“Mommy. Mommy! Mommymommymommymommymommy!
“Mo-om!! He hit me!”
“She did it first!”
“Oh for the love,” I mumble under my breath. I take a swig of my cold coffee and I stomp down the hallway, hoping that the deep breathing I’m practicing will finally do what it is supposed to and calm me down enough to deal with the third catastrophic meltdown between my kids that has occurred already this morning. It’s 7:38 am.
I am acutely aware that my deep breathing sounds less like a zen-infused yogi and more like a bull, nostrils flaring, ready to charge. I slow my steps on the stairs, hoping I can get it together before I reach the kids. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. The sound of their screams of anger and tears of rage fill the air, sucking out all that is good from the air around me, a tsunami bearing down on me, threatening to pull me under.
No amount of deep breathing is helping. I’ve had it. Reached my limit. I’m done. I can feel the tears burning the back of my eyes.
This is not what I expected parenthood to be. I remember my mom’s words when she was dying of breast cancer. I wasn’t a parent yet. She told me that she didn’t want me to miss out on the joy of having kids. Was this the joy she was talking about? Because I am feeling anything but joyful.
Everybody has an opinion about parenthood.
“Being a parent is hard.”
“It’s the most wonderful job in the world.”
“It’s so fulfilling.”
“You’re missing out if you don’t have kids.”
“You’re missing out if you do have kids.”
“It’s worth it. The heartache, the sleepless nights, the frustration. It’s the price you pay for all the love.”
The thing is? Parenting is all of these. And more.
I survived this morning. So did my kids. And together we have survived so many others like it. It’s not always pretty. But that’s the thing about parenting. It’s chaotic and challenging and wonderful and messy.
There are a number of books out there on finding your joy. I happen to think that most of them were written for parents. Those of us who are in the trenches. Those of us who are neck deep in the murky waters of parenting and one wave away from drowning. My iBook’s shelf is full of them. Some I’ve read. Some I have yet to read. The Happiness Project; The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country; Big Magic; The Little Book of Hygge; The Art of Happiness.
All these books carry a similar message. Sometimes being happy is a matter of meeting it where you are. To choose it in the circumstances that you are in. While the big things can change our perspective and make us hug our loved ones a little tighter; like a friend’s cancer diagnosis or hearing about the loss of a child; small things can help change our perspective too.
Here are some of the small ways to find the positive in parenting:
Parenting is freaking hard. It is. It’s chaotic and exhausting. You are responsible for the life of tiny humans. It is up to you to feed them, bathe them, keep them from killing themselves and each other. It’s up to you to teach them how to walk, talk, poop in the toilet and be productive members of society and not live in your basement their entire lives. This is no small feat, people. Go easy on yourself. Show yourself some grace. You don’t have to love every minute of being a parent. You don’t even have to like every moment. Lower your expectations, let go of the guilt and hold onto the love.
It’s okay to admit when you have reached your limit.
It’s okay to cry and stress eat and beat a pillow. Guess what? We’ve all been there, regardless of the comments people make on social media. It’s okay to admit that there are hard moments. It’s okay to feel like you are breaking but know that you are not broken.
You’ll make mistakes.
All.The.Time. Don’t let them take you down. Learn from them, let your kids learn from them, vow to do better, and pick yourself back up again. This is how resilience is born.
Learn to say yes to the fun, the silly, the ridiculous.
Don’t let the grandparents have all the fun. Sometimes ice cream is meant to be eaten for dinner.
Find your pop of joy, every morning.
Write it down in a gratitude journal or on a sticky note that you put on your mirror. Find one thing to be thankful for and one thing a day to do just for you. Find the pieces of you that have been lost along your parenting journey. Treat yourself to a Starbucks, turn off the DVD in the van and listen to your favorite radio station, take a hot bath, lock the door when you go to the bathroom.
Take Polaroid snapshots in your head of the good times.
Pictures that you can pull up in your mind when you are drunk on exhaustion and wondering what the heck has become of your life. Moments like rocking your baby to sleep, moonlight streaming in the window, breathing in her sweet baby smell. The feel of a small hand slipping into yours as you rush into the grocery store. Chubby arms wrapping around your neck, hugging you tight. The sound of a small voice in the dark, saying “I love you Mommy.” Moments that remind you that all of the angst and eye rolls are worth it.
Get out of the house.
Change the scenery. Exercise. Go for a walk, get a coffee, meet a friend at the local play place.
Find your person. Or tribe. Or Facebook group.
Whatever it takes so that you don’t feel alone in this parenting journey. Find someone who you can rant and rave to, commiserate with, and complain to. Someone who knows that when you send that text jokingly asking if anyone wants a free toddler that deep down, beneath the poopy diapers and temper tantrums and spending 10 minutes attempting to find the shoe that has been raptured in the night, you really do love your kids.
Recognize that the day is made up of a series of moments. That tantrum in the middle of Target? Yup, it sucks. But it will pass. Notice the moments when you are present.
Hug it out.
Physical touch is essential for healthy brain development in children but it also provides much needed benefits in adults as well. That hug? It has the ability to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and to heal sickness and disease.
Learn the power of no and live it.
Don’t try to be everything for everyone. We have been raised in an “Oprah” culture of believing that we can have it all. But having it all comes with a price. Cut back on extra curricular activities, volunteering, working overtime. Find space in your day to take a few deep breaths and to sit.
Redefine the idea of self care.
Everybody these days is talking about how self care is so important when you’re a parent. And it is. It’s so easy to lose yourself in taking care of everyone else. But self care? Yeah, it’s not so easy. It takes time, and energy and asking for help.
Self care is hiding a stash of chocolate bars and keeping them all for yourself. Self care is turning on Netflix for the kids so you can drink your coffee. Hot. Self care is putting the kids to bed early and cuddling with the hubs on the couch. Self care is shutting the door to the laundry room. Self care is found in the little things.
This season of parenting? It’s consuming and crazy and full of needy high maintenance little people that bring you to limits of exhaustion you never dreamed possible. But it’s also full of laughter and love and some of the very best moments life has to offer. Hold on to those moments and those little people. They are fleeting. Embrace the happy and meet it where you are.