It had been a week that was presenting more challenges than usual. I could feel the stress mount, all the while, feeling like I just needed to find a few calm moments to center myself and keep things in perspective. However, I could not, for the life of me, find those moments for something that seemed like a pure luxury.
The boys had an incredible boost of energy over the past week. The snow was falling, as were the temperatures. My husband’s work obligations were quickly increasing and posing a brief obstacle to any family time. My daughter was having trouble navigating a recent challenge at school and I was consumed in seeking an answer. Chaos seemed to break out no matter what I was trying to do. While juggling the responsibility that comes with keeping these children on top of homework, chores, free from harm and on schedule … I was desperately trying to fit in my work responsibilities. Whether trying to keep up on emails, create a lesson plan, write a final exam, and then to carve out some time for writing? Well that was just too much to ask!
Whatever I chose to do, I was exhausted from trying. If I were assembling dinner for our family of five, I would hear screaming in the basement because the boys just crashed into a wall or someone hit someone else and now there was a small amount of blood involved. If I was upstairs getting laundry, then one child is yelling at another to clean up the spill before Mom finds out. If I just tidied up the house, as soon as the kids walked in from school, it looked like a tornado hit!
After a week of these shenanigans, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The kids were heading to their grandparent’s house for a sleep over so my husband and I could attend a school fundraiser that night. The boys were already packed and napping. We were all going to hop in the car to drop them off in about a hour.
I brought laundry in to my daughter’s room. We were both folding and she happily was putting away her clean clothes. She had her luggage all laid out for her grandparent’s sleep over night. This child is quite organized and responsible so I knew she would have no problem packing up herself. Therefore, I was surprised when she asked for my opinion on which pajamas she should pack. However, instead of just answering her question, before I knew it, I was suggesting not just which pajamas she should wear, but now, what jeans, and why. From there, I picked out the correct shoes based on the cut of her jeans, next up, which top could she wear and how she was to layer the tops. What else might she need… a specific pair of underwear, hair accessories, socks… ‘hey this is fun,’ I thought. More fun than I have had all week. My daughter just stood there, with a puzzled look on her face. She was not exactly sure what to make of my sudden and out-of-character enthusiasm for her clothes.
I soon realized, I was obsessing over what my child should wear and when and why. The reason I felt so happy was because I felt like I was in complete control for the first time all week. I was consumed in picking out every single detail of my daughter’s wardrobe for her trip that was going to last less than 24 hours. She gave me the opportunity, surprisingly, and I took it even though she is perfectly capable of picking out her own clothes. I, unknowingly, asserted my control over a situation mostly because I needed to feel like I could control SOMETHING, that week.
When I realized what was going on, I thought about how easy it is for us Moms to do this. When things feel out of control, what do you turn to, to assert some control? What makes you feel better? Do you clean the house fastidiously? Obsess over that work project? Do you compulsively create new chore charts? Start a new diet? Use domineering parenting techniques that you would not usually? Do you become overly invested in what your child wears? Paying attention to the little details that possibly do not really matter?
I know that cleaning the house, working, eating better or helping your child look presentable are NOT anything to be ashamed of; however, maybe it is in these moments, we survey our intention. Why are we asserting control at that moment? Are we overdoing it, at that moment?
My selection of my daughter’s clothes was not what was best for her, it was best for me!
The lesson here is not that I should never pack my daughter’s clothes for her. However, my intention was all wrong. I was grasping for some control that day and when I got it, it relieved me. However, it was directed at the wrong person. Folding some jeans and shirts to pack was not the answer to my frustrations. It was a temporary fix.
This experience helped me to realize that finding some moments of quiet and peace now must become a priority in my schedule! The more centered I feel, the better person I become. Instead of misplacing control strategies, my children could experience a calmer, happier and more patient Mommy if I could just get a handle of things that seemed to be spinning out of control that week. The answer to this is neither simple nor easy. I always turn to reading, prayer and reflection when things are rocky. I had put this off to do other things that sounded more productive. However, after this afternoon, I knew any activity to help me de-stress would now need to be bumped up from a luxury to a necessity.
What do you do when you feel like things are spinning out of control? Have you ever caught yourself exerting misplaced control over something or someone just so you feel better? If you find yourself doing what I did, misplacing your frustration/ any act of control; what can you do, that may be a more productive strategy to de-stress?