OK, so, reality check. Maybe Mom (or dad, or parent, or whatever) guilt and worry may never really go away.
But as I set out last week to put off feeling guilty until Sunday, a tip I got from a book called Great Expectations Baby’s First Year, I realized it is quite possible to let some little things go. It’s also very possible, with some geeky effort, to better understand the bigger issues.
The plan was to make a mental note of things that brought on guilty or worry, then set it aside, live in the moment and tell myself I’d deal with it on Sunday. The hope being that the offense will have lost its potency by then and I’d realize I don’t need to be hung up on those nagging “what am I doing wrong” feelings.
It worked for little things, like whether or not I was late for Sophie’s nap or feeling bad for watching TV instead of practicing my German. I’d hear that voice creep in and it usually started with “What if … ” or “I should be …” or “Why can’t I just …” Then the dark cloud settles in and bam. Bad mood.
I learned some time ago that thoughts really do steer our emotions. And boy is it easy to let those negative thoughts yammer on and on until we believe that is the truth. When you can put a stop to that thought train, you make room for fully experiencing the moment, the here and now. The good stuff.
You also make room for the positive thoughts. Sure, it’s easy to think positively about other things in your life, especially with a new baby. I look at Sophie, watch the way her tiny fingers learn how to grasp her toys, a little unsteady, but ever so determined, and my heart nearly explodes with love.
Now, how do we take the same view of ourselves, our own worst critic, and look at the positive in us. When you’re used to finding guilt or worry everywhere, it takes a little more than just the thought of putting off for another day.
As a little aside: For anyone who would like an interesting read, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a fantastic self-help book, a little on the spiritual side without being preachy. Ruiz talks about different ways to live life more true to yourself. I’m reminded of that here because he talks about how we learn to accept certain ideas about ourselves based on all sorts of outside influences. He calls it the dream of who we are. He explains how we need to undo some of the damaging untruths we’ve come to believe about ourselves in order to be who we really are, to accept and love ourselves. Banish some of that guilt. I highly recommend this book.
A few things I learned a long time ago helped me this week to tackle the louder, more persistent negative thoughts.
First geeky move in dealing with guilt is to make notes. That’s right, good old fashioned school-room note taking, or list making. Whatever floats your boat. Sometimes that negative Nelly noise spins around inside your head over and over again because you haven’t quite worked out exactly what the problem is. If you write it out, hard copy, on your computer, in your phone, in a paper and pen journal, on a sticky note, you are forced to articulate what is hanging over your head.
Next, ask yourself some questions. Go ahead, talk to yourself. 🙂 For example, you can pretend the issues you just wrote down is a letter from your best friend and she’s asking for your advice. Do you really understand her concerns? Can you see where she has a point or is her worry a little one-sided? What would you suggest to help her make changes in that area? If she is missing some key factors in evaluating her situation, what are they? Is she overlooking positive things in the situation? What are they? Then write your best friend back. Be supportive and honest. Finally, try to boil that all down into a sentence, something you can repeat to yourself over and over when that negative Nelly steps up and tries to rain on your parade.
So there it is, my geeky twist on working through some Mom guilt and worry. A little method to help you start to believe in the positive things we are. 🙂
Have a great guilt-free week!