The Good Mother

The other day I was talking to a friend who also struggles with anger management. She relayed a story about allowing her children to “help” her with a task, knowing that in the end she would just become frustrated and lash out at them. But in her mind she believed that a Good Mother would be able to include her children in this task, that a Good Mother would make it work, that a Good Mother would enjoy incorporating them into her daily work.

When indeed she did become frustrated and lash out at her children, something finally broke in her and she recognized the lie swirling in her head about what a Good Mother resembles.

I listened to her with my mouth gaping open because it was like she was reading a script from inside my own head.

It was a valuable conversation to me because it turned to trigger points – those proverbial cherries on top, the straw that broke the camel’s back, and so forth. In the last few months since seeking help and accountability for my anger problem I have seen significant change – and not just behavioral management, but true inward change – yet I still found myself in moments of lashing out, and I wanted to explore the pattern (Ack! I’m starting to sound like Bryan).

When I noticed I mostly lashed out at my kids just before nap time and just before bed time, it clicked: I was becoming irritable because I was in desperate need for a break. As an introvert who needs down time alone to regroup, refresh, and regenerate, I became worn out by Ruthie’s constant need to engage me (an introvert, she is not).

Realizing this has been huge, and has allowed me to make adjustments to avoid irate breakdowns. For instance, I’ve started putting Ruthie down for her nap an hour earlier – before my fatigue sets in – so our morning ends on a more positive note. I spend the next hour doing something that refreshes me, like reading or writing an essay, then I spend the next hour doing a task that’s difficult to do when the kids are under my feet. If they wake up before the two hours is done, I leave them in their rooms because this is the two hours I have set aside for my sanity.

I’m learning that it benefits no one to embrace my limitations as failures, but if I accept who I am and learn to accommodate my limitations, I am truly a better mother and a better person. I am only a bad mother when I’m trying to be something I’m not, when I try to alter a part of myself that just Is, like trying to stuff your feet into a pair of shoes that are just too small.

I am redefining the Good Mother in my head to resemble something more familiar: me.

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