilarious blog post it will be or a great story to tell them and laugh about in the future!
I loved your post! I can relate with all of this – especially with the “pretend like someone is watching you” suggestion. Sad, but true, it’s much easier for me to be a model mom when I’m not the only one there. My mom passed away a couple of years ago and I sometimes remind myself that she might be watching me – it helps me to do a better job of taking care of her grandbabies! 😉
Lindsay Rasmussen says
Yes! I have done a few of things without realizing I was doing them. I liked the way you verbalized this! These are more tools I’m adding to my motherhood toolbox.