I was going to write about something totally different for you today – the 3 most inspirational TEDx talks I saw last week – including one that I really believe one man’s incredible vision, persistent and humility will change the world – BUT- there was something in my Facebook feed on Mother’s Day that totally trumped that plan. It was a post so raw and so real that it captured all my attention. It was this from Clarissa*:
“Wish I could join the throes of people saying how wonderful their kids are on Mothers Day. Yet again disappointed with the constant rudeness, selfishness and general ill behaviour of my eldest two.
Not a great Mother’s Day when you feel like you totally suck at mothering.
Thank god for my wonderful caring and lovely Tim. At least HE got me a Mother’s Day card”
The hurt in that post just broke my heart. But at the same time is swelled my heart – because it was so open, and honest and transparent. *I just have to add at this point I am sharing this with the full permission of the gorgeous soul who wrote it – who said she would be honoured to be the “voice of realness” in this week’s blog.
It was interesting to me because my whole Facebook feed that day had been full to overflowing of “perfect” Mothers Day moments. And yet, here was one woman brave enough to say her day had totally sucked. Her kids’ behavior had totally sucked.
What followed was an outpouring from her friends of support, love and compassion:
“Me too! I just wasn’t brave enough to say it!”
“Mothers Day has become about marketing not mothering – don’t be upset!”
“You are an amazing mum – if it’s any consolation my day was almost identical!”
I’m not going to write about the obvious comparisonitus thing that happens with Facebook (you compare your every day life to someone else’s showreel – your life is always going to look less shiny, less exciting and frankly a bit crap) or the upside of Facebook – the instant outpouring of love and support at your fingertips. What I want to write about is the how to not feel so upset when stuff like this happens.
Here’s the thing.
When we place responsibility for our emotional state on the behavior of others we are setting ourselves up for a fall. When we need someone else to do or be or say a certain thing for us to feel happy, we place ourselves at great risk. Why? Because WE CANNOT CONTROL WHAT OTHER PEOPLE CHOOSE/DO/SAY/THINK. Face it – it’s hard enough some days to control what WE, our own selves, choose/do/say/think. Diets would not exist if all those things were that easy to consistently control.
Therefore what we end up with, almost inevitably, is an EXPECTATION GAP. The gap between what we expect from others and how that is going to make us feel (loved, valued, connected etc) and reality (what actually happens) and how that makes us feel. The bigger the gap between what we expect and what we get – the more upset and hurt we are.
Mother’s Day is a perfect example of this. The expectations are high. The social expectation is high. And the kids. Well. However clear you are in your asking for how you want the day to be – you can influence them but you cannot completely control them. You cannot control what they are going to say/do/be. And – that’s where the gap comes in. The other 364 days of the year the kids have been trained to believe “my needs come first, mum’s needs…what?…mum has needs?!” Why? Because mum’s sacrifice and work and pick up and cook and clean and fetch and find and support and on and on – endlessly the other 364 days of the year. Then – for one day of the year – there is an expectation of gratitude and role reversal – and sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. We can be expecting a year’s worth of gratitude in one day. Which is a pretty tall order!
The bigger the gap, the bigger the hurt.
The key is to close the gap.
The key is to feel what you want to feel regardless of the behavior you see. To feel like a good parent regardless of how they behave that one day. Why? Because you KNOW in your soul you are a good parent. To feel loved no matter what the demonstration that day. Why? Because you FEEL that deep knowing inside –and you know that it’s independent of the behavior you see at a particular moment in time. You know you have parented with love and constancy. You cannot rest 100% of your efficacy as a parent in the fluctuating behavior of another human being. If you make how you feel dependent solely on the behavior of another human being you are giving all of your power away. You are divulging emotional sovereignty to something outside yourself. Something you cannot control, and something that can change or may not go as you would like.
When you bring that focus back to you, what you can control – what YOU think and feel – you can KNOW you do your best, and you parent with constancy, and love and that is something that is unchanging that you can always feel good about. Then any special behavior on Mother’s Day becomes the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
Please know you are not the only influence on that child’s life, and the older they get the more competing influences there are. You cannot control the outcome of that – but you can control YOUR transmission of influence – to lead by example, to demonstrate kindness and integrity or whatever other values are important in your family. You are responsible for what you say and do, but you cannot be responsible for what someone else chooses to understand.
Know that it is important to you to feel loved and valued and treasured and to focus on feeling that from another source if you need to (for instance hubby getting the card) even if it didn’t come from the pace you expected (the kids making a card). You can feel loved and treasured, so put your focus and energy on enjoying that feeling regardless of where it came from.
The truth of the matter is that Mother’s Day can be a REALLY HARD DAY for mothers. The bigger the expectation gap the harder the day. It’s also a hard day for non-mothers – whether by choice , circumstance or cruel twist of fate – a whole legion of women find the wall to wall celebration of motherhood to which they are not party a very difficult day too. Again that’s an expectation gap – the gap between “I’m not included, everyone else is, and I should be” and reality.
The closer we get to embracing reality rather than expecting it to be something it isn’t in that moment the happier we are. The more we can spin reality to a happier viewpoint (“ I have such a thoughtful husband” v’s “I appear to have raised two selfish children” – the happier in that moment we are.
I wrote Mondays’ NZHerald column for all the mothers who feel unappreciated at times – I really hope it resonates today. I also want to send hugs to all the women this week – the appreciated mammas; the unappreciated mamma’s; and the would-be-couldn’t be mammas. It’s a day to show ourselves some mothering – to be sharing kind, compassionate words with ourselves. To tell ourselves “There there, you have done so well, you’ve done your best. I believe in you darling. Be happy”.