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Modern life has a lot of stresses. Our Paleolithic ancestors never had to worry about dishes, endless piles of laundry, stressful days at work, or juggling school activities.
- Our forebears weren’t constantly being told that they needed to exercise more, cut back on caffeine, or to “lean in” at work.
- Our forefathers and foremothers probably didn’t feel the way many of us feel: as if we no longer understand the person that we’ve become. As if we have become our own mothers – always nagging, always telling our children to “pick up your shoes, do your homework, clean your room.”
- And with our spouses, we may not have much more tolerance. With patience already worn thin, we may snap at them, and then wonder why they are no longer loving and attentive.
It may seem as if everyone around you is ungrateful for the things that you do. No one says thanks for dinner, or for the chores, or the work that you put in, even though it’s done in the interests of making their lives better.
You work and work with no end in sight. We have lost the battle against time, with no time for ourselves, exercise, date nights, or even just fun.
But We Can Change
We can reclaim our younger, happier selves. We can remember the love that we have for our spouses and children and help to bring it back into our everyday lives. With effort, we can be the moms and partners that we want to be.
Step 1: Understand That No Mother Is Perfect - And Why That Is Fortunate
The perfect mother does not exist - and that's a good thing.
So when we are beating ourselves up about the day that we’ve had, the tears that we’ve caused, or the anger that has built up inside, then it helps to say: There is no perfect mother. I am not a perfect mother. I have made a mistake today, but tomorrow I will apologize (if necessary), and move on.
By not being perfect, we gain perspective and understanding; we can learn to be more compassionate to ourselves, and others. In essence, we become truly real.
Step 2: Our Reaction To Every Situation Is What Causes The Emotion, Not The Situation Itself
Let’s play out a scenario. You come home from work and find the house in disarray, the dishes piled up, no dinner made, and kids lounging on the couch. How do you react?
- Option A: Thoughts: These kids are so lazy. Every day, the same thing. They do nothing. I have to do everything. And then, most likely, the yelling starts: “Kids, get up. Clean up. Do your homework.”
- Option B: Thoughts: Wow, I’ve had a long day. Let me take a moment to put my things down and sit by myself for a moment before I greet the kids. I’ll take a few deep breaths. And then I can greet the kids with: “Hi, kiddos. It’s really nice to see you guys. I thought we could all make dinner together. Would you be able to help me with the salad?”
The difference is all in our thoughts. Our reality hasn’t changed, but our perception of it has. And that means that our reaction to it also changes.
Of course, such reframing work is easy to describe, yet harder to actually do; there are no short-cuts.
It means that at every opportunity, you have to confront the thoughts that are in your mind and re-shape them. But that is all easier said than done.
Practical Reframing Tips To Help You Live A Happier Life
Here are some tips that might help:
- Take a moment when you come home from work or before picking up your kids. Breathe in peace, calm and light, breathe out any negativity or anger or resentment. Stay in this place (preferably in a spot you have designated just for this) until calm.
- Spend a few moments each night to write down three things that went well that day. Keep the paper and pen next to your bed. This exercise is really necessary – it helps to focus on the positive aspects of your day and remind you that there are joyful moments in every day.
- When in a quiet moment, recall your children as babies or at another time of their lives when they were very vulnerable and needed your help. Recall walking them across the street and holding their little hands. Keep that image in mind when dealing with older children; they still need your help and guidance, but they have a different way of showing it.
- Apologize often. No matter the age of your child; even little children will understand your words. Tell them what you did and why you are sorry for it. Parents often feel as if to apologize is to admit they were wrong. But it’s okay to be wrong, and it helps kids to know that their parents have feelings, too. In time, this will get easier, and you’ll be amazed at how kids respond to this with their own honesty and emotions. Parenting expert Alfie Kohn suggests at least twice a month, but for many of us, it might be every day!
- Set up a regular date night with your partner or spouse. Time with your partner is just as important for your kids as it is for you and your partner. In fact, a new study shows that kids with parents who express affection towards each other are more likely to have better outcomes in life.
Professional Care Is Also Incredibly Helpful In Managing Our Responses To Our Families
Therapists who specialize in families and relationships will help you to focus on the underlying emotional responses to triggers, and help you to recognize the thoughts that cause anger or other uncomfortable emotions.
Nassau Guidance’s therapists have worked with all types of moms, dads, and families. Their trained psychotherapists will help to reframe the anger and resentment that can build in any family, and whether through individual or family therapy, can help bring joy and happiness back to any home.
- Doctor Epstein’s study (includes a link to a parenting assessment).
- Alfie Kohn and a synopsis of his book, Unconditional Parenting.
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