Sunday, March 13, 2011

Exercise #9: Letting Go

Watts starts off this chapter explaining "Motherguilt," the "feeling that somehow everything that goes wrong in a family is the mother's fault."  But she goes on to show that despite our desire to, we cannot control everything in our family, especially our children's actions and attitudes and therefore we are not to blame for everything bad that happens.  Letting go of the guilt we feel over things we cannot control frees us up to be better, happier mothers. 

Exercise #9: Letting Go

On a piece of paper, list everything that's driving you crazy about your kids right now. Then go down the list and for each item ask yourself, "Do I truly have any control over this?" If the answer is no, cross it off. Then let go of worrying about those things or feeling guilty about them, and focus your emotional energy on the items that remain on the list.

I'm sure you're dying to read my list, so here goes:

  • Isaiah leaving his socks everywhere
  • Isaiah losing his shoes and jackets constantly
  • Katie never being satisfied with my efforts to please her
  • Katie taking things away from her brothers just to make them crazy
  • Max throwing tantrums constantly
  • Max getting into and destroying things constantly
  • Lily not sleeping well (short infrequent naps, waking every 3 hours at night)

You know, it never occurred to me that something my kids did wasn't my fault. I mean, intellectually I know that, of course. But as a mom, I tend to feel that every part of my kids somehow originated with me, especially the bad things. So it was kind of nice to say to myself, "They are their own person. I can't do anything about that. It's not my fault and I'm not going to feel guilty about it." Particularly about Isaiah, who really is becoming his own person. It makes me crazy that I keep buying him shoes and jackets that he can't keep track of, but beyond labeling them and enforcing consequences for losing things, I can't change what he does. And it was helpful to remember that both of the older kids went through the phase Max is in now, throwing tantrums because he wants to do everything himself or his way and can't. It's just part of being two.

Here are my goals for the items that remain: 
  • I don't think I can change Katie's attitude about me. But if I make a concerted effort to put her at the top of my list at little more consistently maybe I can help her feel more positive about the time we spend together. To do this, I plan to pause every time she makes a request and remind myself to not say no immediately. I've already been trying to do this throughout the week, and let me tell you, it's hard! I get so tired of her whining at me all the time that it's like a knee-jerk reaction to immediately tell her no. Not to mention I have three other kids who really need me a lot of the time. She is so easy going and capable, I rely on her a lot to help and compromise. So if I can try to meet her needs a little more, maybe I can get a little less whining and a little more love. Maybe.
  • Max the monster, Max the madman. I get really tired of chasing after him and cleaning up his messes. But there are two things I can do to help with the destruction. One is to make more of an effort to involve him in what I'm doing and/or spend more one-on-one time with him. This is really hard. It takes a lot of energy to be patient with him when I'm already on my last nerve because I've been holding a fussy Lily for a bazillion hours. But the second thing helps make the first easier: be really consistent with nap time and bedtime. If he gets a solid nap, and gets to bed at a reasonable hour, he's more happy and pliable, and I'm more rested and less frazzled.
  • I think it's time to sleep train Lily. I have been dreading this day since I conceived this silly girl. Hand over the "Worst Mother Award," I'm going to admit it: I did not want to have a baby right now. For a reason. And about 95% of that reason is sleep deprivation. It's every bit as bad as I envisioned it would be and worse. Something has to give, but I'm not sure what. I've let each of the three older kids cry it out at some point or another and I flat-out hate it, I cry at least as much as the baby does. So my goal here is to start slow: I'm going to push bedtime earlier (to where it should have been in the beginning) and be consistent about it and her bedtime routine. I'll give that a good week or two and if we're still having trouble, I'll formulate a sleep training plan.
Up next week, the second part of "Motherguilt," Taking Control

1 comment:

The Yoder's Four said...

You are awesome just for doing all these exercises. Guilt is so horrible! Why are we women so susceptible to it??! I hope letting go helps. I need to try that myself.