I recently had one of those, wow today was a really good day kind of days. You know those days when you put the kids to bed, sit back on the couch, and think to yourself “Damn, I’m motherfreaking superwoman!” It kinda felt like that. Surprisingly, it wasn’t because every part of the day went smoothly or because the boys were perfectly behaved but because I was flexing my present mama muscles and using all of the tools in my back pocket.
My mom came into the city to spend the day with the boys and me. It wasn’t just a regular Thursday. It was a “special” Thursday, hence I was already putting pressure on myself to make sure it was fun. We decided to take the boys to the Intrepid since they’re obsessed with airplanes and rockets lately. Unfortunately there was a ridiculous amount of traffic getting there and, once we arrived, there was a huge crowd out front and an unexpectedly long line to get in. Apparently everyone else’s spring break had started a day early too. Standing on line with two toddlers who don’t understand why they have to wait is oh so much fun. I could feel myself starting to get frustrated. The lines that had been moving came to a complete standstill. Thanks to my self-awareness practice, I realized I had a choice. I could continue to get angry by ruminating over how unfortunate this was and that it wasn’t part of my perfect plan or I could shift my thinking. In that moment, the following thought came to me which allowed me to breathe and release some of my frustration: “I’m sure there are so many moms in much more dire situations right now who would instantly trade places to be standing on line waiting to take their sons on an adventure like this.” It was an opportunity for me to call on gratitude to let go of my anger. And sure enough the line moved and in we went sans major meltdowns from any of us :)
We excitedly began exploring the airplanes on the flight deck. What turned out to be quite a WINDY, kinda rainy and cold flight deck. The boys have some sensory sensitivities which most recently have manifested in fear of the wind. They started to get upset, even cry a little. “Oh boy, here we go again,” I thought to myself. A flood of emotions rose up in me - fear, frustration, anxiety. What have I done to my kids? Why are they so sensitive? What’s wrong with them? What does my mom think of their behavior? It was all of this in addition to it not being how I envisioned the day going. In that moment I again realized I had a choice. I could continue to allow these fears to invade my mind and ruin my experience or I could shift my experience by calling on radical acceptance. Yes, my boys have sensory challenges, yes they’re scared of the wind right now, that is who they are. And I, as their mother, am going to fully and completely accept them as who they are, no judgments on them or myself. This “they are who they are, we’ll figure it out” attitude allowed me to relax almost immediately. And the boys without a doubt felt the shift in my energy and they ended up being mostly okay. We stayed out on the deck exploring the planes and then went back inside once it got to be too much. Radically accepting them in that moment allowed me to release my expectations of how I wanted our time there to go or how I was hoping they would behave. It would be what it would be and we would figure it out.
As we were getting ready to leave the Intrepid to head to the boys speech therapy appointments, it started raining. See, I told you not everything went smoothly? :) For those that don’t live in NYC, the Intrepid is all the way on the west side of Manhattan, quite far away from any public transportation. I thought we’d just jump in a cab - easy! I purposely hadn’t brought the stroller. Well, no cabs. Just rain, wind, and two heavy toddlers who only wanted to be carried. I was stressed. What was I going to do? How were we going to get there? And at this rate we were definitely going to be late. I looked over and could tell my mom was having a tough time carrying one of the boys. Despite it being rainy and gross, despite the fact that we were probably going to be late, I made a conscious decision to slow down. I literally started walking more slowly. I could feel the relief in my mom. Everyone’s energy shifted. Everyone calmed down. By slowing down our bodies, we sent messages to our brains that we were fine. That everything was going to work out. That we’d get there eventually, we’d find a cab. And sure enough, we found a cab on the next avenue arriving a mere 5 minutes late to the appointment. By slowing down we shifted our entire experience in that moment.
So no, it wasn’t the logistically smooth sailing, pure fun kind of day I was envisioning. Things went wrong, there were some hiccups and frustrations but overall it was a great day because I was able to use my tools to make the best of things. And you can do the same!
Here are 4 simple things you can try to experience a calmer, more successful day for you and your family.
1. Radical acceptance - Radically accept who your children are - the good, the bad, the ugly, all of it. Your children bring up a lot of emotions in you, especially when you see parts of yourself that you may not particularly like in them. Maybe they’re incredibly stubborn, hyperactive, anxious, timid when trying new things. It can be frustrating for us to see them struggle in any way. Take a minute to fully and completely love and accept that your children are who they are. Notice how this shift moves you away from anger and frustration and towards compassion. When you call on compassion, you will open up to explore ways you can support rather than judge both yourself and your children.
2. Call on gratitude - Maybe you’re stuck in traffic or on a long line, your kid is throwing a tantrum right before heading into the zoo. You’ve planned such a fun day for them and they are giving you a hard time about everything. It’s frustrating. It’s not at all what you envisioned. Take a deep breath and call on gratitude. Can you be grateful for the air conditioning in your car despite being in traffic? That you have the means to take your child to the zoo even if the day starts off a little rocky? One of my coaching clients and her daughter recently got lice! While understandably freaking out at first, she was able to call on gratitude to help her shift her energy. She realized how grateful she was to be able to pay someone to treat them both, to have a washer/dryer in her house so she could easily clean all of their clothes and sheets. There’s always a way to shift your thinking to see what you have to be grateful for.
3. Slow down - I’m willing to bet that as a mom, you’re frequently running late. You’re running late which causes stress, which then leads you to try and push through and quite literally start rushing. What happens when you move this way? Maybe you trip over your kids shoes? Leave the house without your wallet? When we move in this chaotic fashion we end up creating more obstacles for ourselves. The next time you notice yourself feeling stressed and pressed for time quite literally take a minute to slow down your movements. Take some deep breaths. You will end up moving faster in the end by giving yourself a minute to pause and think clearly.
4. Surrender - You can plan the perfect day, pencil in the time off, be completely zen and calm and still things can fall apart. That’s motherhood. That’s life. When you accept and surrender that this is just how things work, it can help release some of the anger and frustration that you experience on these disappointing days. Yes, an intended good day might go south but that doesn’t mean that will happen every time or that the amazing day you were hoping for isn’t waiting right around the corner. When you accept through the process of surrendering, you also allow yourself to experience some positive moments despite an overall difficult and disappointing day.