This week has been a hard one for me. For the third day in a row, I’ve felt in-over-my-head—not like this is too much, more like this isn’t much fun. On Monday I thought I was just coming down from the weekend. I mean, I shirked all responsibility for two days straight, so I figured an uncomfortable readjustment was to be expected.
But then yesterday I felt the same. Like no matter how many loads of laundry I did, there was still a pile. Only it wasn’t just the laundry. It was everything—the meals and conversations and daily to-dos. All of it felt so incredibly mundane yet insurmountable, which I guess is motherhood in a nutshell. You’re not exactly doing rocket science, but the job never ends.
I guess it’s probably always like this. I just don’t usually notice. However, this week I’ve felt like such a failure. I’ve been so angry at my kids. Disappointed, really, which is an awful thing to say, but that’s how I’ve been feeling. Like an angry, disappointed broken record as I nagged at them: Take a bite. Have a bite. Sit back down. Wash your hands. Eat your dinner. Put your shoes away. Put your stuff away. Seriously, put your stuff away. Where are your shoes? Did you brush your teeth? We have to go. It’s time to go. No really, WE HAVE TO LEAVE! No, I will never leave without you, but for crying out loud, will you please walk out the door right now?!
When my children don’t listen to me, I feel a whole range of emotions: anger, disappointment, being taken advantage of, like I am raising spoiled brats, like I must be a terrible mom, like my children are going to grow up to be lazy adults who don’t know how to do one simple thing like pick up after themselves or finish a meal without 8,000 reminders.
I don’t say all of this to them, but I don’t exactly hold my tongue either. Yesterday I yelled at my children about the sloppy way they “put the toys away.” Both boys burst into tears (they hate when I raise my voice). It didn’t even phase me. If anything, it made my resolve stronger. Like I was about to lose to crying? No way. How awful is that?
They’re just wearing me out. Because, like Miley Cyrus always says, “It don’t stop.” And it won’t stop…for a while. It pauses—briefly—for bedtime, but since Liam’s a bit of a night owl, that isn’t even a guarantee. Tonight, when I was finally done, I came into the living room to sit down for a bit. I was sitting there in my robe, just taking a load off, when Liam came out.
At first I was surprised (even though he does this a lot, I never expect it). Then delighted (some of our best one-on-one is late at night when he’s supposed to be asleep). Then, without warning, I became seriously annoyed. My shift was OVER. I had already done everything I was supposed to for the day. I was about to go to sleep, so I could wake up and do everything again, but first I wanted just a little time to not do all the things. But I guess that’s where I’m wrong. Parenting isn’t shift work—it’s life work. There are no breaks or days off. But still. Something had to give.
Before I went to bed, I got out a notebook and tried to come up with a plan that might make our long days and short years go a little smoother. The answer didn’t come until later when I was brushing my teeth. As I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t believe how sullen I looked. I mean, my life is not that bad. I decided to change my attitude. I smiled at myself in the mirror, and, honestly, as soon as I smiled, I felt ten times better.
I climbed in bed, still smiling, and got out my gratitude journal. It had been a few days since I had written anything so I gave myself permission to look back a few days and really feel grateful. I scrolled through my recent pictures in my phone for a reminder of all the stuff I had to be grateful for. The most amazing thing happened. I realized I have NOT had a hard couple of days. This week has been great–fantastic even! It’s my attitude that’s been the problem. Looking back through my photos and memories, searching for all the little things I have to be grateful for, completely turned me around. Somehow I went to bed with a smile on my face, thankful for this beautiful, messy life I get to call my own.
QUESTION: When has gratitude dramatically altered your mood and perspective on life? What triggered your realization of your blessings?
CHALLENGE: Figure out a ritual that will help you be grateful in the midst of motherhood. It might be a gratitude journal, or it might simply be the habit to sit and reflect, possibly look through photos on your phone, at the end of a long day.
Edited by Becky Young and Rachel Nielson.
Photo from Maggie Conran with graphics by Julie Finlayson.