Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:
Scroll down and read it as a blog post!
I don’t know how many of you have mornings like this. I sure do. The ones when the noise of your children is what first wakes you up. You close your eyes and you think maybe the kids will be okay for a little bit. But soon the sounds of things crashing or children arguing pull you out of bed. It’s time to be a mom now.
As the day moves on, you’re pulled from one thing to the next. There’s breakfast and school and chores. The baby has to be fed. The kids need help with their clothes. You’re trying to remember what needs to be done today.
Drop that off at UPS.
Scheduled phone call later.
What are you going to make for dinner?
As you’re scrambling to get things done, you’re constantly interrupted. Someone falls on the sidewalk and skins their knee. Someone runs into wall. The two year old can’t get her sweatshirt off. Then lunch and naptime and more baby feeding. The day is filled with tears, happy screams, questions, hunger, fighting and laughter.
As a mom living in the trenches of Toddlerland, you have a choice about how you’re going to react to each of these moments.
You can choose to be at the mercy of your day, acting surprised by all of these interruptions and situations or you can accept that for the foreseeable future, ALL your days will be filled with these same interruptions and situations.
If you continue to wake up thinking the day will go off without a hitch, you most likely will be holding your breath for most of the day. You are in reaction mode. You will take shallow breaths until eventually your body forces you to take a big sigh just to get some oxygen. If this sounds like your typical day, you are likely living in your Fight or Flight response state.
Humans weren’t designed to perpetually live in a Fight or Flight state. This was reserved for… well…being chased by a lion. When we experience a Fight or Flight response, our body’s hormones get out of whack. We produce too much adrenaline, our blood pressure goes up, our breathing is rapid or non-existant. And this is great… if we’re being chased by a lion.
But for most of us, living in Toddlerland is the cause of our stress and we’re remaining in this state for far too long. It’s doing damage to our body, this constant rushing from one thing to another, barely breathing and wearing ourselves out.
In Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Willpower Instinct, she talks about how bad the flight or fight state is for us to be in all the time and how we can move out of that and into a Pause and Plan state. The answer is really very simple: breathing. When you feel yourself getting stressed, drowning in a sea of toddler tears and sibling fights and the constant pull of things that must be done on time, take a moment and breathe.
When you’re feeling stressed and your chest is tightening…. Take a moment and breathe in for the count of six, hold your breath for two seconds and then breathe out for seven seconds. I totally blew it the first and second and third time I tried this but eventually I figured out how to slow down my breath this much.
I’ve been doing this all throughout my day. Yes, even when my kids are actively crying and it’s really helped me. I also repeat in my mind, “Pause and Plan, Peter.” I tack on the Peter at the end because I realize that in these moments when I’m stressed, I’m like Peter on the water and as soon as I take my eyes off Jesus, I begin to sink. Breathing is important but it’s also important to remember, Jesus did not intend for you to walk around all day at the peak of your stress levels. He wants you to have a peaceful life and you absolutely can have a peaceful life even amidst the chaos and noisiness of Toddlerland.
I am trying to train my body to not give into the stress around me. I can choose how I respond. I don’t need to rise to every occasion.
So how’s it been going? I’ll tell you… it’s been great! I’ve been much calmer during the day, I’ve been less stressed by the time we make it to the evening and I’ve been feeling like a better mom, a mom who has more control.
At the end of the day, I want to be a good mom. I want to be a loving mom and I want to raise my kids up as strong Catholics. I want them to have their own strong willpower and one of the best ways to teach them that is to work on my own willpower. I don’t want them to be at the mercy of their feelings. Feelings will always pop up but we get to CHOOSE if we want to indulge in those feelings or just acknowledge them and move on.
It’s difficult to make good decisions when you’re stressed and when you’re existing in that fight or flight situation. That’s when I tend to yell as a mom or let the kids walk all over me.
Instead, I’m trying to take a breath, “Pause and Plan Peter” and then the last thing I do to control the situation is something I learned from my mom. In her car, she has a sticky note that says “Breathing in his grace, breathing out His praise.” I think it came from a song. But wherever that phrase came from, it’s a great way to help you refocus on what’s important. Jesus is ready to give you His grace right now. And all he wants from you is to praise Him.
Praise Him for your noisy fighting toddlers. Praise Him for your messy sink. Praise Him for aspect of your life because it really is truly amazing that we’re alive.
Breathe, don’t be like Peter, keep your eyes fixed on Christ and then make a plan to tackle your day…. Or at least the next five minutes so you’re not just reacting out of your fight or flight state.
I hope this helps you ladies. I hope you can practice this. It will take some time to get used to breathing the right way and not letting your feelings get the best of you. But I promise, if you can work on this, if you can master your willpower in this area, you’re going to get a whole lot closer to the kind of mom you want to be.