If your best friend, neighbor, sibling, or a total stranger in the parking lot of the grocery store told you that:
- they felt like they were failing as a parent
- that their children’s behavior was a disaster some days
- they yell at their kids a lot more than they ever wanted to
- they couldn’t keep the house clean
- they have a mountain of laundry that needs to be folded
- their kids eat chicken nuggets more than a few times a week
- they haven’t showered in a day or two
- that their children deserved a better mother or father
…what would you say in response to that negative self-talk?
Chances are, you would say, “Give yourself a little grace! We all have those days. You’re doing a wonderful job, and you truly are a beautiful, loving, kind, and wonderful mother.”
Am I right?
You would speak to them gently. You would encourage them and remind them of all of their strengths. You would point out all of the ways they are doing a fabulous job. You would ask them to remember how very loved their children are every single day. You would draw out a smile, give a hug, and lift that person up. You might even buy them a cup of coffee.
We encourage other women, even our children, to speak to ourselves gently and with love. So why is it so hard to speak to ourselves with the same compassion?
They say that self-talk is our inner voice, made up of a combination of unconscious beliefs and our conscious thoughts. I can be supportive and optimistic or harsh and critical. You are not alone if your inner voice is often your most unforgiving critic, especially as we live in a world with new and unprecedented access to the personal lives of complete strangers via social media, with their curated feeds, tidy homes, seemingly well-behaved children, and moms who are somehow both stylishly dressed for the day and actively engaged in a very messy but educational activity for their toddlers. “Those women” look like they have it all.
How can I reframe all that self-talk from above?
I’m feeling like a failure as a parent? Remember that the mere fact that I stop to question myself means that I am trying, that I care enough to recognize that there are dozens of ways that I could improve. A failure of a parent wouldn’t care. I care, and I love my kids enough to wake up every day and try my best.
When my children’s behavior seems out of control, I remind myself that they are, in fact, children! They are wild, impulsive, messy, clumsy, a little annoying at times, occasionally defiant, and have very big feelings for their relatively small bodies. They are also kind, silly, affectionate, and love their family and friends. My self-talk needs to include the fact that I am parenting them the best way I know how and I’m already doing a pretty wonderful job.
When I feel like I have been yelling a lot, I stop and apologize to my kids. Then, I remind myself that we have all been there and give myself permission to take a break, slow down, and breathe. Every so often, yelling is not going to cause any long-term damage to my children. I also know that for every time I yell, I make a point to have many more positive and loving interactions to outweigh the negative.
A messy home means a family lives there. It means there are children! It means that there was play and joy and love. It means that my children have toys and are so fortunate to live in a playful home.
A pile of laundry means that everyone has plenty to wear. Nothing bad will happen if everyone in the family gets dressed for school directly out of the clean laundry pile for a day or two (or twelve).
Chicken nuggets are an excellent source of protein and if my children aren’t going to bed hungry, I’m doing alright for another day. No negative self-talk about chicken; this is a small problem and never worth beating myself up over!
I take the shower, even if the baby cries for those few minutes while I get cleaned up or the kids make a new mess in those ten minutes that I’m not monitoring every move. A shower has a magical way of resetting the mind and improving my outlook on the entire day. Be sure everyone is in a safe place, and take a couple of minutes for yourself. I deserve to care for my body because I am beautiful, strong, and a human with needs outside of motherhood, and so do you!
It’s not easy, and maybe I will never completely eliminate the negative self-talk.
But I have noticed that the more often I point out the positive to myself, the more easily I see the good around me, in my family, and in myself. If I practice positive self-talk, my stress is lower, and I am happier overall. It is a choice and a work in progress, but I refuse to spend any more days treating myself like less than a woman that I love, care about, and respect.