Click here for the audio version of the lesson (50min duration)
NB – This lesson is a lot longer than 15-20 minutes to allow for many situations to be discussed.
As this week comes to a close, I want to take some time to look at the four components of this reality thinking model and show you how you can use it in step two of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process – Reality.
The four components are; the reality of the situation, the reality of parenting, the reality of life and the reality of self-worth.
Each component takes your attention from the small picture and expands it out further to look at the bigger picture. This stops you from being consumed by the events that are happening right now and helps you to view this situation in a more detached, widened back way that is in alignment with reality.
Each component looks at the situation in the wider context of what it means about your life, instead of just being stuck in the thoughts you are having that are in conflict with reality.
Following are some examples of how to use this reality step. This lesson will be slightly longer than the usual 15-20 minutes, so if you only have that long, just scroll down and read the examples that relate to your life. However it would be very beneficial for you to read all of the examples if you have time, so that you can see the many different ways that this reality step can be applied. This will help you to be able to apply it in your life.
As you know, after step two on the TRACK process, we move into a more solution focussed way of looking at the situation because even though you are aligned with the reality of the situation and change your perspective of it to a healthier one, it doesn’t mean that you won’t want to change the situation or do something about. So you do this in Step 3 – 5 of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process – Aim, Choices and Know your plan. In preparation for these steps, at the end of each example below, I have listed some potential solutions to these problems that we can explore in later lessons when we come to the full explanations of the final three steps to the Mind TRACK to Happiness process.
Example One – I regret having children
Here are some thoughts that may be identified in step one – thoughts:
“I never wanted to have children. I was pushed into it by my husband and I knew that I wasn’t cut out for motherhood. I was happy with my career and living that life but now I’m stuck at home with these kids and I hate my life.”
The reality of the situation: For whatever reasons you had at the time, you decided to have children and now you do. Being in conflict with the reality that you never wanted to have children and now you do and don’t like it keeps you stuck in denial about what is actually here right now. When you were having the discussions about having kids with your partner, something swayed your mind to conceive that child, keep the child and continue with the pregnancy. Blaming your partner is in conflict with the reality that you took part in the decision to have children and because of the information you had at that time, you now have children. The past cannot be changed and the present reality is always a result of past decisions. Right now, you have children and are presently the one who is at home with them (which incidentally is also something that would have been discussed with your partner and both of you came to this decision that you would be the one stay at home, rather than go back to work or have him stay at home.)
The reality of parenting: Life changes dramatically when you become a parent. It is not better or worse than your pre-child life, just different. As with anything in life there are its highs and lows. I’m sure your career was not full of just great times, but also of stressful days and challenging moments, just like in parenting. If you concentrate on what is bad about parenting you will only see what is bad about parenting. Being at home with the kids can be monotonous, but it can also be very rewarding, it all depends on how you look at it. There are many pluses about being a stay at home mum that you may not be seeing because you are only seeing what is bad about it. You have more time to go outside and enjoy the day, you can study at home and increase your knowledge for when you do go back to work. There are always moments throughout the day where you get to squeeze in moments to yourself, like painting your fingernails, cooking your favourite meal, painting or drawing if you are into creativity, catching up with other friends who are at home with their kids, watching your favourite TV shows during the day that you taped the night before. You could even work a little bit from home. Sure there are lots of things you need to do with the kids and there can be days where you get none of this done, but there are many days where you can fit these things into the day looking after the kids, while they’re occupied or asleep. Your career, while rewarding and fun, is not the only experience that can provide you with pleasure, being a stay at home mum can too. It all depends on how you look at it.
Reality of Life: There are moments throughout our entire life when we feel excited, enthusiastic and energised about the projects we undertake and there are times where we don’t feel that way. It doesn’t mean life is bad, it’s simply a reality of life. Sometimes events happen in our lives that force us to slow down, take a break or reflect on what we want for our lives, or how we can factor new situations into our dreams and goals. The challenges in our lives that seem to stop us from reaching our goals, are only lessons that we need to learn along our journey to our goal. The trick is to not see this event as the only thing that is happening in your life and to see what else is happening in your life that is going well – your relationship with your partner, your health, you family relationships, new friendships, being financially comfortable, being able to pay your bills. What can you be grateful for? Remember the gratitude lesson? Try that. Life in general is full of ups and downs and this time of your life right now is just a small part of your whole journey through life.
Reality of self-worth: It is quite possible that you have defined your self-worth by what you were doing at work and now you are feeling like your life lacks purpose or is not as ‘good’ as it used to be when you worked. What exactly was it about your job that made you feel so special. Recognise that those things that you used to do at work formed part of that experience and did contribute to your work environment and the people in it. However, right now what you are doing is contributing as well, except in a different way. You are contributing to your family, to the future adult your child will become. You are contributing to the functioning of your home, your family, your partner, the friends you meet and contributing to how you now interact and what you are now doing in the world around. Try to find what is beneficial about that and how it would be very different if you were not around. Recognise that it is your beliefs that are rating this situation as good or bad, and not because your life’s worth has lessened any. Constantly keep expanding this view of your life to be in alignment with the reality of the situation, the reality of parenting, the reality of life and the reality of your self-worth, by remembering the ups and downs of life, that every event is one to learn from and that each event leads to the next one. Perhaps the events that you are experiencing right now are exactly what you need to have happen in your life to propel you to the next great thing in your life. Where is the silver lining in this situation?
Potential solutions: Just because you are aligned with the reality of the situation and are able to see it with a different, more expanded mindset, this doesn’t mean that you need to just ‘suck it up’ and do nothing about it. The reality is that there are things in motherhood that are laborious and monotonous at times and for many mums it isn’t stimulating enough to just be that stay at home mum. It doesn’t mean that your worth is any less, it just means that you would like other things in your life to enjoy other than just doing all those motherly tasks. So looking at the potential solutions is what you would do in step 3 – aim – what do I want? Here are a few potential solutions to explore in this scenario:
- Working part-time from home
- Studying something new or interesting that may advance your career, or start a new one
- Start a new and interesting hobby
- Make sure you schedule some time in for you to do the things that you feel are fun.
- Squeeze little things into your day that are just for you (painting nails, styling your hair, reading a book, watching your favourite TV show, go buy yourself a new outfit – even if you do have your children in tow)
- Perhaps going back to work either full time or part-time might be the answer in this situation. This will be something that you would discuss based on your beliefs and what is right for your family. Next week you will learn about what drives the choices we make and the actions we take.
Example Two – Other mums are doing it better than me. Everything I do seems wrong.
Here are the thoughts that may be identified in step one – thoughts:
“I’m just not good at being a mother. I’m impatient. I get angry all of the time. I’m completely unorganised. I look at other mums and they just seem to be handling everything so much better than me. I have struggled to breastfeed. I have struggled to get my baby into a sleep routine. My toddler is having tantrums left, right and centre and is constantly pushing the boundaries. I just can’t handle it anymore. Everything I do seems to be wrong.”
The reality of the situation: You are experiencing what every mother experiences and that is the fluctuating behaviour of a developing child. This is a new role and a big transition and you are living it for the first time. Some people may experience this transition easier than others, but that doesn’t mean that you are doing it wrong. You are learning how to be a parent and deal with all the different situations that come with it. The reality is that right now the challenge is breastfeeding and sleep routines with one child and tantrums with the other, because this is where they are at in their development. Any thoughts that continue on with how it shouldn’t be like this and that you are doing it wrong are all in conflict with the reality that this is the situation that is currently playing out, is normal behaviour for children, not a reflection of you doing anything right or wrong.
The reality of parenting: Babies cry. Some babies have trouble breastfeeding. Some mothers have trouble breastfeeding or producing milk. Some babies self-settle quicker than others. Toddlers tantrum and learn how to behave and respond to their environments. This is how they learn. This is the reality of being a parent. You are angry and impatient because your mind gets stuck with believing that it ‘should’ be another way, however the reality is that it isn’t another way because this is the development that naturally occurs in a child to one degree or another. As a parent you are resourcing different ways to handle these situations by learning about them from other sources. It is not wrong that you are experiencing these things, it is the reality of parenting and every parent experiences the challenging behaviours of their growing and developing children. It is only because you are perceiving this to mean something about you and your life that is causing you to feel stress.
The reality of life: Life is about the ups and downs and parenting is no different. This situation is just a part of your whole life. That behaviour is just part of the love, joy and rewarding times that you get too. It may be that at this point in your life the love, joy and rewarding times are few and far between, but this is only for a small amount of time. Everything rises and passes away and these full-on times are no different. It’s important to keep that perspective when going through these times where you are in demand because they are not the only part of your life. What else is happening in your life that is going well? Relationships, friendships, work, health etc – how are all they going? Keep looking at the whole picture of your life, not just this consuming moment. There are always good things going on too, we just need to look for them. Start looking for what you have and what you are receiving right now that is valuable. Also look for the hidden good in the bad. What value does this situation have? Your child not sleeping is them learning how to sleep. You using different sleep techniques, is you finding the right sleep techniques for your child. Each time you administer the consequences for a tantrum this is you teaching your child not to tantrum. Each time you repeat yourself you are one step closer to reinforcing new behaviour as a habit in your child’s mind. One day they’ll just stop doing it, or they will become few and far between with age. This is only one small drop in the ocean of your life and this moment will lead to another moment in your life. There are highs and lows throughout it. This is just a low, but with every bad, there is also an equal amount of good. Don’t give this situation the power to be all bad, for you are neglecting how it is valuable to you and your child’s life.
The reality of self-worth: This is not a defining moment in your life. The reality is that they are developing and growing and behaving in natural ways to facilitate their growth. This has nothing to do with your worth as a ‘good mother’ or your quality of life. Your self-worth is always 100%. You are contributing to your child learning how to get past these moments. Without you, they don’t learn how to self-settle or to know the signs of going to sleep. You are putting them to bed, persisting with their sleep, you are teaching your toddler what the consequences of their actions are. Your anger is teaching you that you need to find a better way of looking at things, which influences your life and also your child’s with this learning. Throughout life you are always learning new things and being a parent is teaching your things like organisation, how to be a parent and handle all the different behaviours that occur in parenting. All of these things that you are learning as a parent will stay with you and contribute to the rest of your life and how it unfolds.
Other mums may seem to have it all under control and be handling parenting easily, but they have other challenges to overcome. We all do, because we are all constantly learning new things in our lives and contributing our knowledge to those around us. Here is what I wrote on Facebook just today:
Everyone has their lessons to learn. Everyone! Sometimes things come easy in one area of your life but not in others. Next time you find yourself comparing yourself negatively to someone else, stop and look at what you are better than them at or what you have that they don’t and you’ll see that each of us have different skills, abilities and ‘issues’ to overcome and no one is better than another.
You are not doing anything wrong, you are simply experiencing an event that is teaching you how to do something and you are getting a life lesson in how to do it. You are learning how to find patience and be calm and part of you doing that is getting angry and impatient. If you weren’t angry and impatient sometimes than you would not be propelled to do things differently and hence learn new things.
Throughout our lives we are always coming across challenges that force us into change, learning and growth. Parenting is one of those times. Challenges don’t make you worth-less they help define your life because you learn, change, grow and contribute your knowledge to the world around you. It is only your rating of the situation that makes you feel worth –less than other people, other mums and all you need to do is keep changing your ‘story’ to align with the reality of the situation, parenting, life and your self-worth, remembering that no matter how life unfolds you are always worthwhile.
- Learn about the current developmental stage your child is at and then resource how you can get that information
- Be around people who encourage you and give you helpful advice for dealing with these challenges
- Speak to other mums who have children at similar ages and deliberately seek out tips that they use to help them deal with this challenge and feel good about themselves.
- Learn from the minds of other calm, happy mums. What are their secrets? How do they think about these challenges? Don’t feel like you are doing something wrong. If you don’t know how to do something, seek out someone who does know how to do it and learn off them. Don’t feel less than them, feel blessed that they are in your life so you can learn what they have already learnt. This is what we are all here for, to learn and grow from each other.
Example Three – I have bad thoughts about hurting my children, or hurting myself
Here are the thoughts that may be identified in step one – thoughts:
“I hate these thoughts that I get where I am thinking about hurting my children or myself. I know that I don’t want to hurt them, but I can’t help it when my brain starts imagining these things. It happens when I hear them screaming or crying endlessly and I can’t get them to stop. All I want them to do is stop. I want to enjoy motherhood and love my kids, but they won’t stop crying or playing up. I just want my old life back where I could handle things better.”
The reality of the situation: Your brain has been viewing situations through a lens that has been seeing life in a painful way. You are seeing the events that occur in your life as a hugely unvaluable experience that causes you some pretty intense emotions. Whenever we go through intense emotional pain the brain searches for ways to correct the situation and avoid the pain from occurring anymore. This is what is happening when you imagine these things.
If you were in a life or death situation where you were stuck in a well and needed to get out, your brain would look at all the different ways to get out of that situation. You could climb, you could yell out, you could sit and wait for someone to save you. Once you have tried all these things, you may start to get desperate and if it has been a while, you are hungry, thirsty and feel like you are getting to a really bad place, you may start to contemplate thoughts of ending your life, because the pain of being stuck in that situation is so much more painful than ending it all.
This is exactly what has happened in the situation with your kids. You have been in a situation that was challenging and you began by trying lots of different things to get you past that challenging situation, but none of it has worked. You have continued seeing this situation as painful and now because you are getting desperate and the pain seems to be getting worse, you start to contemplate more extreme thoughts of getting out of this painful situation, as it is a basic human instinct to avoid and stop pain. So your mind begins engaging in all the different ways to end the pain, this time in more extreme ways. This is where you have currently come to the point you have of imagining all of these scenarios. However it is not the event that is causing you pain, it is the way you have been thinking about this event and that is what needs addressing. That is the way to stop these thoughts from entering into your mind all the time.
The reality of parenting: Perhaps what has caused you that pain and emotion to begin with, before it got to this point, is that you have been seeing the challenges of parenting as wrong or you are being consumed by the everyday challenges that arise in this new role of being a mum. The reality of parenting is realising that there are both ups and downs that occur, just like anything else in life. You are seeing just the bad side to things at the moment, so you must balance that out by also acknowledging the good stuff too. This includes what is going well in your role and what is running smoothly. Perhaps you get the washing done some days. Perhaps you go through a shopping experience without a tantrum. Perhaps you get your child to sleep one more hour, or get them to go longer between feeds. What is going well. Once you send your attention in the direction of looking at what is going well, you will stop being consumed so much by what isn’t going well. Also, look at the value of these challenges. What are they teaching you? What is your child learning? Are these challenges just part of your child’s developmental stage? Are you learning more about parenting and how to handle each developmental challenge? Is you present challenge just an indication that you need to seek out information to help you learn what to do? Remember that being a parent is like having a job. You learn new skills, come across challenges, work your way to being more experienced at your job and talk to others with experience so they can help you to learn how to reach the next competency. You will never get parenting ‘right’ as there is always something to learn and decisions to be made that you will have to weight up according to your beliefs.
The reality of life: Throughout your life there have been some great times and some not so great times. Who was it that said that parenting was any different? If you are going through a particularly challenging time with your child, then this is just part of the realities of life. What do we do when we have challenges? We find ways to work around them. We seek out answers. Seeking out these answers gives us information that we learn from and implement into our lives. This information then goes on to help us for the rest of our lives. We will always have this experience to draw knowledge from when needed. We set goals all of the time. We set goals to get out of bed, get ready for the day, get our kids ready, get out the door on time, buy a house, go on holidays. Whether they are small or large goals we are always striving for something. What do we do when we reach those goals? We spend brief amounts of time enjoying them before we set another goal and off we go again. What do we set goals for? To achieve them of course, however the value does not come from setting goals and achieving them. It comes from the experiences you had and what you learnt on the way to achieving them. You learn on the way to the goal, when you got to your goal and when you didn’t get to your goal. Just setting the goal sets life in motion and that is the purpose to living. Living, learning and growing. That is the reality of life. This moment is part of that journey of setting and getting goals. Whenever you are having challenges, this is part of you getting to the goal.
Start questioning what you are saying about the current situation and challenge your thinking. Where did you come to believe that what you are saying is true? Who taught you that it is right? Who taught you that what is happening is wrong? In life every event leads to the next one and each event plays a crucial role to how the future unfolds. We can never dictate whether this challenging situation isn’t just going to turn out for the best. We can never dictate whether this fantastic event is going to turn out unenjoyable. We cannot control how life unfolds. It is just one event leading to the next, all the while, we are learning, growing and having the experience of life.
The reality of self-worth: You are feeling this way because you have rated the situation as being detrimental to your quality of life, or your self-worth – perhaps both. From your conditioning over the years you have learnt to rate yourself according to your achievements (getting life right), your identity and the outcome of your life. When life is going to plan you feel ‘good’ (worth more) and when life isn’t going to plan you feel ‘bad’ (worth-less). However this is merely your self-esteem fluctuating from your view of life. Your worth as a person never changes. You are always 100% worthy because of your existence. How are you contributing in your life right now? How is your current life adding value to your existence because of what it is teaching you either about the event or about life in general? How are you of value to someone else’s life? How would different aspects function if you were not in it helping it to function? What are you teaching people that makes a difference in their lives, just because you are there giving a part of yourself? All of these things define your 100% worth in this world, not whether you achieve something, get it right, or get life to go to plan.
- Keep working on changing your thinking about the different challenges that come up.
- Do the exercises at the end of this week and be consistent about using the journaling specifically
- Give yourself plenty of time out where you can.
- If time out is not a luxury because of lack of support, make it a priority to seek out support in communities, friends, families etc.
- When you cannot have time out and you are feeling frustrated, add things into your day just for you. Paint your nails, put your ‘happy’ music on, dance around and be silly (the kids will love it), go outside for a walk, exercise to increase your endorphins etc.
- Do something instead of nothing. You now know that it is your thinking that leads you down this path. Don’t let it. Let your feelings be your guide that shows you where your mind is at and as soon as you find yourself down there, do something that will lift your mood.
Example Four – I am a single mother
Here are the thoughts that may be identified in step one – thoughts:
“This was not the way I’d imagined motherhood to be. I thought that I would have a proper family with mum, dad and the kids. I didn’t think that I would be doing it all alone. It is so hard. The kids just rely on me all the time and I hardly ever get any time to myself. I don’t have much support so everything is up to me. I have to support them by working, then I have to come home, try to give them the quality attention they need, cook dinner, clean up, do the washing and keep everything going. Where is the me time? I just can’t keep up with it all and I just want it to be different. I don’t want to be a single mother.”
The reality of the situation: You are the sole provider for your child. Due to everything that has unfolded in the past you are now in this present time reality that you are a single mother. You are having the experience of a single mother’s life. This is the reality and any conversations that are in conflict with that, will only cause you stress. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t want it, hadn’t planned it and that it wasn’t the way things were ‘supposed’ to go, it is here now. You have now entered a new phase of your life where support doesn’t just come easy and perhaps you need to seek it out and set it up. Perhaps you have to ask for help instead of waiting for it to be offered. Perhaps you need to seek out professional services in order to get this help. With this current situation, there may be a period of time where you have limited ‘me’ time. But it is only for a small amount of time when compared to the rest of your life. It won’t be forever.
The reality of being a parent: Think of this as your new job. If you were at work, you could think of yourself as a single worker, doing what you need to do to get the tasks that you are responsible for done in the best, most efficient way possible. If you needed support in your job, you would seek out your boss and ask for it, you wouldn’t just sit there and stress that you couldn’t do it (or perhaps this pattern does play out here too). You could ask your boss for support or set up other means for getting help with your work challenge. In work, you experience days that are stressful and other days that are quite relaxing. Parenting is no different. It all depends on how you look at it. There are always ups and downs with any situation in life and in parenting there is too. With all the bad, stressful times, there also comes rewards in the way of precious cuddles, smiles, longer sleeps, feeling organised one day, focussed and motivated the next. You have days where your kids are no longer in their old, annoying developmental stage that they perhaps were last week. You have days where you get to do more for yourself than you did yesterday. Remember to search for these times and be grateful for them. It’s not all bad.
The reality of life: Ups and downs, learning and receiving, good and bad, but all the while there is always personal growth. Your kids’ lives are not worth-less because they don’t have dad around. They are getting the experience that they need on their journeys that are going to be full of ups and downs too. They are getting the relationship that they are getting from their dad, regardless of whether he is around or not. That is their experience of their other parent. You have learnt a lot about relationships. What you will do next time, what you wouldn’t do. You have had the experience of this other person who has been in your life and shared a part of him and has now moved on. As a result of this, you will also move on and have new experiences that will add to your journey through life. Every event contributes to the next. They link to form your entire journey through life and this event of being a single mother is just one event of many in your life’s journey. When you look back on your life in 50 years time and are on your deathbed, you will see this time of your life as just another memory in the chain of events that lead to you being where you are. These moments will pass and as they pass they will lead a trail of memories, experience and learning for both you and your children.
The reality of self-worth: Perhaps you had your self-worth attached to that ideal of the perfect family. That is, only when I can have this perfect family in my life can my life be successful. Perhaps you had your self-worth attached to the way your children were going to be parented – two parents, plenty of time for each child, you being calm and organised and being able to juggle everything successfully in order to be the ‘good mum’. What you need to realise that all of these factors listed here are your beliefs about how life ‘should’ be and sometimes we can’t always get life to go to plan. This doesn’t make you a ‘bad’ mum, nor does it make you incompetent, useless or your life any less (nor your child’s life). Your worth comes from your existence and the learning and contributions that come from your existence. Your children are learning from you what it takes to be a single parent. They are learning from you how to handle your everyday challenges, just like they would if you were not single. They are observing how to ‘do’ life from you because that is how children learn. You don’t need to be in a ‘couple’ relationship in order to give them the learning they need. They will get it off you anyway. They are always getting what they need in order to develop because the reality is that whatever is playing out in theirs or your life is the reality of what is playing out and we only ever have right now to learn off. You can’t change the past so they will get what they need to learn off the situation and it will be valuable to their development, because it is here now and they are already doing it.
Your worth as a mum or as a person has not changed just because you are now a single mum. You are simply on a different path to what you expected. Not worse, not better, just different. Whether you are in a couple or single you are always getting something out of life that contributes to your journey, always! Each experience provides us with different teachings that we then carry through our lives and contribute to others. It all links in perfectly. Why is it happening perfectly? Because it’s happening, and you cannot change the reality of the now, only how you think about it. Your worth is always 100% because you are alive and giving a part of yourself to the world. So are your children.
- Seek out books or resources that help you to teach your children an accurate understanding of the break up so that they won’t attach their self-worth to the changed situation.
- Set up a support network for yourself
- Brainstorm all of the different ways that you can make things easier – routines, schedules, outsourcing tasks, organising things, minimising unnecessary tasks.
- Seek out other single mums who seem to be happy and coping well with this new change and find out what they’re doing that you can learn from.
Example Five – I’m home all day with my children every day.
Here are the thoughts that may be identified in step one – thoughts:
“Every day is always the same. Wake up at 5am because that’s when my eldest wakes up and I can’t get her to go back to sleep. Then I get breakfast, do the dishes, clean up the house, play the same boring games with the kids, change nappies, deal with fighting and tantrums, prepare lunch, clean up again, cook dinner, watch Oprah, do the shopping. It’s just the same thing, day in and day out. I’m bored, lonely and totally unstimulated. This is so different to my old life before kids and I just don’t know how long I can handle this for.”
The reality of the situation: This situation describes where I was at when my children were young and I would continually resent all of the work that I had to do (and how early I needed to start doing it). But the reality is that it is what it is. Being a stay at home mum requires you to do lots of little things around the home and sometimes they can get monotonous. The reality is that these things need to be done and because of decisions that were made in the past you and your partner decided that you were going to be the one to stay home and be the major carer for your children. You made this decision in the past and this current reality is a result of that decision. You may wish to explore some other options in later steps to change this decision, but right now you must first accept the reality of the situation by accepting that this current reality is a result of everything unfolding in the past. You are the home carer that looks after the kids and does most of the housework and part of that role is dealing with all of those things that you are talking about. That’s just part of the role.
The reality of being a parent: It is normal for a mum, during the early stages of their child’s life, to have to manage on small amounts of sleep and deal with developmental challenges. This is not right or wrong. This is reality. Your children are simply developing and learning how to exist in the world and you are teaching them how to do this on a daily basis. Yes, continually dealing with this behaviour is exhausting at times, but this is just one aspect of the whole parenting experience. If you focus on just this part of it, you will be frustrated as you will start to believe that all you are doing all day is dealing with this behaviour. However if you start consciously noting all of the good times too (the morning cuddles, what is going your way, those little moments you sneak in just for yourself, etc) then you widen back to see the bigger picture, rather than just being sucked into those moments meaning that this is it for you. The reality of being a parent, especially a stay at home one, is that there are repetitive tasks that need to be done, however that is not all you do. Mix it up a little by adding other things into your life and also consciously note all of the other things that you do that aren’t mundane. The reality is that this is different to your life before children. Not better, or worse, just different. You need to let go of the way it used to be and accept the way that it is now and work out what you need to do to improve right now. In step 3 – aim, you would look at ways that you can add some stimulation into it. It’s too easy to get sucked into the monotony of being a parent and all those repetitive tasks that you need to do, but that is not the be all and end all of your life. There are other things going on in your life too, you just need to acknowledge them and expand your mindset to look at the bigger picture because if your attention is stuck in what you don’t want to do, you will never notice the other things that you do enjoy about being a stay at home mum. If you don’t have a lot that you do enjoy, then start putting things into your life that you do enjoy.
The reality of life: You are having an experience in life right now. You are experiencing motherhood and all that it entails. Sometimes the experiences we have on our journeys are exciting and sometimes they are not. Why is it that we feel like we need to be stimulated every moment of our lives? Who taught you that value only came from liking what you do? Is this a time in your life to relish not having to be anywhere and be striving and challenging yourself in the ways that you used to? Being a stay at home mum can be a time for you to stop and reflect on what you want for your life, what you have been doing, redesign who you are and enjoy the times with your kids where you are not in the demand of other people dictating what you need to do (your boss for example).
This period of your life is just that, a period in your life. It is not the only part of your life. Force yourself to look at this situation in the context of the other things going on in your life too. You may be also experiencing a happy marriage, a supportive husband, lots of friends, a thriving business, a healthy body, financial comfort, a nice house to live in, or many other things that is going well in your life. Instead of being stuck in the mindset of being bored, lonely and unstimulated, send your attention out looking for what you are grateful for in your life. Look for the hidden good in this situation. What do you like about being a stay at home mum? Where there is bad, there is also good, but if you habitually look for only the bad, then you will be consumed by that bad and think that this is all there is in your life. However if you deliberately start looking for the good parts too, all of a sudden you have widened back your perspective and are seeing the whole picture. There are always benefits in any situation and when you start looking at what you or your child are learning and what this situation is giving you and your child then you will stop seeing it as bad and uneventful.
The reality of self-worth: Ultimately you are feeling this way because you believe to some degree, that being a stay at home mum and doing everything that is required, makes your life worth-less – that it devalues your quality of life in some way. While repetitive and monotonous tasks can be tedious, you must expand your mind to look at what it is giving your life too. You are receiving the experience of being a mum to another human being. You are getting unconditional love from your child. You can learn how to live simply from your child. Watch them and see how they live in the now and learn from that. They are not weighed down with baggage and ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’ in their life. It’s all about the now. We can learn volumes from that. Look at what you are contributing to the world by being a mum. You are moulding a future adult right now. You are creating our future generation. Each tantrum they have is you teaching them how to behave appropriately in the world.
Personally, you are learning new things too that will add value to your life. When you become a parent you often begin looking at the world a little bit differently. You may be more compassionate to other mums raising their children, you may be more tolerant of kids because you understand what they are going through. You are learning organisational skills (even if you are not very good at being organised, that is part of you learning how to be organised). You are learning a lot about yourself. Especially if you do postnatal depression, you are learning in this program so much about how you think, how you can change and what your true value is. Without this experience of PND, you wouldn’t be getting this valuable learning for your life.
Everything that you are learning and experiencing right now is going to be added to your journey through life and influence and affect how you contribute to those around you. It ripples out like a drop in the ocean and affects everyone around you, influencing their lives and contributing to how their lives unfold. You are valuable as a stay at home mum and there are many reasons why you are valuable. Look for what you are learning that is contributing to your life. Look for how you are contributing to the lives of your kids, your family, your partner, your friends, strangers etc and look for how different life would be, not better or worse, just different if you were not giving a part of yourself to it. Households would fall apart, you children wouldn’t get a mother, or the love you give them, they wouldn’t learn what you have to teach them, your husband wouldn’t have someone by his side, washing wouldn’t get done, healthy meals wouldn’t be healing bodies and keeping them growing and strong, your house would be unhygienic and make your family sick, bills wouldn’t get paid and you would have no electricity and gas.
Understand that you are playing an important role in the functioning of your family and this is teaching you some valuable lessons about life that is contributing to your life, but is also contributing to how your children’s lives unfold and other people in your life.
You are always 100% worthy because of your existence and what you give to the world, regardless of what you are doing and how you are doing it!
Potential solutions: Even though you can change your perspective on the situation you still might want to do something about not being stimulated, being alone and being bored. Here are a few suggestions:
- Set up a support network so that you can do more things for yourself that you find enjoyable.
- Take up a part-time study course in something that you’ve always wanted to learn.
- Create a schedule that fits little things into it that are just for you.
- During the day do things that remind you that there is more to you than being a housewife and mum, like playing your music, dressing up in nice clothes for the day instead of your daggy ones, put some make up on, style your hair, paint your fingernails, go to the shops (even if it is with the kids), put the kids in the pram and go for a walk somewhere with nice scenery, catch up with friends that also have kids.
- Perhaps you need to look at childcare options or occasional care to give you more of a break.
- Organise a babysitter to spend some time with just you and your husband.
In all of these examples, there is so many more ways that you could look at these situations and apply the reality thinking model that will help you to change the way you feel about the situation. Some of these examples will resonate with you and some will not and it is difficult to be able to use examples that will apply to everyone’s situation. This is why the Q&A Forum was created – to give you the support you may need to apply this process to your life. If you have read this week’s lesson and still don’t know how to apply the reality thinking model to your situation, why not head on over there and write me your questions. This will not only help you to get an understanding of how to shift and expand your mindset from being consumed by the problem to having a healthy realistic view, but it will also help others who also may be struggling with a situation similar to yours.
Remember that this step is only the second step on the Mind TRACK to Happiness process. You can be aligned with the reality of the situation, parenting, life and self-worth, but this process doesn’t just end there. While you do need to accept reality, you aren’t stuck with it forever. The next 3 steps are about setting goals and changing this current situation to help you to be more solution focussed about it.
The whole point of the reality thinking model and the reality step in the Mind TRACK to Happiness process is to shift your attention away from just thinking about the problem, what you don’t like and how it is effecting your life and to expand your attention towards looking at the whole picture.
This experience is just part of the whole and there are so many aspects to it that we can look at. Practice challenging and questioning how you are looking at a situation and force yourself to begin seeing the hidden good in the bad, what you are grateful for, what you are receiving from the experience and how this experience is of value to your life because every experience is linked together to form your life, your journey and your unique story.
How you tell that story is up to you. Because it all depends on how you look at it.