Last week, I debuted my Forty Days to 40 Journey – August 1st marked 40 days until my 40th birthday. I decided to write four posts, about 10 days apart, to report on how I’m tackling an area in my life that will hopefully make me a better person for the next decade. I’m excited to write my first area of improvement report: Becoming a Better Mom.
First, I am not being hard on myself. I believe I’m a good mom. My kids get oodles of hugs and kisses and expressions of love every day. They eat pretty healthy. They’re starting a good school. They are, by and large, well-mannered, happy, energetic and imaginative three-year olds. However, there are clearly ways I could do better. One of the most significant changes I could make to improve our home would be learning to be more patient. Learning to react less. Learning to find alternatives to yelling.
This struck me particularly when my girlfriend Julie sent me a wise post from a woman who blogs at The Orange Rhino Challenge (My 365 Day Journey to Yell Less and Love More). She tackles EVERYTHING that I’m facing as a mom with struggles – how weight impacts your reactions to things (I’m up and so is she), how hitting a bump in the road in your marriage makes you react badly, when things don’t go as you planned and you lose it, and on and on. Every single one of her posts resonated deeply with where I’m at in motherhood (and life).
So this is what I’m doing. I’m taking her challenge. Not the 365 day version just yet. Baby steps. The 40 day version. I’m trying not to yell, and I am picking myself up and starting over again, after apologizing, if I don’t manage to stifle that wayward yell.
The Orange Rhino advises taking the first 10 days to start identifying your triggers – what sets you up to lose your patience and yell? Well, I’ve been taking an informal inventory. Obviously, all of the items on the list above are triggers for me: feeling frustrated about my weight (I’m on a good trajectory this week, working out and eating better), having marital disagreements, not having things fall into place like I planned (or wanted), but there are definitely others. Stress. I have A LOT going on in August – tons of work, the book release, the kids go back to school, transitions in a Board I’m on, a week long work trip, etc. Stress makes me snap. Couple that with minimal sleep. I’ve not been sleeping well. So I’m tired. Also, my husband will be the first to tell you I can wander into snapping/yelling territory when I don’t eat. So if I’m hungry, I’m more likely to snap at my kids, and I’m almost always hungry when I get home from work. And stressed. And tired. And rushed to get dinner on the table. Plus, they are tired and hungry and disobeying about the time we get off work. You can see how 6 pm at our house could turn into a yell-fest. One last big trigger is completely beyond my control – when the kids don’t listen. They all do this, affirmative ignoring me instruction, but one is worse than the others. I get so frustrated that by the third time I’m saying something it’s approaching a yell.
So then what? Some of these triggers I can control. I’m working on that. Some of these triggers I can just identify and then try to redirect my frustration. That’s sort of the funny part. The Orange Rhino offers “alternatives” to yelling! One hundred of them to be exact. Some are downright funny. I’d actually even been doing a few of them (dance party, go into another room), while some I’m trying to implement. Even thinking about them puts me in a lighter mood. When dinner this week became a melee with many children opting to touch hot pans and stoves, I went for one of her “I’m a bad parent” alternatives and sat them in front of the TV for 10 minutes so I could finish dinner without injuries and yelling.
There is so much I could do to improve as a mom. But I believe that this one thing, controlling how I react, will make more of a difference in my kids day-to-day life and the environment of our home than any of the other things. I will work on those too. I know I need to practice scissors with them and teach them how to memorize scripture verses and teach them the breaststroke, but the best instruction I can give them is how to find ways to deal with challenging situations. So here I am, almost 40, working hard to do just that.