Kids are just so wonderfully (and hellishly) unpredictable. Really!
I used to be organized. Screwball organized. Besides, I liked being organized. I work in the creative field, so things at work are prone to change ALL THE TIME. But, once home, I could settle into some kind of routine of my own design. I knew what I was going to do at what time and on what day, and that predictability was blissfully cathartic.
Home was like a holiday from work!
Then, enter the kiddos. First Alice, and then Colin. And the rest is a blur.
The price and the reward
Firstly, the rewards of having those two small humans in my life are bigger than the English language can adequately describe. When I opened the Macbook to write this, I promised myself I wasn’t going to get all mushy about my kids, so I’m going to leave it at that. HAVING THEM IS INCREDIBLE!!
But there is a price. And we, as moms on the frontline of steering a new generation into adulthood (whatever adulthood means) often don’t talk about that price. Heck, we often don’t even admit it to ourselves.
Yet, when we look in the mirror and it seems like a stranger’s exhausted eyes are staring back at us – we see the price. It’s undeniable. When we deliver at work, and the quality of whatever we deliver is less than we would have liked it to be because … well, the kids – we experience the price. And when, after a long day where you can’t even properly remember half the things you got done, your partner needs your undivided attention – we fell the price.
The price is us. We are what we pay to have all the wonderful things the kids add to our lives. Yes, we are the price, whichever way you try to slice it.
Self-sacrifice starts small. It’s something really important you give up because someone else needs you. And that’s great and noble. It makes you a good human being.
Kahlil Gibran, in his WONDERFUL book, The Prophet, makes the following statement:
You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
(If you haven’t read this yet, it should be on your bedside table!)
Those words are true in the deepest, most touching sense. And, we as moms, know it best.
So, back to self-sacrifice. Giving something really important up on occasion is good. It makes us a part of the human species – after all, doing something for someone else is real feel-good-stuff, isn’t it.
But that process of giving up something of yourself as a mother, has inflation attached to it. The kids are yours for a lifetime. They grow up, and every stage they go through, every growth spurt, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, requires something else, something more of you.
I speak to so many mothers who have lost themselves – literally sacrificed their own identity – to create a family and raise kids. I’ve also spoken to various psychologists and psychiatrists about the topic, and their stories are ominous.
In short, if a busy mom doesn’t make time to prioritize her own being, her own needs, her own dreams, her own vision of her own future, she will drown – literally – in the needs of others. She will get to a point where she will struggle to identify what she thinks about something, what she feels about something, or how she’s impacted by something.
Sure, she’ll be quick to tell you what somebody else thinks, or feels, or how somebody else is impacted by an event or circumstance. But her? Not so much.
Can you see how dangerous this can be?
Finding gratitude – the first step to reclaiming and retaining your inner self
Gratitude is powerful. This is not just psychobabble or new-age hippie thinking. It’s a fact.
Gratitude changes the way you see life. It changes the way you see events. It alters the way you respond to things that happen to and around you. It changes you!
Gratitude is SO immensely powerful because it is born so deep from within you. And, your gratitude is completely unique to you. It’s different from the gratitude anyone else feels. Even about the same topic.
When I say I’m grateful for my kids, I obviously really mean that. And you are grateful for yours. I know that too. BUT – and here’s the huge differentiator – when I think in gratitude about my kids, I think about the little things Alice and Colin bring into my life. The smallest things that touch me and make me tear up. (You see, I said I wasn’t going to get soppy, but just writing those words put a lump in my throat!)
Those little things are TOTALLY unique to me. Sure, they do the same to my husband, but his experiences, even of the same things, are different. It’s dependent on HIS personality, how he experiences gratitude.
This is worth thinking about for a while.
So, your gratitude – the unique way you experience and express it, even to yourself – is YOURS. And like a fingerprint, it’s unlike anybody else.
That’s why gratitude is your first stop to reclaiming and retaining your inner self. No matter how crazy life is, and how lost you sometimes feel, and how you sometimes forget who and what you are, your gratitude is ALWAYS uniquely and totally yours.
It is the original you in action.
I’m going to tell you about journaling in a second, but first, something that was of real value to me when I realized, I had to make an effort to reclaim and retain – well – me. It’s a book written by Janice Kaplan. One of those little books that don’t ask too much of you for that last hour or two before you fall asleep. And you can read it piecemeal. I did.
It’s called The Gratitude Diaries: How A Year Of Living Gratefully Changed My Life. It’s a wonderful starting point, a series of reminders of how natural and easy gratitude really is. And how you can change an entire situation or event if you stop for a moment to see what there is to be grateful for, even if the situation or event seems calamitous. Often it doesn’t feel like it, but there’s ALWAYS something to be grateful for in EVERY situation or event.
Finding your grateful self with a journal – and using it to stay sane
Journaling has been around since the first caveman pressed a clay-wet hand against a cave wall. Since man learned how to express himself with symbols, and not merely the sounds his voice box makes, the species has been on this fascinating quest to express feelings and thoughts to others with symbols (we call it writing – the ancient Egyptians called it hieroglyphs and so forth).
But if you know anything about the depth of human feelings, and the wordless wonder of deep human thought, you’ll know it’s all but impossible to write down EXACTLY what you mean. At least so someone else will understand in the same way you do.
When you write to yourself, because you know yourself so well (I know – now you suddenly want to debate that – but don’t). I’ll start again. Because you know yourself so well, (stop interrupting me!) when you write something, even if you reread it again a decade from now, it will still ring true for you. After all, it was born deep from within you.
This is where the power of a journal lies. It’s you on paper. And when you write about your life, your emotions, your thoughts, it helps you to get perspective on those things you may never have put into words. Sure, you knew they were there, but the act of translating them into language is a magnificent emotional release in itself!
Now, imagine the power of writing about gratitude! Making a concerted effort to find something to be grateful for in every situation, and making it official by writing it to yourself, in your journal, for your eyes only. I could just feel myself exhaling while I wrote those words.
The how-to and when
And herein lies the conundrum, doesn’t it?! You’re up at five. Your morning (before work) is sliced up in 15-minute segments until you get the last of the brood to wherever they’ll be spending the day. Then it’s work, which is a whole different set of challenges. Eight hours later it’s home again, and until the kids are tucked in and asleep, it’s the 15-minute segment existence again.
That’s just if the status quo holds. Heaven forbids something goes wrong, or someone’s ill, or some other minor calamity strikes. Then even that little 25-minute-metronome-of-sanity goes out the window. Then it’s flying by the seat of your pants.
Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll get 6 hours of sleep. If you’re lucky. So, where do you fit in journaling? And how do you even do it? And can you even remember how to sit still and be busy with your own thoughts to the exclusion of the rest of the world – for FIVE MINUTES? No? Well, neither could I. Until I could.
And that’s the incredible thing about motherhood. It echoes the famous words spoken by Nelson Mandela in The Long Walk to Freedom: It always seems impossible until it’s done.
Start by getting a pen and a journal. If you do nothing else today, do that. Or download an app. Those are great too. But today – just get the tools you need.
Then, every night, as you get into bed, make it a rule that you don’t want to be disturbed for 15 minutes. Make the last 15-minute segment of the evening yours, and yours alone.
Now, take a few deep breaths. Inhale for four seconds. Hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for five seconds. Do that five times. It will relax you and clear your thought-clutter like you won’t believe.
- Let your mind meander back through your day
- Find the first event or happening that wants to make itself at home in your thoughts
- Don’t fight it – just let it be there. Let it bring all the sounds, and the pictures and the mind-movies, and the feelings it wants to
- No matter how stressful or unhappy or just plain UGH the thought is, find something that event brought into your life that you can be grateful for
- Jot it down, even if it is just one sentence
That’s how you start. Just one sentence a day. You may find that, after your breathing exercise, you spend a lot of time thinking and very little time writing. That’s FINE! Because every moment you spend in YOUR 15-minute slice is spent with the AUTHENTIC YOU! And THAT’s the bonus!
Angela Carter’s story
Angela’s story is worth a look. More than worth a look actually, because even if the names and places are different, the story-line still represents so many of us.
After a heartbreaking end to her marriage, Angela:
- Spent months and months trying to manifest an abundant life for herself
- Bought courses
- Followed gurus
- Ended up in Nowhere-Ville
But she persisted. And in the process, she got in touch with who she was again. That first contact with the self she’d lost so many years earlier, sparked all kinds of magic in her life.
Angela’s story is fascinating. And it puts the real power of the human spirit into perspective. Also, it is proof that a little faith in life itself goes a long, long way to creating a life that is authentically you, no matter what your environment or unique challenges.
For Angela, it took that first step, and from there on life took care of the rest. If you’re a busy mom like me, that’s where you start. That first step.
Life will inevitably take care of the rest for you too!