"Never give up on yourself. Then you will never give up on others." - Pema Chodron
The day begins speeding along a trail of small disasters. During breakfast, my two-year-old, Sienna, discovers the fork as weapon instead of feeding tool. Both my toddlers are screaming, my tea spills and the silk blouse I had on for work turns to tie-dye.
I catch myself thinking: This day is already a disaster - what else is going to come? Or I could think: Okay, this day has already been disaster-proofed. It can only get better from here. My answer depends on whether I see my mommy sippy cup as half empty or half full.
What mom doesn’t feel like a failure at times? Falling asleep at 8 pm on date night or losing your temper when things unravel, as we all know they often do. Motherhood is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs in the world, but it can also be overwhelming. It’s easy to get discouraged because we try so hard to do everything right, which is impossible in itself.
So how do we break the spell of the Perfect Mom myth - a pedestal so high that it feels like you are climbing Mt. Everest (which is more like: When will I Ever-rest)?
First, accept a certain amount of chaos as a normal part of motherhood - especially if you are a new mom going back to work after maternity leave. Get comfortable with the fact that there really aren’t enough hours in the day - either for sleep or managing your household as well as you used to prior to raising a family.
Second, give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling. Don’t bottle up your emotions in favor of being the perfect mom. A perfect mom accepts herself, strengths and weaknesses, and even enjoys those ups and downs, accepting the FOG as another Friggin Opportunity for Growth.
Attitude makes the difference. If something bad happens to an optimist, they think it’s temporary, unlikely to happen again and not due to their own failings. A pessimist takes the downturn and thinks it’s permanent - that a wrong start to the day will make the whole day wrong, and on top of that, anything “off” that happens is their fault.
Is your cup half full or empty? Whether you naturally tend toward optimism or pessimism, recent studies show that positive attitudes can be learned, increasing your chances of better outcomes, better health, and greater happiness.
Four Strategies to Happily Ever After
1. You cannot control your world, but you can control your attitude about the things that happen. It takes 1.5 minutes to turn a negative thought around, according to Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron. Just as building strong biceps takes daily work, so does developing more positive mental attitudes.
2. Practice positive self-talk. Our chatterbox brains actually listen to what we say and send those messages throughout the body. Stress is highly connected to the messages we give ourselves, and our bodies respond with higher blood pressure, cholesterol levels and on. Likewise, calming thoughts can lower stress levels and increase health benefits. Telling yourself that you can do it, that you will be successful, that things will work out actually increases your chances of success. Whoever won a ball game by saying, We’re not going to win?
3. Chores don’t have to be a bore. There’s no way around most daily tasks, but there is a way to enjoy them more. If that sounds like pie in the sky to you, consider this: In a study co-authored by Harvard psychologist Helen Langer, hotel maids were told to think of their cleaning jobs as a great physical fitness workout instead of a drudge. Results? In four weeks the work-as-workout group had significantly improved their fitness. They lost weight, lowered blood pressure and toned body fat ratios without changing anything about their daily routine except attitude.
4. Dress the part. “We think not just with our brains, but with our bodies,” according to Dr. Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University. In a recent study, researchers gave identical white coats to two groups of people. One group was told it was a doctor’s coat; the second group was told it was a painter’s coat. The “I’m a doc” group had 30% higher attention rates than the other group, showing that what we wear not only affects how we think and feel about ourselves, but affects our performance as well. So maybe that new workout outfit does make you feel stronger and more toned. Whatever works!
Here's to your your mommy sippy cup being half full and to your happily ever after!