“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” – Christopher K. Germer
We’re currently in the dog days of summer. It’s hot, it’s sticky, and if school hasn’t started yet for your kids, it’s just around the corner. If you haven’t read how I’ve tried to keep my sanity this summer, be sure to check out my post here.
There are also what I would like to call the dog days of motherhood. These are the tough and emotionally draining days with small children. Before I get into how one survives the dog days of motherhood, let me share a story with you.
Old Navy was having a good sale this week, so I thought I would get a jump start on back-to-school shopping. The last time I brought the kids there, it was a nightmare, so I figured I’d try a preemptive strike with my son.
Me: “You are not permitted to run around the store and hide in the changing rooms. You need to stay right by me the entire time we are in the store.”
Son: “Okay, Mommy. But what if there isn’t anyone in the changing room?”
Me: “That doesn’t matter. You are staying right by me in the store.”
Son: “Okay Mommy.”
Things started off okay until my son started pushing the cart and teasing his sister. I used my excellent parenting skills to come up with a bribe.
Me: “It’s too bad you are misbehaving because I was going to get you a treat if you behaved. Only boys that behave get treats.”
Son: “Oh please, please, please Mommy can I get a treat?”
Me: “Only if you behave the rest of the time.”
Twenty minutes later.
Son (whining): “My legs huuuuurt. When are we going to be done?”
Me: “This is your warning. I don’t want to hear any more whines the rest of the trip if you want a treat.”
Right as we are about to head to the checkout line, my son slaps my daughter on the arm. He claims that she hit him first.
Me: “No treat for you, now.”
Son: Screams and loudly sobs for the ENTIRE TIME we wait in line and pay for the items.
I get home and realize that the sale at Old Navy, which included a $30.00 discount, wasn’t applied to our items. Seriously? I had been so distracted by my son’s wailing that I’d missed the entire reason for the trip in the first place.
I went back the following day to get the discount. The next visit couldn’t go as poorly as the first day went, right? (I should know better.)
As soon as we got in line my son started in about getting a treat. Dang bribery backfired on me.
Son: “If I behave today, I’ll get a treat, right?”
Me: “We’re not buying anything today.”
Once we got to the register it took no less than 30 minutes for the woman to figure out applying the discount. It’s as though Old Navy was making me earn a $1.00 discount for each painful minute of the experience.
Parker pulled a candy push-pop from the rack and asked me to buy it for him every 20 seconds to which I answered, “No” every 20 seconds for a good five minutes, before I gave him the I mean business, “NO!”, to which he scream/whined. He scined. I should coin that term.
A scine is the opposite of quiet and possibly the most grating noise on the planet, and it brought out my inner demonic mom. I held his cheeks, and in a quiet, possessed voice between clenched teeth, I said, “You stop it right now or I’m going to tell your Dad when he gets home.”
Normally this works, because even though Daddy is a big softie, Parker doesn’t like to disappoint him, but this time, it only made things worse. He proceeded to open the push-pop when I wasn’t looking. I took it away from him, and he started berating me with comments like, “You’re the meanest Mommy in the world” and, “You are not awesome, Mom” and, “Guess who I like more Mommy? You or Daddy? Daddy.”
Then, while lying on the floor so that other customers had to step around him to leave the checkout line, he sang a song with the lyric, “I hate my Mommmyyy.”
Meanwhile, my daughter was pulling down breath mint packages from the rack by the register. Every time a pile of about 10 surrounded her feet, I would collect them all and put them back on the rack. This happened about 194 times during the half-hour we stood there.
The woman gave me a higher discount than $30.00, and I’m pretty sure she did it just to get us out of the store.
For the grand finale, my daughter managed to get a hold of one of the lotion bottles, unscrew the lid, and spill lotion just before we were about to walk out the door.
When I left, I was one big ball of stress. I felt defeated, I felt embarrassed, and I felt overwhelmed. After scolding Parker in the car, I silently cried the rest of the car ride home.
I clearly have this whole parenting thing down.
The Aha Moment
That night I self-helped myself to a big glass of wine before I self-helped myself by continuing to read “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown. It’s so good, like highlighter-on-every-single-page good.
The part of the book that I have to share is the section on self-compassion.
We all know that it’s important to be kind to ourselves when we have days like the one I described above, but what I didn’t know is that there are different elements to self-compassion.
Based on Brené’s suggestion in the book, I went to Dr. Kristin Neff’s website at www.self-compassion.org. On this site, I tested my own level of self-compassion here. The test gives you an overall score for your level of self-compassion, but it also breaks down how you rate in the different elements of self-compassion. This way, you are able to determine how exactly you can improve in the area of self-compassion.
I learned that I can improve in the area of Common Humanity. When I am having an awful day like the one I described above, rarely do I think, “I can’t be the only one,” but there is an element to self-compassion that involves remembering we are never alone in any of our human suffering. This was a light bulb moment for me.
The solution to the dog days of motherhood is compassion. My advice (that I’m working on applying in my own life) is that we lean in to the healing effects of compassion.
The solution includes:
Compassion for our children. And this doesn’t mean excusing poor behavior, it just means remembering that they are kids that are still learning how to navigate this world. Just like us, they have bad days too.
Compassion for ourselves. I strongly encourage anyone reading this to take the self-compassion test and find out any areas for improvement in this important aspect of our personalities. I found the information invaluable.
Compassion for other mamas. We all have dog days of motherhood. This is why I share my motherhood war stories. To feel less alone and to help other mamas feel less alone in the chaos of motherhood.
And wine. The wine helps too.