Episode 38 – Time Anxiety
“From dawn to dusk, I am working. Constantly rushing from one activity to another. Getting the kids out the door and me to work. In the afternoons, I’m running to get them to soccer, buying groceries, taking phone calls, checking emails. By the time my kids are in bed, I’m exhausted. All I can do is zone out in front of the TV.
I’m sure this sounds typical, like every other working mom, but my problem is…I feel like it’s not enough.
I work 14 HOURS A DAY, and then get annoyed with myself for “wasting time” at night.
The constant pressure and stress about being late and feeling like there is never enough time, is too much. Even on the weekends it is difficult for me to relax.
This may be typical, but it’s starting to affect my sleep and my ability to enjoy my life. I see my son starting to stress out about being late and I don’t want to pass this on to him. How can I shake this feeling that whatever I do, it’s never enough?” -Amy
It sounds like what you have is “Time Anxiety”. Time Anxiety shows up in 3 ways:
Current Time Anxiety
The daily feeling of being rushed. Fear of being late and disappointing someone. Fear of being early and wasting time. This panicky and overwhelmed feeling comes from trying to control something we have no control over. We think this makes us responsible, productive and reliable but it really just causes us to feel stressed and anxious. The underlying belief is that we must maximize our time or we are doing it wrong.
Future Time Anxiety
Worrying about what could happen in the future. These moms struggle to feel contentment in the moment for fear that “the other shoe will drop”. If I take a day to relax, more work will pile up. We love our kids so much we start imagining something bad happening to them or how we’ll cope when they move out of the house.
We are so afraid of feeling a negative emotion in the future (regret, sadness, loneliness) that we start practicing it now. The underlying belief is that being afraid of the future will somehow alleviate our suffering once the future arrives.
Existential Time Anxiety
The sense of time slipping away and our existence, as we knew it, ending. This can show up as a fear of death but also a fear of losing our looks, our youth, or our kids. Moms can also fear losing opportunities to get back into the workforce, switch career paths, try new things, take risks, etc. The underlying belief is that time is running out.
Parent Education Answer
Overcoming time anxiety is difficult because it shows up is so many areas of life! The best answer to how to reduce your stress around time, is to work with a life coach or therapist who has experience with time anxiety.
Step One – Accepting
Time stresses us out because we don’t have control over it and we think we should. Accepting that the passage of time is outside of our control and letting go of our fears is step one.
I had a lot of time anxiety before I found life coaching.
My biggest triggers were fear of wasting time, not getting enough done, and being late. I remember driving with my kids in the car and being so upset with myself for not leaving sooner, for taking the slower route, for not checking traffic.
I was beating myself up, in front of my kids. My oldest was already showing signs of perfectionism: not trying new things if he couldn’t be good right away, throwing fits if he lost a game, etc.
The lightbulb went on for me on this drive. I realized my kids were picking up on my habits and I didn’t like it. From that day on, I have learned to forgive myself when I’m late. It’s as though I believed stressing about being late made be a better person. If I was flustered, remorseful and apologetic, they wouldn’t think poorly of me.
I was so worried they would think I was disrespecting them, and it bothered me that I couldn’t control their perception of me, so I just disrespected myself.
Step Two – Undoing Fearful Thoughts
Undoing our fearful thoughts is step two. But if I tell you to stop thinking about how much time you have left here on earth, how you are going to regret wasting time and to relax around being late, suddenly time is all you can think about. You need someone else, outside your brain, to help you dissolve the thoughts that are making you anxious.
Letting go of the ILLUSION of control, shrugging your shoulders and saying “oh well, late again”, will make you feel vulnerable. No one likes feeling vulnerable, so we cope by taking control of how we spend our time.
I have a teenage client with time anxiety. Whenever she isn’t studying, she feels guilty and stressed. She struggles to relax, have fun, sleep because she perceives it has a slippery slope to failure. Stress is never the ticket to success, it’s just the ticket to more stress. Working hard with enthusiasm, joy, passion and love are much more effective emotions to work from.
Step Three – Overcoming Time Anxiety
The third step to overcoming time anxiety is to take a look at the thoughts you are thinking whenever you are stressed, and get clear on your VALUES.
What is most important to you in this life?
How do you define a successful day?
What emotion do you want to be rooted in while driving kids to soccer?
How will you know when the cost of the activity outweighs the benefit?
How do you want to feel in the mornings before school?
You really do have a choice and committing to your values, instead of your fearful thinking, will help you feel better.
Life Coaching Answer –
What gets in our way from:
- accepting the things we cannot control?
- dissolving negative thinking?
- committing to our values?
When we are scared, our brains think there is a REAL EMERGENCY. We don’t have time to look within and uncover our fearful thoughts and values!
Our sympathetic nervous system gets activated: hearts start racing, blood rushes to our extremities, body is tense, jittery and ready for action. This is not the time to try to analyze your thoughts and think about your values! Your brain thinks it’s going to die!
In order to overcome time anxiety, you’ll need to take a look at your thoughts in your brain when you are relaxed and safe.
If your anxiety is bleeding into nights and weekends, you may never have a time you feel relaxed and safe. If you did, the last thing you want to think about it is the stuff that triggers your anxiety!
Anxiety likes to stay hidden. It doesn’t want you to talk about it! So it will say things like,
“It’s not that bad.
“I’m no different than anyone else.”
“How is talking going to help?”
“I don’t have the money to hire someone.” or, the classic
“I don’t have time to deal with it!”
These all will feel true but it’s really just fear. Your brain will think talking about the anxiety will make it worse, but it won’t. We live in stressful times, in a stressed out country and learning to manage your fearful brain is SO important and worthwhile.
Supermom Kryptonite – Scarcity
Scarcity is an incredible motivator. When kids think there isn’t enough of mom’s attention to go around, they will fight and scream for it. When we plan to start a diet on Monday, we’ll eat extra calories on Sunday. You can use scarcity to your advantage but make sure you are using it, don’t let it use you.
I’m running out of time will always stress you out. Try switching it to, “I have plenty of time”.
Or use scarcity thinking to help you slow down and enjoy the moment. “I don’t want to miss these precious moments with my kids” can bring your attention to the present and out of future/past thinking. Being in the present moment always feels better.
Power Boost – “Oh, Well”
I was taking a parenting class specifically geared towards raising kids with “perfectionism, giftedness, and anxiety” and the teacher taught me these two magic words, “Oh Well”.
She said it was important to model using these words often with our kids.
“Your friend doesn’t want to play with you right now?” Oh well.
“You lost the game AGAIN even though you tried your best?” Oh well.
“Your sister is cheating and changing the rules?” Oh well.
But I found these words to be especially helpful for ME and my time anxiety.
“Late again”? Oh well.
“Binge watched an entire season on Netflix?” Oh well.
“Didn’t get anything accomplished today?” Oh well.
Try it out and see if it helps your inner perfectionist calm down and relax a little more.
Quote of the Day:
“Time you enjoyed wasting, was not wasted.” John Lennon
Question of the Day: Stealing, sneaking and lying about it
“Thanks so much for the podcast! I am really enjoying you approach and using it with my kids has helped a lot. My almost 8 year old has been sneaking and lying for a couple of years now.
I used to keep candy around the house but stopped because she would steal it and keep it under her pillow or bring it to school.
She steals little toys from school, toys from her sister and friends, and I even found $40 in her nightstand that she stole from my wallet.
A couple of months ago she took our house keys without asking and lost them–she lied about it at first and then confessed. Nothing I do seems to help.
When I confront her, I tell her to just ask for what she wants. She apologizes and seems remorseful — or maybe worried/scared because she is “in trouble”. I tell her that she’s down a bad path with this habit that could end up with shoplifting and juvenile hall (catastrophizing?).
We have a bit of a personality clash because I am such a rule-follower. She is doing fantastic in school, her teachers rave about her but she does break rules sometimes. I am worried she will steal my jewelry next.
She does have a lot of jealousy over her younger sister and sometimes explodes if she feels that her sister is getting more attention. Please help! Esther
Parent Education Answer:
I want you to take a look at the things your daughter is sneaking: candy, toys, money, keys. She is taking treasures. Things that other people VALUE.
Kids steal things that others value as a way to feel that value inside themselves. For whatever reason, your daughter doesn’t feel treasured and thinks that taking other treasures will help her get this emotion.
The jealousy she has over her sister and the perception that she gets more attention all point to a feeling of unworthiness.
When adults feel unworthy, they often find external ways to feel more valuable. We might go shopping for nice things, shrink ourselves down to conform to society’s definition of beauty, or try to make people like us.
Think about it like this: It’s the end of a rough day, you are just settling in to watch your Netflix show.
The thought, “I have ice cream in the freezer” comes to mind. You promised yourself you wouldn’t snack at night.
Then you see that you don’t like what the scale tells you. You want to eat healthy food. Most of the time you resist the urge but sometimes, you cave. You say to yourself, “I deserve it” “I earned it” and you indulge.
It’s similar to what your daughter is doing. Most of the time, she resists the urge. Occasionally, especially when it’s been a particularly rough day, she gives in to the impulse.
Your daughter is showing you that she doesn’t feel good enough as she is. It’s easy to treat lying, stealing and sneaking as a moral issue but this feels like an emotional issue to me.
If it was a moral issue, she wouldn’t show remorse or try to hide it from you. She knows it’s wrong but she’s still looking for a solution to an internal problem.
Life Coaching Answer: Handling the Sneaking Kid
I love that you caught yourself catastrophizing and futurizing and yes, in a case like this it is SO EASY to do. What makes it hard to address this as an emotional issue and try to fill our daughter up with love, is because of what you are making it mean about her and you. Especially as a self described “rule follower” I can only imagine how awful this must be for you!
Embarrassment is “I did something wrong”. Shame is “I am wrong. I’m a bad person.”
It sounds like you are making your daughters stealing mean something that is causing you shame. Nobody likes feeling shame so we do our best to run away from it. The funny thing about it is as soon as you shine a compassionate light on it, it goes away. It can only live in the dark, when we aren’t acknowledging it’s there.
It’s easy to think: “My daughter is stealing & lying, she’s doing something wrong. She must be a bad person, therefore I must be a bad mother.”
When we believe we aren’t doing it right, and feeling ashamed, we want to stay hidden. We don’t want to ask for help.
The Love Tank
The only way to get her to stop, is to address the root cause. We need to fill up her love tank so it overflows with self worth and value. She needs to know what a treasure she really is.
I would start by taking her to a family therapist who works with children. For whatever reason, the love you’ve been giving her isn’t getting through. She can’t receive it. This is not a reflection on you, just a personality trait.
If she had an allergy, you would take her to an allergist. If she’s showing signs of poor emotional health, she needs a mental health counselor.
Kids are unique when they come into this world with their own paths. Sneaking doesn’t mean she isn’t a bad kid, but she is showing you that she needs inside help.
Understanding the Love Language
The second thing I would do is to understand her love language. There are a handful of books written about this concept that people give and receive love in different ways. The 5 love languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, affection.
You might be giving your daughter words of affirmation, telling her how much you love her, but it’s not getting through because it isn’t her love language.
Perhaps hers is gifts? Or quality time if she complains about sister getting more attention? Read the book and determine her top two love languages so you can fill up her love tank in ways that she is more likely to receive.
The Urge Jar
The third thing I suggest is an urge jar. My life coaching teacher Brooke Castillo came up with this concept for her weight loss clients who were learning to resist an urge to overeat. I think this could work with your sneaking 8 year old.
Many teachers keep a marble jar on their desk and when kids behave, they put marbles in the jar. This works similarly only every time you resist an urge, you put a marble in a jar. There is something so satisfying about the clanking sound and watching it slowly fill up.
My hunch is that there are many times when your daughter feels bad about herself and DOESN’T steal, sneak or lie. Let’s reward those times by putting a marble in the jar every time she resists the urge to take something!
You can tell her that the marbles are symbolic of how much love you have for her. When she fills up her marble jar, she gets a reward of some kind.
Supermom Kryptonite – Motivation for Misbehavior
Not understanding a child’s MOTIVATION for misbehavior – such as sneaking – keeps us focused on the behavior. This is frustrating because nothing we try works because we aren’t addressing the root of the problem.
When we can’t understand our child’s behavior, we start catastrophizing, futurizing, making it mean we aren’t doing enough or they are bad kids.
The main motivations for misbehavior are:
- Display of Inadequacy
- Peer Acceptance
When we know our child’s motivation, we can find ways to give them what they want, but on our own terms.
Supermom Power Boost: Finding shades of gray
Many of us think in black and white terms. Stealing is bad, Giving is good. Lying is bad, truth telling is good. I’m either a rule follower or a rule breaker. Often, this black & white thinking ends up biting us in the butt. Try and make room, in your mind and in your vocabulary, for shades of gray.
We are all good moms, who occasionally say things we regret.
There are rules we like which we follow, and ignore ones we don’t.
At times we can be generous at times, and selfish at other times.
We are all kind people, who sometimes say mean things.
Finding the shades of gray, gives you room to be an imperfect human who is also wonderful.
Quote of the Day:
“Inside every child is an ’emotional tank’, waiting to be filled with love. When a child really feels loved, he will develop normally but when the love tank is empty, he will misbehave. Much of the misbehavior in children is motivated by the cravings of an empty ‘love tank'”. Gary Chapman
Question of the Day: Middle School Worries
Today’s question is from a mom worried about her son starting middle school.
“My son is starting middle school and I worry about all the things he’s going to be exposed to. Vaping, drugs, girls, social media, bullies, online porn, you name it, I worry about it.
He is such a happy, sweet boy and I don’t want his peers to ruin his innocence. Part of me thinks I should talk to him about some of the things he’ll be exposed to. But the other part of me thinks I should keep quiet and let it unfold as he experiences it.
How can I prepare him for the big, bad world of middle school without scaring him or giving him more information than he is ready to handle?” Catalina
Parent Education Answer:
I think there are many parents who share the same middle school worries and apprehension. I heard this a lot from the parents who came to my classes on “How to Talk to Kids about Sex”.
They wanted to be the ones to tell their kids about how babies are made but they get nervous about taking away their innocence. Rather than saying the wrong thing or giving too much information, they end up saying nothing at all.
In a way, your instincts are correct in not talking to him from your worrying energy. Emotions are contagious and you telling him about your fears and all the middle school worries could do one of two things:
– Scare him. He might mirror you and become equally worried and stressed.
– Reject you. Kids don’t like the energy of worry. He may disregard your helpful information and not want to listen to you, be around you, or confide in you later, if he thinks it will worry you.
I believe knowledge is power. This could be a great opportunity to inform him of things he will be encounter. But keep in mind that only if you are in a calm confident energy.
Benefits of Information
When parents inform their kids about vaping, sex, drugs, etc. before they are exposed to it, there are many benefits:
- Kids learn they can talk to their parents about anything that comes up.
- When your middle schooler hears something taboo, he doesn’t need to rely on peers or youtube to answer questions because they already received information at home.
- Talking about personal, important things builds trust and brings you closer.
- Middle schoolers are surrounded by peers willing to give their opinions and judgments easily. When they also have the voice of their parent in their head, it helps them make an informed decision.
- Kids tend to rise to our expectations. If we expect them to do drugs and get bad grades, they probably will. If we expect them to encounter such, but not partake in unhealthy activities, they probably will do that.
Format of Discussion
Think about this format when talking to your kid about difficult subjects: information, consequences, opinions, choice.
Let’s take online porn as an example.
Information: Porn is short for pornography. It refers to visual materials (mostly digital these days) containing explicit display of sexual organs and/or activity intended to stimulate erotic feelings (as opposed to aesthetic or emotional). Showing pornography to children is considered illegal and obscene.
Consequences: Some people experience it as harmless and healthy. Others experience it as addictive, exploitative and damaging to relationships.
Opinions: Your Dad and I don’t want you watching it because it’s going to give you an unrealistic picture of what sex is like in a real relationship. When you are in a real relationship someday, we want you to experience the best of it. This includes emotional intimacy, companionship, friendship and love, not just the physical aspects of sex.
Choice: We realize we can’t control what you view on the internet but we hope you choose will things that uplift your spirit and not watch things you feel you should hide. We also want you to know, you can come to us if you ever have concerns or you encounter something that feels weird or icky online.
Life Coaching Answer: Handling Middle School Worries
What gets in our way from being this calm confident parent discussing these middle school worries and informing our child of unhealthy risks of middle school? FEAR.
Fear of what could happen, fear of letting go, fear of how other kids will behave, fear of losing the child you have known, fear of him getting hurt, fear of watching our baby suffer, fear of not being able to help him solve his problems, fear dressed up in multiple outfits.
When we feel fear in the absence of immediate threat, we struggle because there is no productive action step to take.
It helps to know that fear is an instinct to keep us (and our loved ones) out of harm’s way. We are hiking, we see a snake ready to strike, we freeze. Some crazy person running towards us yelling, we run away.
Hence, our brain’s fear response is brilliantly designed to keep us safe, except for when there is no clear reason for our fear.
When we feel fear, yet everything around us appears safe, we go into our heads and try to figure out why we are scared. We look for an explanation for our fears: school shootings, bad guys, drugs.
The news will give us plenty of logical reasons why we have this fear. It makes our worries seem valid and important.
Fears and Worries
Worry pretends to be helpful. It makes us feel like we are DOING something productive but we aren’t. All we are doing is making it harder to help our children navigate a fear-filled culture with confidence and ease.
In order to prepare your child for some of the negative things he might be exposed to in middle school, you’ll want to release these middle school worries and process the fear.
Fear is just an emotion. It is energy in motion and it shows up as a vibration in the body.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and notice what fear feels like and where in your body you feel it. The more you stay with this feeling, without having the need to run away from it, the easier it will move through you.
Our brain thinks we’re going to die but if you look around you, and all is well in this moment, it’s safe to process this feeling so that you can return to a state of calm.
From the sound of things, it looks like your son is healthy, happy and safe. He is going to school in one of the safest countries in the world, in one of the safest times in history. He’ll be with other kids who have been raised in a safe environment, having all their basic needs met.
Worrying gives you the illusion of safety, but it really doesn’t help.
Once you’ve allowed yourself to feel the feeling of fear without reacting to it, you’ll notice you feel calmer.
This is when you want to engage the brain and ask, “What do I need to think and believe in order to talk to my middle schooler calmly?”
“I want him to have knowledge so he can make his own decisions.”
“This is good information to know” might be a helpful thought.
“I trust him to make good choices.”
“I’m earning my good parenting sticker today”
“I want to be the kind of mom who can handle tough subjects.”
Once you are feeling calm and ready to give your child “Information, Consequence, Opinion, Choice”, you may need some additional resources.
Middle school is a great time to shift from being the person with all the answers, to learning things together with your child. Which is handy because a lot of us don’t know about the dangers of vaping, social media, or today’s potent marijuana options.
Marlene Mahurin from Nevada County’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Education program, recommended a great video to watch with your kids. I will post a few of my favorites but I encourage you to look through Google on your own. Find a few to watch that you think will resonate with your child’s personality. Just be mindful of who is publishing the video.
Common Sense Media has GREAT videos and is a resource you should know about from school shootings to sexting https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
The Nevada County TUPE video on vaping http://nevco.org/programs-services/tupe/
Sex Education (for 9-12 year olds) http://TimeforTheTalk.com
Gender Fluidity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udI-Go8KK2Q&feature=youtu.be
Sex Education (for parents and high schoolers) https://youtu.be/L0jQz6jqQS0
How to ADHD https://howtoadhd.com/videos/
Today’s Supermom Kryptonite – Your media diet.
Just like the food we eat impacts us, even if we don’t notice it immediately, the media we take in affects us, too.
If your media diet consists of Fox News, Criminal Minds and CSI, it’s no wonder you feel a lot of fear. If your media diet consists of Queer Eye, romance novels, this podcast and video chatting with friends, you probably feel a lot of peace. In order to stop worrying, try changing your media diet.
I remember going to bed one night and noticing I felt gross. It felt like I had just eaten a bunch of junk food but I hadn’t. I realized the “junk food feeling” was because I just watched 20 minutes of “Housewives of Whatever County” before I went to bed.
This show might be just what you need at the end of the day to lift your spirits. That was what I thought, but it wasn’t healthy for me.
Especially before bed, I have to be very careful about what I take into my brain.
It’s amazing how easy it is to keep up with current events without ever watching a single newscast. Thus, I limit my social media exposure and seek media that uplifts me. That way, I can maintain peaceful energy for my clients, and kids, to come home to.
Supermom Powerboost – Allowing your kid to experience negative emotion
- It is common in today’s perfectionistic parenting culture to believe that it’s our job to protect our children from having any negative emotion ever. We genuinely want our children to be happy and successful, every second of every day, forever. First, because this is what we think a good mom would want. Second because we don’t know what to do with ourselves when they have a negative emotion.
When we understand that allowing children to “feel all the feels” is IMPORTANT and NECESSARY, then we focus on what we want to feel WHILE they are feeling sad, disappointed, angry or scared. You can:
- allow your child to feel a feeling without taking it on as your own.
- feel proud of yourself for letting your child have a negative experience.
- feel satisfied knowing that this negative experience is teaching him lessons he could never learn on his own.
Trying to ensure that your child only has positive experiences and emotions is exhausting. In contrast, allowing your child to experience negative emotions, (without making it mean anything has gone wrong), will free you and boost your energy.
Quote of the Day:
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” Leo Buscaglia
Question of the Day: Mom Goals
School is starting soon and I am excited to get back to routine. I’m a stay-at-home mom of three and all of them will be in school full day. I’m finally going to have free time to do something for me, but I’m not sure how to spend this precious time! I want to exercise, socialize, read, watch movies, volunteer, but I’m also thinking some extra money would be nice so working part time is also an option. From previous experience, I know that if I’m not deliberate about it, I’ll just end up running errands and cleaning the house without kids. I just don’t want to waste my hard earned freedom by continuing to do things for the kids and not for me. Can you help me clarify my back to school ‘mom goals’?” Rebecca
Parent Education Answer:
Taking time to think about YOU and what you want is so important, not just for your own happiness, but so you can be refreshed and energized for your kids.
It’s common in our perfectionistic parenting culture to place a higher importance on caring for our children than caring for ourselves. The belief that everything we do should benefit our kids is misguided. Over-parenting robs children of their own efficacy. YOU get to feel capable and responsible, but your child feels needy and dependent. Taking care of YOURSELF is one of the best things you can do FOR your kids!
Do you know anyone whose mother does not take good care of herself? Have you ever had a friend whose Mom did not take care of her physical health, emotional health, or financial health? It is a HUGE drain on the child!
Here are three things I have found that seem to benefit all Supermoms:
Clarity – Knowing who you are and what you want.
Your question, Rebecca, is a perfect one to help you step out of the weeds of your everyday life and think about what you most want to accomplish. The beginning of the school year is a great time to evaluate which areas of your life need a refresher.
Go to www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/back-to-school and sign up for my free webinar. I will send you a life balance wheel where you will rank, on a scale of 1-10, how fulfilled you currently feel in each category: health, family, social/community, spirituality, surroundings, contribution to society, fun and recreation, finances, romantic relationship, career. Your lowest category may be the one to devote more time to in order to feel balanced and fulfilled. Pick ONE area to focus on and make it your priority.
2. Energy – Did you know you can CREATE energy?
I used to think it was something people either had or didn’t have. I believed my energy fluctuated based on outside circumstances: how much sleep I got, how my kids behaved, whether my house was messy or clean. Now I’ve learned that I can create more energy with my thoughts by processing emotions, making decisions, overcoming fears, closing loops. Some of my Supermom clients increase their energy by singing, playing the piano, reading, sitting in the sunshine, planning a vacation, not to mention exercise, sleep and healthy foods. If you want to accomplish a lot in your day AND feel peaceful and balanced, choose to spend your free time on an activity that boosts your energy.
3. Accomplishment – Being a mom involves a lot of circular, repetitive tasks: laundry, cooking, cleaning. If you don’t get a sense of accomplishment from a job, you might get stuck in the mind-numbing trap of taking care of others without really feeling engaged in your activities. Focusing on what you want to accomplish every day can pull you out of the weeds and into a more productive, conscious mindset that focuses on your highest objective. Plus, accomplishing tasks gives you a feel-good dopamine hit so even by writing things down, then checking them off, you can get a sense of satisfaction.
Some of my ‘at-home’ mom clients have found a sense of accomplishment from refurbishing old furniture, decorating their homes, scrapbooking, trying new recipes, or creating a budget. There is no right or wrong way to feel accomplished, just focus on the feeling you are yearning for and go after it.
Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way?
Believing we aren’t worthy of our own time, money and attention.
Imagine you are looking through the nursery window in a hospital. You see bassinets in a line with little babies swaddled in their blankets. Some are sleeping, some are staring, some are fussing, all are adorable. You look at the fourth one down with the pink hat and you say, “That one there, she’s not good enough. She’s not as deserving as the others. She isn’t worthy of having as much success, relaxation, or joy as those other babies.”
Worthiness doesn’t work that way! There is no such thing as being “unworthy” or “not good enough”. It’s not a competition. You have worth because you have blood in your body. Is a baby who gets tossed in a dumpster by its parents, less worthy or deserving? NO. Is a baby born with birth defects or disabilities any less deserving of success, joy, or relaxation? NO. You are no better and no worse than anyone else. Your kids are not more deserving of love, attention and happiness than you are. You are teaching them how to treat you. As you prioritize yourself and your needs, they will learn that your needs are also important.
Supermom Kryptonite: Giving from an empty cup.
I LOVE taking care of others. Giving is a part of my nature and makes me feel alive and connected.
Until it doesn’t.
Sometimes giving feels like a sacrifice. Sometimes it feels like an obligation.
I am not going to say you should stop taking care of your children, your spouse, your partner, your boss, your sister, your dogs (the list goes on doesn’t it?).
I am going to say it’s time to stop giving from an empty cup.
The cup represents your energy; your spirit. It needs to be full in order for you to feel happy, healthy, and well-balanced. When you have so much love and energy filling your cup that it overflows, that is when you give. Whatever spills onto the saucer is to give away.
You might be thinking… “Torie, I have never had a full cup and I don’t know how to get one. I have to give from an empty cup because my children need me and it’s all I’ve got.”
If that’s the case, then consider working with a life coach. Life coaches are trained to help you plug your invisible energy drains and help you fill up your cup on a regular basis so you can be the best version of you.
Supermom Powerboost: Saying Yes to kid play
Want an energy boost? Try saying yes when your kids ask you to play. If you are like me, your first response to, “Mom, do you want to play?” is “absolutely not”. But 5 minutes of shooting hoops, jumping on a trampoline, or tossing a volleyball around really does boost my energy. Not only do I get my blood pumping, but I feel like a younger, cooler mom who can get out of her head for 5 minutes.
If you’ve got younger kids, just lay on the floor and see what happens. A parent laying on the floor is like a magnet to little ones. They start crawling all over you like a jungle gym and playing and wrestling like little lion cubs. Five minutes of presence while playing will give you a boost of energy and keep you feeling young.
Quote of the Day:
“Rest and self care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” • Eleanor Brownn
Question of the Day: Husband Help
“How can I get my husband to help out more? I feel like all the responsibility is on me. I make more money than my husband, I do more of the parenting, food prep, house cleaning, arranging child care, carpools, you name it, I’m doing it. When I’m not feeling pissy and resentful, I can notice that my husband helps with some things. But most of the time, I’m frustrated that the majority of the parenting burden weighs on my shoulders. What do I need to do to get my husband to step up and take on more responsibility?” Diana
Parent Educator Answer: Getting Husband to Help
If you want your husband to help out more, try these 3 things:
- Be specific and straightforward. Make a list of what you’d like accomplished. Get rid of the idea that he should just know what to do. Set him up for success by asking him to do a specific task (like empty the dishwasher, as opposed to “help out more”).
- Respect his differences. His version of clean may not be the same as yours. That’s ok. He doesn’t “see the mess” the way you do and that’s fine. You’re different people. Allow him to do childcare or chores his way, even if it isn’t up to your standards. Micromanaging will only make him resist helping.
- Show appreciation when he helps. I know it’s not fair, no one thanks you for cleaning the kitchen every day. But if you want your partner to pitch in, tell him how it feels to walk in the laundry room and see all the clothes folded neatly into piles. Express your gratitude at being able to kick your heels up at the end of the day and watch a TV show. Men like to solve problems and rescue. Reward the behavior you want to see more of with words of appreciation and kindness.
Life Coaching Answer:
This is a classic scenario for a Supermom to find themselves in.
Supermoms don’t tend to think of themselves as “super”, they just routinely and unconsciously put on their cape and take care of business. Supermoms do great in school: show them the hoops to jump through and they do it.
They are responsible and reliable and they get rewarded with external praise: good grades, professional accolades, etc. Fulfilling obligations is easy and it seems like the right thing to do.
When we see our partners do things differently, drop the ball, parent imperfectly, forget things or behave inconsistently and we think, “I need to pick up the slack.” It comes so easily to us and we are so invested in doing motherhood right, that we just do it. Before long, we feel like we are holding the world on shoulders, responsible for the lives and well being of many people.
One of the things that bothers me is when I tell people that I’m a life coach for moms who are exhausted, overwhelmed, and resentful and they say, “So, like, every mom.”
NO!!! These are not normal signs of motherhood!
These are signs of caregiver fatigue! Feeling guilty when you take time for yourself is not normal. It’s a sign you are out of balance!
I’m going to guess that you grew up in a culture that encouraged “fulfilling obligations” over “following your bliss”. Whether from parents, religion, schools or the media, you were raised with the idea that there is a ‘right way’ to do things.
Doing things right, fulfilling obligations and taking responsibility was praised and rewarded. You may have had an innate personality that wanted to follow the rules and be of service, but when 90% of your life feels obligatory, it’s time to re-evaluate your habitual way of doing things.
Deviating from Culture and Norm
Deviating from culture is NOT EASY! We worry about what our parents will think, what co-workers and other moms will think, but mostly, we worry about what our own inner martyr will say when we kick up our heels to relax and start prioritizing our own “selfish” wants and desires. That inner martyr is mean, so we’d rather just keep working instead of listening to that mean inner voice.
Deviating from an unhealthy culture is important. Slavery would still be legal if not for a few people who listened to their inner guidance. The culture, the laws, all said slavery was fine. This didn’t sit well with everybody.
Some people felt uncomfortable and they listened to this discomfort. Listening to negative emotions helps improve our culture.
Right now, anxiety and depression are at an all-time high amongst adolescents. There are many signs that our culture is unhealthy. The way to change it is to listen to the internal compass, rather than blindly obey the culture.
If you are like most of my clients, when your husband loads the dishwasher or offers to help arrange the carpool, your critical mind jumps into gear: “He’s not doing it right”, “It’s easier just to do it myself than explain it”, “Why can’t he just do it the way I want”. Because your brain is thinking, “There’s a right way and a wrong way” or “I have to do all the work” we get stuck on proving ourselves right.
Even when you go to your husband crying with exhaustion, and he steps up by grocery shopping or taking the kids out to dinner, it still doesn’t feel like enough.
“Supermom does all the work”
The reason you want your husband to help out more is because of how you WANT to feel. This discomfort with the culture of “Supermom does all the work” isn’t sitting well with you. You want to feel free, valued, supported, and appreciated.
Let’s imagine for a minute that you had a magic wand and you could make your husband do everything you wanted him to do. Can you picture that? He brings you coffee in bed, gets the kids dressed, fed and off to school, he cleans up the kitchen after feeding them a healthy breakfast. How do you imagine you would feel?
Relaxed. Grateful. Appreciated.
This is what you are really yearning for. You think you can only get it by having your husband help out with chores. But these feelings are coming from a thought in your head. What is the thought you would be thinking if you felt relaxed, grateful and appreciated?
This is so nice. I can do what I want. He really loves me.
It’s these thoughts that will give you the feeling you are looking for, regardless of what your husband does or does not do.
You release the burden of obligation by releasing the thoughts: “I have to do everything around here.” “It’s my responsibility” “I have to do it right” “I should do more, be more, etc.”
Once you release these beliefs, you’ll be more fun to be around. Your husband can put on his SuperDAD cape, help out more, and have a wife who is grateful and appreciative of him.
Supermom Kryptonite – Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias means we prove to ourselves what we already believe. When we believe we have to do all the work, we scan our environment looking for all the work that needs to be done, and all the things our husbands aren’t doing.
There are people who believe Trump is a good president and they can find evidence to prove their belief true. There are people who believe he is a terrible president, and they can find evidence to prove themselves correct. What we believe is SO IMPORTANT because it will determine what we experience.
Do you want to believe you do all the work? It might make you feel capable and responsible, but it won’t help your husband step up and contribute. Try believing “My husband likes to help.” This thought will make it easier for you to implement the strategies up above. “My husband appreciates everything I do” will help you feel supported and valued and give you the strength to keep going.
Supermom Powerboost – Focus
Focus is very powerful. What we focus on, expands.
If you focus on how much your husband isn’t doing around the house, you will feel mad and overburdened.
Don’t let your culture choose what you focus on. The U.S. has a strong culture of fear. Every time you turn on the news, you collect evidence to prove we live in a scary place where lots of bad things happen, even though, we live in one of the safest countries, in the safest time in history.
Use your higher, more conscious brain to decide what you’d like more of and then choose to focus your attention on that.
Want to feel more loving? Focus on what you love about your husband.
Want more relaxation? Tell yourself there is nothing you HAVE to do right now and notice how it is always true.
Want to feel more appreciated? Write down a list of things you appreciate about yourself. Invite your family to add to the list. Imagine that your family is so grateful for everything you do and notice how it makes you feel better.
Quote of the Day: “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” George Lucas
Question of the Day: Power Struggle over Sunscreen
“My kids put up a huge stink when it comes to wearing sunscreen. I can get them to wear hats and sun shirts occasionally, but every time they step into the sun, I get so anxious. We live in a sunny place, near the beaches, so this is a frequent problem. I think my oldest is genuinely sensitive to the texture of sunscreen. He used to freak out when we tried to wipe his face or if his clothes got wet. My second child just copies his brother and has turned sunscreen into a huge power struggle.
I just want to relax and enjoy a day at the beach but I get so anxious that doing so is really difficult. I need to let it go but I can’t help but think they are going to get skin cancer and die and it’s going to be my fault.” Louise
Parent Education Answer:
The parenting rule of thumb with power struggles is to avoid them at all costs. As a parent, you CANNOT WIN a power struggle. They will play out in one of two ways:
- The parents use coercion to manipulate children into doing what they want. They might use guilt, fear, threats, sarcasm, yelling, or any attempt to control or force the child to do something against their will. Sometimes this works and they get the kids to wear their sunscreen, but the cost is that kids learn to ignore their own wisdom and depend on an outside authority to make decisions. Children who surrender their will to their parents learn to blame others for their mistakes, feel helpless to change on their own, and make other people responsible for their happiness.
- If your child “wins” the power struggle they feel victorious. They get the benefit of depending on themselves for wisdom and happiness, but they can’t ever wear sunscreen or they feel like a loser! In order to prove that they are independent-minded kids, they cannot do what you want them to do. Wearing sunscreen would feel like giving you a victory rather than it being a choice they make from their own thoughtfulness.
Both of these scenarios create separation and disconnect between parent and kid. Power struggles are lose-lose situations.
Think of a power struggle like a game of tug of war. The harder you pull in one direction, the harder your kid needs to pull in the opposite direction. Tug of war creates a winner and a loser. Getting into this power struggle is like teaching him how to dig his heels in and not budge.
Avoiding the Power Struggle
The way to avoid a power struggle is to stand in your authentic power. You do have wisdom beyond your kids. Present the pros and cons, but let their action be their choice.
In your calmest, most confident voice, offer them some options:
- You can either wear a hat and shirt, or you can wear sunscreen.
- You can either wear sunscreen and play in the sun, or not and stay in the shade.
- If you want to play soccer on the beach, you’ll need to have sun protection.
- Would you prefer stick, cream, or spray? You can apply it yourself or I can do it for you.
Giving your children options will help them trust their own inner guidance to make decisions that are right for them.
Life Coaching Answer:
What gets in the way for moms is our biology. Our brains are wired to look for potential hazards. Especially once we become moms, we scan our environment looking for things that can harm our precious ones: My child’s fair skin is exposed to the sun. Sun causes cancer. Wearing sunscreen prevents harmful skin damage. It seems so easy and obvious to our brains, doesn’t it?
Every mom I know have an invisible instruction book called How to be a good mom. In this book, it says things like, “A good mom makes sure her children wear sunscreen at the beach.” “A good mom is always available to her kids.” “A good mom doesn’t allow her children to suffer negative emotions.”
There are rules about everything: What kind of grades our kids should get, how they should treat their siblings, when it’s ok to quit a sport you signed up for. You name it, we’ve got rules about it in our invisible instruction book.
This invisible instruction book can cause us a lot of frustration. We get really annoyed when our children won’t let us be the mom we want to be! Our ego gets involved and we put our ability to feel like a responsible, caring mother into the hands of our strong willed children.
We cling really tightly to being right and accomplishing whatever goal we think will make us feel like a good mom. This makes us parent from fear, instead of love.
Throw a little anxiety into the mix with the thought, “My children are going to get cancer and die!” and you’ve got the recipe for a power struggle.
When we get caught up in “catastrophizing” and “futurizing”, like we seem to be with this thought, our brains react as though there is an immediate problem to solve.
Blood rushes to our extremities, our hearts start pounding, our eyes focus on that beautiful pale skin and we leap for the sunscreen like it’s a life raft. We are in fear. Our kids sense it and want nothing to do with it.
We think, “If they would just put sunscreen on, then I could relax.” But chances are, this anxious brain will just find something else to focus on, worry about, and catastrophize.
Parenting from Love, not Fear
In order to relax and parent from love instead of fear, we need to question the anxious brain. We start by recognizing that there is no IMMEDIATE threat. Even though your brain perceives one, your kid won’t allow you to take the one productive action step you want. So instead, take a deep breath and realize that in this moment you and your children are safe.
Once you have calmed your brain down, you can take a logical look at the belief that is triggering this fight or flight response. “My children will get skin cancer and die.” Is that true? Maybe. If they are fair-skinned. If it runs in the family and your kid spends lots of time outdoors without protection. But, they probably won’t get skin cancer this year, or in the next 20 years.
Maybe they’ll just get the minor little squamous cells and use cream to remove them. Maybe they’ll get a melanoma and have it scooped out. Will they die of skin cancer? Possibly, but not likely. They can visit doctors and have screenings. They can also change their minds and start wearing sunscreen at any point in the future. Maybe they’ll start tomorrow or next year? In the grand scheme of their life, will a sunburn or two cause tremendous harm? Probably not.
You want to walk through all the other scenarios with your logical brain. Find someone you know who has been through treatment and ask yourself, “Does his skin cancer diagnosis mean he had a terrible mother?”
Then ask yourself, “How can I still be a good mom, even if my child doesn’t wear sunscreen?”
By offering my kids choices?
Letting him experience natural consequences and the pain that comes with a sun burn?
By letting go so that sunscreen can be his idea and not mine?
When we have love for ourselves, it makes it easier to have it for our kids. But it all starts with letting go of fear.
Supermom Kryptonite: Right-Fighting
Are you always trying to “win” an argument? Do you get overly emotional when people don’t agree with you? Do you insist on having the last word?
Everyone likes to be right, especially when you know you ARE!
Is wearing sunscreen at the beach the right thing to do? Of course! You have the wisdom to share and taking care of one’s health is the right thing to do.
But when raising kids, sometimes we need to enjoy our own validation, inside our own heads. Our kids want to be right sometimes, too. And they may fight you for it. But fighting to be right puts you at odds with your child. Instead of feeling connected, you feel adversarial.
Let go of the rope, whenever you feel your child tugging on the other end of it. Ask yourself, “Would I rather be right or be happy?” or “Would I rather be right or have peace in my home?”
Supermom Powerboost – Humor vs Power Struggle
When you catch yourself in anxiety brain, fighting to be right, or parenting out of fear, try to add a little humor.
Did you catch yourself chasing your son around with a sunscreen bottle? Turn yourself into a zombie and start repeating, “I want to eat pale skin.” Does your child take off her hat as soon as you put it on? Try putting it on her foot, or her stuffed animal, or the dog instead.
Slipping in the humor disarms a building power struggle. You may be surprised at how willing your child is to comply when you are acting as a Disney Princess or Darth Vader instead of mom.
Quote of the Day:
“Once we release our fears as a parent, we can walk WITH our children as fellow students and travelers. That is the ultimate purpose of parenting.” Dr. Shefali Tsabary