I am failing. I am a failure! I am not smart enough, disciplined enough, or anything else. I’m barely able to do this while other women are out there crushing it, and I don’t even like the humans I created right now. I am going to mess my kids up. I should just quit; they would be better off without me. These are the negative thoughts that begin to creep in, and if I am not careful, I will find the evidence to support them. I call it Lawyering up against myself, and I am good at that.
I love our family, and nothing makes my heart more full than watching them all get along while hanging out together. At the same time, I also look forward to when it is time for them to go back to school. I usually leave the first day again, after an extended time home, open so I can sit in silence, go to lunch, whatever I want to with or without someone else. Time apart from each other seems to make our reunion better, even if its merely a day at school.
So in the unplanned second week of Spring Break, things began to start falling apart around Wednesday. By Friday, I was annoyed by everything, snapping at everyone, including my husband.
The negative thoughts were abundant, and I reacted to everyone and everything to get to the next thing I believed had to be done. I am not the kind of parent, wife, or person I want to be when the negative thoughts are running me. I justify and rationalize ridiculous parenting decisions. I let kids stay up late so they would sleep longer in the morning, and I told myself it would be easier to see clients without worrying the kids would need something. I was also staying awake late with kids so I could be involved in what they were doing and make sure they went to bed. I began cooking more meals a day and started cleaning up after, justifying that it was easier than listening to the kids complain or argue. Oh, and since we are all home, it made perfect sense to also work on those projects I didn’t usually have time to complete. Let’s also add watching the news more than I have in years, telling myself I need as much information as possible to know what was coming next.
It was official. I was in survival mode, and my anxiety was at its peak! The issue with survival mode is that it is exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and relationship damaging. We were not designed to live that way forever.
There is a time for survivor mode; no doubt, however, it is not a place for us to live in full time over a long period. We can talk about that dynamic at a later time. I once read a sentence used in giving an example of surviving. The meatloaf survived tonight’s dinner, to be eaten tomorrow. LEFTOVERS???? I was not ok with that. I don’t want to get through it. Trying to get through today to get to the next day is exhausting because we have to do it all over again tomorrow. So when I am exhausted, annoyed, impatient, anxious, and fighting with those I love, I know I have moved my boundaries and am operating outside my integrity, my wholeness.
If you were watching me, you would see me trying to do everything ‘perfect’ the way it is ‘supposed’ to be done, and typically I start taking over everything that needs to get done. I am also incredibly short with my words, yell more than I want to, and when it’s awful, I make these comments about how I do everything. Though these things are far better than they had previously been in my life, they are not at all who I want to be. I am grateful that these days I recognize this about myself and have permitted a handful of people to call me out when they see these behaviors. Sometimes I take longer to accept it like last week. It was when I couldn’t stand to be around myself anymore that I knew I had to STOP.
The first boundary I needed to address with myself was my thoughts. Where did my ideas come from? Are they true? If they are from someone, is that someone I trust and believe in doing life in a way I admire?
The truth is . . .
I am doing my best.
I am not the only person struggling.
I have never been in a national crisis like this before, so there is no ‘supposed to.’
We always figure out how to make it work.
If what we try now doesn’t work, we can change it, and that doesn’t make me a failure.
The truth is we only have 100% to give overall.
Now I have to get honest with myself and let go of things that do not belong to me and make sure I am taking care of what does. So I go through my list of things I am responsible for, like my attitude, choices, behavior, desires, feelings, thoughts, and love. The hardest part is getting honest with myself and others about what I can do and asking others for help.
Life is hard! Parenting is hard! Being in a relationship is hard! We are not designed to do it alone; in fact, science and scripture tell us people are hardwired for connection.
We can not give what we do not have. If I am not patient, I can not expect my children to be. If I do not love myself enough to put boundaries in place, I can not teach my children to have limits. If I am not humble or courageous enough to ask for help, I can not expect my children. If I am not honest when I fail, mess up, make a wrong decision, I can not expect my children to be. If I allow circumstances to dictate my attitude, behavior, choices, feelings, desires, love, etc., I can expect to watch my children do the same.
If you are struggling, ask for help, until you get it from someone who lives in a way you admire, maybe even desire. If you know someone who is struggling and won’t ask for help, tell them a story about how you have asked for help in the past. If someone asks you for help, don’t pass judgment, don’t slap a scripture of positive quote on their back and pull them up. Instead, validate what you can for them, encourage them, and hold them accountable in a thoughtful way.
Moms, women, let’s start believing the best in ourselves and each other. I think the majority of people are waking up every day doing the best they know how to do, and like Maya Angelou said, “When we learn better, we do better.”