Friday, September 6, 2013

Is Stress Worth It?

I've read several articles/blogs lately that have gotten me thinking about motherhood and all the frustration and joy that comes with it. The general consensus seems to be that being a mom is H A R D because of all the daily logistics: feeding, crying, dishes, messes, outings, behaviors, potty training, napping, bed time, etc, all the while comparing yourself to the other "perfect" moms and/or children you see, not to mention dealing with your own self-image post-baby body issues and heaven forbid trying to even get a shower in, let alone actually doing your hair. After reading along and nodding your head with every scenario because someone else understands what you're going through, you get to the end of the column and it's always a positive message about how worth it motherhood is, how rewarding and beautiful it can be if we let go of the frustrations and expectations and find joy in the journey. I don't mean to sound patronizing or mocking, but let's be real: easier said than done, right?

I LOVE being a mom. Love, love, love. I love that I'm not grossed out by my child's poo, I love that when she is upset I am the first and only person (other than Daddy) that she wants to see, I love that even when I'm so relieved she's finally asleep I already look forward to when she wakes up because I miss her. I love her cozies, cuddles, and big, fat, wet kisses, her shrieks of delight when I do something she finds hilarious. I love that she is mine and I am hers.

BUT! Yes, it's hard. And *gasp!* sometimes I don't feel like taking a step back and writing in my "gratitude journal" or thinking about everything that has made me happy that day or singing a song of gladness, because sometimes the truth is I have had a really crappy day and I don't feel like being happy. You know? But after allowing myself some time to wallow I do pick myself up and relax into the groove again, and truly feel grateful for everything even if it's just that my most comfortable pair of pants is clean.

Now we get to the point: I agree that it helps to have a long-term perspective about raising children and acknowledging that not everything is going to be perfect now or in the future and that truly everything will turn out okay, but these and other positive well-meaning thoughts from these blogs don't always lift me right when I'm in the thick of things. However, while reading another article today about said rigors/blessings of motherhood, I had a sort of epiphany, something that really will help me in the exact moment of frustration or irritation or exhaustion: "will stressing about this make my family happier?" 

That's it - that's my key: figuring out if what I am in freak-mode about is really that critical to the life or death happiness in my home. More often than not, me freaking out about it or feeling over-emotional or not simply taking a deep breath is actually adding to the unhappiness more than whatever the actual problem is. For instance: is it really that big of a deal if there are toys all over the floor and I can't ever seem to stay on top of the dishes? Is it really impacting my happiness THAT much if Natalie decides to shorten her nap by half an hour? Am I doomed because Austin has a long day of class and I'm by myself from 8 to 8? When Natalie cries, can I expect to calm her down with a hug when she can feel the tangible waves of frustration coming from my body? "Will stressing about this make my family happier?" 

Usually not. And as a reminder, I posted that question on my living room wall so I have a visible check-in when I start to feel negative or down or exasperated. It's okay that my apartment isn't always tidy, it's okay that we don't live in a house yet, it's okay that Natalie is trying to sort out her nap situation, it's OKAY. And we're all happier living without unnecessary stress.

Phew. Can you tell that I'm a little nervous to add a newborn to this mix in a few weeks? I've been pondering a lot about motherhood lately with my pregnancy so close to the end, and I'm trying to get into a great state of mind before I have to deal with everything that will come with having two children less than fourteen months apart. I guess I've been more affected by Natalie's harder moments lately because I always think, "shoot, how am I going to deal with this when I have Stockton to take care of too?" And I think through these musings I've found the answer: let go of the stress, enjoy the good moments, forget about your high expectations and just enjoy the ride you are on.

Sometimes, you just need to dump 100 plastic balls into the tent taking up your entire living room floor and play like you are a child again, forgetting about everything else...ball pits are great therapy, if anyone was wondering.

 Here's to being less stressed in the moment and more happy overall!

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