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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When a Jar of Tomato Sauce is Enough



The other day my 5 year old was beside himself. From the car ride home to pick up his older brother from school through the dinner hour, he would break into to crying/screaming jags that startled me. And all he wanted was mommy. He needed to be held and consoled. He would regroup and be fine and then an outburst or tantrum would ensue. It was back and forth, up and down. It was the witching hour - when homework needed to be overseen, dinner needed cooking, and the dogs were doing their "feed me" dances. But everything needed to take a back seat to the emotional chaos, including dinner.

When calm finally returned, it was dark and dinner was way past due. And that is when guilt started to rear its ugly head. The kids needed to eat but the time crunch and emotional drain of the day's events left me reaching for a jar of tomato sauce (albeit organic) and some pasta. On the one hand, I had nurtured and fed my child emotionally and yet that voice of perfection still rose up. How could this meal's "vegetable" be a a jar of tomato sauce? I found myself guiltily grating fresh carrots and onions into the sauce to assuage Ms. Perfect before I started the conversation about being "enough". It was enough that dinner was being made, regardless of its nutritional density. But why does this mama-guilt and demand for perfection always seem to arise? Couple that with some eco-guilt and holistic minded-moms are in for serious trouble.

Motherhood and guilt are so closely intertwined that we expect it to be a "natural part of mothering" according to Karen Kleiman, writing on "Guilt, Motherhood, and the Pursuit of Perfection" in Psychology Today magazine. We are always judging ourselves and others, fearing that we have scarred our children and failed on our parenting journey. And this persistent yardstick of perfection can lead moms down a path to anxiety and depression.

Instead, parents need to develop self-acceptance and understand that we are good enough, in this moment, with these resources, and with whatever energy and patience we can muster. Every single day is an opportunity to learn and grow as a parent and judging every imperfection - in ourselves and in others - creates a pattern of guilt and regret. As author and positive affirmation expert Louise Hay has said: "The bottom line for everyone is I’m not good enough. It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed."

We need to change our self-talk and thoughts as mothers. This is no easy task. Self-talk is so automated we often don't even recognize when it is going on. Listening and being aware of what we tell ourselves is the first step in changing the conversation. Slowing down to pay attention, journaling, and meditation are all great tools for identifying our negative self-talk and learning to replace it with more positive statements and beliefs. We need to know that we are good enough and creating positive self-talk is a step in the right direction. As mothers, we need to forgive ourselves and know that we are doing our best. And we need to know that sometimes a jar of tomato sauce IS enough.

3 comments:

  1. THANK YOU!!! OMG!! This is exactly what I struggle with daily. That witching hour is a hot mess. Thank you for enlightening me and relieving some of that "mommy guilt"!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am not here to judge...I have a 6 yr old boy and an infant son as well and I've got a long way to grow as a parent, just want to share another perspective! I have to be honest...I don't think your guilt is because of negative self talk at all in this instance, i think it may be because you made a choice you feel deep down somewhere was not the best one for your child. I don't know the circumstances behind your son's crying/tantrums that you described. I am extremely affectionate and patient with my children but I know dinner is not only an important meal but time together and routine. That routine and communion is maybe just what your son needed to get him back to feeling in control of his feelings. Routine at home, especially dinner, is a big way to pass your affection, love, quality attention, strength to your family. It's an invaluable tool! Life goes on whether you want to do it or not, letting them makes the choice on their own after giving them your ears, wisdom, affection & their options then letting them see how much better it feels to make that choice to keep moving forward (instead of focusing energy on what doesn't make us happy) is SO empowering for them! It might feel good or easier to just hold them all night long like we always have but teaching them that they have the power to choose more of what they do want is nothing to feel guilty about! It a wonderful tool that can be more comforting than 143757886 hugs sometimes!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am not here to judge...I have a 6 yr old boy and an infant son as well and I've got a long way to grow as a parent, just want to share another perspective! I have to be honest...I don't think your guilt is because of negative self talk at all in this instance, i think it may be because you made a choice you feel deep down somewhere was not the best one for your child. I don't know the circumstances behind your son's crying/tantrums that you described. I am extremely affectionate and patient with my children but I know dinner is not only an important meal but time together and routine. That routine and communion is maybe just what your son needed to get him back to feeling in control of his feelings. Routine at home, especially dinner, is a big way to pass your affection, love, quality attention, strength to your family. It's an invaluable tool! Life goes on whether you want to do it or not, letting them makes the choice on their own after giving them your ears, wisdom, affection & their options then letting them see how much better it feels to make that choice to keep moving forward (instead of focusing energy on what doesn't make us happy) is SO empowering for them! It might feel good or easier to just hold them all night long like we always have but teaching them that they have the power to choose more of what they do want is nothing to feel guilty about! It a wonderful tool that can be more comforting than 143757886 hugs

    ReplyDelete

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