Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are you Thriving or Surviving?

Before I became a mother I was certain about what kind of mother I wanted to be and had total confidence that I would be successful in being that kind of mother because I had thought about it so much and envisioned what it would be like.  Boy was I naive.  The problem was that I somehow thought I would have much more "control" over how things went than I actually do.  I'm sure that doesn't come as a big surprise to most of you reading this but I somehow neglected to consider the fact that my children would have agency, personalities, trials, strengths and weaknesses just like I do. And as you may well know sometimes those things can cause some major friction and roadblocks causing it to be much more difficult to be the mother you were certain you would be.

I am constantly left at a loss for words or ideas when responding to situations with my girls, especially my 3 year old.  Sometimes my best efforts to be patient, calm and empathetic are sabotaged by my own weaknesses and as well as hers and what started out with the potential to be a teaching moment ends with one or both of us angry or in tears.  I end up feeling guilty and sad for allowing my emotions and weaknesses get the better of me and she ends up feeling angry, sad or scared.  I went through a period of time where I would internally criticize myself for what a horrible mother I was and told myself that my girls deserved so much better than I could offer.  But this did nothing to help me fix the problem, it just left me feeling defeated, angry and depressed and worthless making every day seem harder than the one before it.  I've come a long way from that in the last year but I still have difficult days and today was one of them.

After I finally got the girls in bed and asleep I was reminded of a conversation that I had with my little sister the last time I was having a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad" day.  I remember telling her how I felt completely defeated and that it seemed like no matter what I did I felt completely out of control and it seemed like my girls were the ones who had all the control.  I told her I would try so hard to remain calm and patient but no matter how hard I tried I would eventually blow up.  I told her that I was trying be as patient as [insert the name of a friend or family member], never yell like [insert the name of a friend or family member], be creative like [insert the name of a friend or family member], decorate like [insert the name of a friend or family member], go on fun outings like [insert the name of a friend or family member] and that I was exhausted trying so hard to be like someone else.  And of course she replied, "Well stop trying to be like someone else and just be you!".  My response was to tell her I knew that but I just didn't know how to stop comparing myself even though it made me feel rotten.  And this was her response, "Here's the thing I have come to realize in the 8 years that I've been a mother.  No two moms are alike in talents, wants, needs, desires, weaknesses and strengths and we need to stop beating ourselves up for not measuring up to someone else's "perceived perfection" because the fact is that no one is perfect and everyone is just trying the best they can."  She then went on to give me an example.  She said that she has friends who require very little time away from their kids (if any) to recharge and can just go, go, go all the time.  And then she has friends who need to have a regular girl's night once a week or every other week to feel energized and ready to take on the tasks that are required of her.  She said it would be easy to look at the second friend from the outside and say that she doesn't care as much about her family as the first mother and that she is being selfish when in reality she is just has different needs.  One might be able to recharge reading a good book at home in the evening while another needs to get out and go running.  One might be able to feel rested taking a quick cat nap while the baby sleeps and another needs to go to bed the same time as her kids do to feel rested.  And different is OK!

This conversation reminded me of a wonderful article or podcast (I can't remember which) from the website Power of Moms.  April Perry, one of the ladies who runs the website talked about a time in her life when she felt completely strung out and out of control and one night when her husband asked her about what was wrong she said she was barely surviving every day.  And he said, "April, I don't want you just be surviving.  You should be thriving.".  Do you ever feel like you are just barely surviving?  Ever since I had Charlotte I have felt that way.  Don't get me wrong, we have had some great days but adjusting to having two kids, being blindsided by postpartum depression, living in a small apartment on the third floor and being far away from my own family have made these last 18 months very difficult at times.  I know that I am not the only one out here who has felt like this and that is why I felt compelled to sit down and write tonight.  I have decided that I need to make a list of things that I need in my life in order to THRIVE and I wanted to share at least some of them with you.

What I need to THRIVE each day:
  1. At least 7 hours of sleep
  2. Time to exercise (at least 4 days a week)
  3. A shower (without children)
  4. Time to pray in the morning (at night too, I definitely NEED the strength morning prayers give)
  5. Time to read my scriptures
  6. Time to do something that I enjoy (even if it's just for 15-30 min)
  7. At least 2 meals sitting down without someone asking for a bite
  8. Healthy, whole foods, cooked in my own kitchen (It makes me feel SO much better)
  9. Quiet time without my kids to clear my head & recharge (even 15 min is a great help!)
  10. Hugs and kisses from my girls
  11. Time to snuggle & talk with each of them individually (even if for 5-10 min)
  12. Hugs and kisses from my hubby
What I need to THRIVE each week:
  1. An opportunity to sing
  2. Time to write in my journal
  3. Time to call or FaceTime my parents and sister & brothers
  4. A technology free day (working on this one)
  5. Attending church and taking the sacrament
  6. A date night in or out with my hubby
  7. Time to read a good book
  8. Time to clean my house
  9. Time to grocery shop by myself
What I need to THRIVE each month:
  1. One or two opportunities to hang out with other ladies
  2. Fasting
  3. Attend the temple (at least once)
  4. Buy something for myself
  5. Opportunities to serve others
What I need to THRIVE each year:
  1. At least one trip home to see my family
I'm sure there are a few things I could add to these lists but these are the basic things that I have decided I need to do to feel like I'm thriving and not just surviving.  My husband is very supportive of my daily needs and he told me that it is so much easier for him to know how to serve me when he knows what things he can help with so that I can feel at my best.  I think the reverse is also true.  Men and women have different needs so wouldn't it be nice to know what your partner needs to feel their thriving each day.  Most things you won't even need to help with but some things like watching the kids for 15-30 min while your partner recharges or takes a short nap can make all the difference not only to your kids but also in your relationship.  

What kinds of things do you need to THRIVE?  Remember everyone is different and there are no wrong answers.  Some people need a pedicure every week and some people need a wrestle session with their kids.  Whatever it takes for you to feel at your best so that you can be the person you are striving to be.  

Remember that you are not alone.  There are millions of mothers out there struggling with the same things.  And more importantly Heavenly Father knows you best and knows how to comfort and help you be your best.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  It could make all the difference.

Have a fantastic week!

3 Share your thoughts:

  1. I love this, Kim!

    Some things I need to thrive each week are:
    1) Daily or at least every other day exercise.
    2) Getting together with mom friends once a week, but twice is even better.
    3) Date night, a walk, or alone time with my hubby each week.
    4) 8 hours of sleep.
    5) Fresh, whole foods.
    6) Time to read spiritual books and quiet time with no interruption daily.
    7) And coffee...can't live without it. I've tried, and I don't thrive!

  2. Thanks for sharing Stacey! It's fun to see what makes others thrive.

  3. I love the idea of actually writing a list. I don't know if I've ever been so deliberate about it. Now you have me thinking ...
    1) Alone time every morning before I start my mommy duties. (This is def. a work in progress.)
    2) Afternoon quiet time.
    3) Music
    4) Storytime with the kids.
    5) Prayer
    6) Scripture study.


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