Musings of a crunchy, domestic goddess

Just another mama musing about her kids, Attachment Parenting, activism, photography, and life in general

the truth will set you free April 25, 2007

In the spirit of putting more of myself “out there,” here it is, as promised – my completely honest post.

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It recently occurred to me that because I tend to focus on positive things on my blog, that I may give the impression that I have this parenting thing all figured out. And while I do feel like I excel at baby rearing, I find myself struggling with this toddler/preschooler rearing.

It all started when Ava decided to grow up, exert her independence and have a mind of her own/free will. How dare she, right? ;) Of course, a good deal of her gaining her independence seems to have coincided with me being pregnant with Julian and now, of course, being a mother of two. Just when I thought I had it all figured out and parenting was a piece of cake, I threw a pregnancy and new baby in to the mix. I always say I like a good challenge and boy oh boy, is that what I got.

Hmmm. I am just beating around the bush now. Gosh, delving into all of this honesty stuff is seriously harder than I thought. OK, here goes…

Over the past few months I have been losing my patience with Ava more and more. I have found myself doing things that I never wanted to do in my parenting journey – like yelling, talking down to her and (gulp. here goes the brutal honesty) physically wrapping both of my arms around her and squeezing her a little too tightly. The last time I squeezed her, she got scared, started crying and said, “Don’t do that, mommy.” And I about died with guilt and shame, sadness and remorse. :(

What had I become? Who was this woman who has always had the patience of a saint when it came to her children suddenly causing one of them to be afraid of her?

I had a talk with Ava after that and told her that I was sorry and explained that I had been upset and frustrated and I shouldn’t have reacted that way.

Soon after that that I IM’d my husband Jody at work to tell him what happened and to tell him that I needed to do something to help myself and keep me from losing it like that again. I was scared of what I had done and knew that I needed to do something to prevent it from turning into a habit.

Thankfully, Jody was very supportive of me and never made me feel shameful for what I had done. Believe me, I felt bad enough all on my own. He was relieved that I told him what happened and said it was good that I could realize that I had a problem and want to do something about it.

Since I had had previous success with hypnosis (both Hypnobirthing and hypnotherapy while pregnant with Julian) in the past, I decided to email my friend and certified hypnotherapist to tell her what was going on with me and see if I could make an appointment. She responded and said that hypnosis could definitely help with my situation and we scheduled a time for me to meet with her.

The first part of my session was just like any therapy appointment. We talked a lot about what was going on in my life, how things are going with two kids, and more specifically about what was going on with me and my reactions to Ava. It was hard to admit that I’d scared her like I did, but it also felt somewhat freeing to get it off my chest. Of course I started crying when I told her about how Ava reacted and she could sense my guilt and sorrow at what I’d done. She immediately reassured me that while a lot of parents don’t talk about it, what I was going through was very normal. She spoke from personal experience about how hard it is to raise two young children and told me of her past struggles as well. I told her that while I figured it was normal, it was not a path I wanted to continue down. I told her I feel that I’ve inherited some bad traits – like feeling like I have to be in control and having a short fuse – and I want to do whatever I can to break the cycle. She agreed that wanting to change is good and said that there are things I can do to help me with my temper and keep me from losing my cool.

So we talked about some practical things I could put into effect to help myself.
1) Using Rescue Remedy – I used it a lot while I was pregnant but had forgotten about it since then.
2) If I feel like I’m getting close to the breaking point, put myself in “time out” for a minute or two, long enough so that I can calm down and act rationally. It’s something that Ava will understand and it will give me a break to regroup.
3) Implement a quiet time for 20-30 minutes each day with Ava and buy her a special timer. She gave up her naps before Julian was born, but I feel still needs some down time each day which she currently isn’t getting.
4) If everyone (me and the kids) seems to be having a bad day, change up the scenery. Take the kids for a walk, or go to the park or for a drive or something.
5) Call someone if I’m having a bad day.

The rest of the session was spent with the actual hypnosis, which lead to my identifying a “warning sign,” if you will, that I’m about to lose my cool, and coming up with a way to calm myself and act calmly. It was a long session, though it didn’t feel long at all to me while I was in hypnosis (funny how that works), and I came out of it feeling refreshed and thankful that I decided to give hypnosis a try.

So now I’m in the process of putting all of these things into action. I’ve already done a few of the practical things and they are helping me a lot. I also realized today that we (me and the kids) really do need to get out more during the week. We spend way too much time cooped up in our house. Now that the weather is being nicer and Julian isn’t a newborn, I feel more comfortable going out and doing more.

And the hypnosis seems to be working too. I feel much more empowered than I did before. I know this is something that I can control and fix if I continue to work on it and that is my plan. :)

So, there ya have it – my brutally honest post. There will likely be more in the future of the crunchy domestic goddess.

And are you up to the challenge of writing a raw, honest post too? Let me know if you do and I will link them all in a future post. Then we can all marvel at our honesty (something we need more of in this world) together. :)

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On a related topic, I recently learned about this great website called Enjoy Parenting. Scott Noelle, a parenting coach for Attachment Parenting-minded parents, sends a free (short) daily inspirational e-mail, called the Daily Groove, out to subscribers. I signed up for it and have been enjoying Scott’s emails and finding that I can apply so much of what he writes about to my parenting journey.

Here are a few Daily Grooves from the archive that I thought were particularly noteworthy and applicable to what I’ve been struggling with lately:

Transforming Anger, Part 1
by Scott Noelle, posted on 2006-07-27
Amongst peace-loving folks, anger gets a bad rap. This is because anger is usually present when violence is committed.

But anger is a form of energy that can be applied constructively, too. That was Nature’s intent.

Anger arises naturally whenever you perceive a loss of personal freedom or power. It’s there to energize you on your way back to your natural state of empowerment.

If you get angry about some behavior of your child, and then you scold, punish, or yell at him or her, you’re simply misdirecting the anger energy.

Just remember: the anger is there to uplift you, not to put down your child (or yourself). It’s there to help you break free from disempowering thoughts and reconnect with your Authentic Power.

Transforming Anger, Part 2
by Scott Noelle, posted on 2006-07-28
(Continued from Part 1)

The transformation of anger begins with acceptance. When you resist anger, it persists, escalates into rage, or descends into depression.

Accepting anger doesn’t mean tolerating violence. The compulsion to express anger violently is a byproduct of our “dominator” culture in which force is confused with Authentic Power.

That compulsion can be greatly reduced if you dis-identify with your anger, which you can do by observing or “witnessing” it.

Take a deep breath and locate the sensation of anger in your body. Use your intuition to sense its subtle qualities. Can you feel its “edges”? What is its “shape,” “color,” “temperature,” “weight,” etc.?

Put aside all thoughts of right and wrong for now. Just observe the physical sensation and be present with it.

You are not the anger. You are the Witness, observing the anger. Let yourself be curious and eager to discover what anger can reveal. It wants you to remember Who You Really Are.

Transforming Anger, Part 3
by Scott Noelle, posted on 2006-07-31

(Continued from Part 2)

Once you make peace with your anger, you can harness it’s energy and use it creatively.

Remember, anger always arises from a perception of disempowerment. This must be a misperception because Who You Really Are is truly powerful!

So, to reconnect with your Authentic Power, the trick is to direct the anger at the misperception. Let yourself get really pissed off that this LIE has found its way into your mind! It’s a rude, obnoxious, uninvited guest!

Most important: Shift your thoughts as quickly as you can from being angry at the misperception to being determined to perceive the higher Truth. For example:

“Dammit! I’m sick and tired of believing that a child’s behavior can shut down my heart! My heart and the Infinite Love that fills it are so HUGE than nothing can stop them! Nothing but my belief, that is, but I’m NOT BUYING IT anymore! I AM powerful!! I CAN choose what I focus on!! And I AM DETERMINED to choose thoughts that open my heart!!!”

At this point in your thought process, you can really have some FUN with your aligned anger energy! For example:

“This is all bullsh*t anyway, because I know deep down that my kid is doing the best s/he can with what s/he’s got, and the real reason I’m mad is ‘cuz I’m imagining how my parents would react to that behavior… Like it’s any of their freakin’ business!! I don’t give a RIP what my parents, or the neighbors, or ‘society’ thinks about my choices! I AM FREE TO BE THE KIND OF PARENT I WANT TO BE!!!

Of course your thought process will vary depending on the situation. The overall strategy is to transform your anger into a passionate determination to connect with your Inner Power and Freedom.

Authentic empowerment feels WAY better than the shallow satisfaction of forced compliance. And once your heart is open again, all sorts of creative solutions will come flooding in!

Detoxifying Parental Guilt
by Scott Noelle, posted on 2007-03-16

Are you plagued by guilt whenever you fall short of your parenting ideals? Such guilt may seem a natural response, but it’s not… It’s cultural.

Our culture conditions people to believe that their worth depends on their behavior, so that when your behavior is “wrong” you doubt your self-worth, i.e., you feel guilty.

But if you knew absolutely that you are worthy of love and respect — unconditionally — you’d never feel guilty. You’d simply feel “off” whenever your behavior was out of alignment with your values.

That “off” feeling would be a welcome sign that you need to adjust your course. And with your self-worth beyond dispute, you’d be confident in your ability to get back on track.

So next time you feel parental guilt, say to yourself, “This has nothing to do with my inherent worth — that’s a given. I made a mistake, but I can learn from it. I got a little lost, but I’m finding my way.”

Radical Honesty
by Scott Noelle, posted on 2007-04-25

Hiding the truth (from yourself and/or others) is a constant energy drain. To free yourself from the burden of secrets and lies, you must cultivate the skill of radical honesty: willingness to reveal any truth, no matter how “unacceptable” it is. (See recommended book and website, below.)

Withholding truth is such an integral part of our culture that you probably don’t notice when you’re doing it. So, for today, pay close attention to your thoughts and expressions, and continually ask yourself, “Am I being as honest as I could be about that? Is there a deeper truth?”

Examples of “acceptable” dishonesty include saying you’re “fine” when you’re not, and not saying how you feel about the way your friend treats her child.

When you spot a white lie or withheld truth, notice how it feels in your body — the energy and effort required to distort or ignore your true feelings.

Then imagine being radically honest — telling it exactly like it is. If you could be that honest and keep your heart open, would you?

• Recommended book: Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton

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24 Responses to “the truth will set you free”

  1. michelle Says:

    thanks for the honesty, amy. you’re definately NOT the only parent that feels that way sometimes! i remember Ellia’s first year being full of frustration at Kaeden… how could he go from being my sweet little guy to pushing my buttons all the time?!

    giving yourself a time out is very helpful for sure, as is changing the scenery. maybe you can also give ava 30 mins a day of uninterrupted momma time (like when daddy is home to take care of julian).. i know that is something that Kaeden *really* missed when Ellia was born.. he never got me all to himself anymore. giving him focused attention did help with his behaviour throughout the day.

    ps. it’s funny that you said that Ellia looked very lady like eating her cupcake.. 1 second later, she had her legs up in the air, showing everybody her Hello Kitty underpants LOL

  2. cturpen Says:

    Awesome post. I realize that I have a dog and not a child, but I totally understand what you’re going through. Roland is technically an “adolescent” in dog years, and he’s definitely gotten way more defiant, which really tests my patience. Sometimes I have even wondered why I got a dog at all, if this is what it’s going to be like for the next 10 years. It’s scary and frustrating. And by the way, my honest post wasn’t nearly as open and free as yours, so kudos to you.

  3. Isil Says:

    Hi Amy,
    You have always been so inspirational to me. You know what they say, realizing the problem is almost solving the problem. I’m sure, soon, you’ll again become the mother you wanted to be.. Hugs!

  4. Steph (Sydney's mom) Says:

    I can tell you that I have been in your exact situation many, many times. I have less patience than I would like and when you couple that with a strong-willed preschooler…well, it’s not a good situation. I was never going to spank, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve done it out of anger…and felt like complete crap afterwards. Having 2 kids is HARD. I think more people should talk about things like this…then we’d realize that most of us are in the same boat. I’m lucky that I have a good friend IRL that we share this kind of stuff with and work out solutions for each other.

    It sounds like you have a great plan! I’m glad the hypnotherapy was helpful. I think I need to make an appt. :)

    Another site that has helped me immensely is this site: http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/mb/index.php?board=19.0

    I don’t know your religious affiliation, but for me this forum is more about how to find gentle ways of communicating with Sydney rather than resorting to spanking and yelling, and it’s full of attachment parenting mamas. I don’t even really pay attention to the religion part! I often go to this forum in the evenings and some of the posts are so great – I feel much less alone in dealing with my child and I’ve gotten some great tips.

    Hugs to you! Thanks for sharing.

  5. leighsteele Says:

    Way to go, Amy, with your post. I am so proud of you.
    By recognizing your anger (which we ALL have and learn to deal with, hopefully) and taking steps, you are being a role model to your children, teaching them to seek out appropriate tools and support. They see this and feel this even at their tender age. I, too, have my moments and am learning slowly how to copy and redirect my energy. It ain’t easy!
    You are such a sweet, gentle spirit and the roughness and pace of this world can sometimes harden it. Keep working, keep lovin’ as you are and you will cruise through this beautiful, crazy motherhood thing. And I’ll be learning right along side of you.
    Now…I’m just trying to figure out what honest topic I’ll be writing about! There are so many “dark” areas for me to delve into – I don’t know where to start. But thank you for inspiring me and encouraging me (and others).
    My love,
    XOXO

  6. Stacy Says:

    Great job on your completely honest post. I have been there, done that, and felt guilty, too. I think most mothers have gotten to the point where they lose their patience, even briefly, and see a glimpse of what could have happened. They stand at the edge of the abyss and all they see is the darkness below. No one wants to go there.

    You are being very proactive in dealing with your anger/temper. Good for you! The hypnotherapist sounds very interesting…I hope it works for you. Just the fact that you are more cognizant of what you are feeling will be the biggest help in finding different ways to express your frustration.

  7. Michelle Says:

    Like everyone else said, I think all mothers reach that point at least occasionally. One thing that always stops me in my tracks is that, if I lose my temper and yell at Gabe, he yells right back at me : (

    A change of scenery definitely helps, and honestly, we spend a good portion of our day out of the house, which does wonders for Gabe’s behavior. He’s a VERY high-energy kid, and being cooped up in the house all day inevitably results in him getting antsy and cranky. I take them to the gym with me (they go in the childcare while I work out), we go to storytime at the library, we’re at the park constantly, and once in a while, we’ll go to a local coffee shop for snack – I bring drinks for them, and just buy a bagel and a muffin for the three of us to share, so it’s a very low-cost outing, but just another excuse to get out of the house. Heck, even going out to buy groceries is a good outing!

    Anyway, bravo to you for being honest about this, recognizing it, and taking positive steps to change it! I will definitely be interested to read more about this, as I know my short temper could use some ‘redirection’ at times….

  8. [...] pal Amy over at CrunchyDomesticGoddess challenged the blogosphere to spend a bit more time “putting ourselves out there” by [...]

  9. amamasblog Says:

    If nothing else, you are not alone in losing your temper with your children. There have been so many days, (I can’t even count) where I DO have to give myself a time-out- not only with Ryan, but with Cole as well. HE is SO high needs, and cries at the drop of a hat, sometimes I feel like I can’t take it another second, so I “escape” for a few minutes outside, or go in the bathroom, shut the door, and turn on the water for a few minutes, just so I don’t hear any kids.

    It is amazing after just a few minutes, how much better I feel and how that mini-break can renew me. It calms me down, and helps me have a few moments of peaceful time, where I can gather my thoughts, and think rational away from the stress of the situation, and not react in the moment. When I go back to the children, I usually feel a lot better. Also changing the scenery helps us a lot as well. We might just go for a 15 mintue walk, but even that helps.

    That isn’t to say, I haven’t lost my temper, and yelled, and that scares Ryan too, so I know how that feels to have your darling child look at you and tell you, you are scaring them-

    I am glad you found something that is working for you, and if you ever need someone to call for those bad days / moments, know I am available. I have often wished there was someone I could call when I am having one of those days.

    Thanks for your post- it is inspiring.

  10. Anna Says:

    Just wanted to say thank you–it is so good to know I am not the only one who has felt so out-of-control with a young preschooler and another baby, even when I know it isn’t right.

    Thanks so much for the honesty and the solidarity!
    Anna

  11. I’ve struggled with this too, and been to see Susan after spanking out of anger. I too know that it being normal doesn’t make it any better…but it does happen. As someone else said, having 2 kids is HARD. And we moms take on way more than our fair share of that difficulty. Be kind to yourself :) (and isn’t Susan a miracle worker!? :))

  12. [...] April 27, 2007 @ 11:02 am } · { Frugal Living, Marriage, Misc } I’m taking Amy’s Challenge to put myself out there a bit and write honestly about something that I would ordinarily censor [...]

  13. Kristen/kayelel Says:

    Amy, You brought me out of lurkdom again…
    You are certainly not alone. The first time I completely lost it with Kate, I was HORRIFIED with myself because it was everything I was NOT going to be in a parent. I was also embarressed and wanted to hide it, but I think it is so important to talk about it for both yourself and for other parents to know that they are not alone either.

    One of the resources that has helped me immensely is the book “Parenting from the Inside Out” by Daniel Siegel. They talk a lot about what they call “the low road.” It really helped me to identify what triggers my anger. At times the book gets a little too “therapy” for me, but it is still worth reading. I’m still not the perfect parent, but I’m sooo much better.

  14. [...] you all so very much for your honesty, candor and support regarding my last post. I greatly admire each of you for sharing your own personal struggles with me, as well as the [...]

  15. Ninotchka Says:

    If it weren’t for my sisters and sister-friends, I would feel like the most horrible mother ever. Talking it out is SO important. I greatly dislike when people act like they never yell at their kids or get impatient with them or whatever. Due to experience and experience only, I’ve gotten really good at asking for what I need from my kids. They’ve gotten good at giving me space when I feel like I’m going to lose it. This area of my parenting life has gotten sooooo much better, but of course, it took THREE kids and 10+ years of miserable failures to get to where I am and where I am is not anywhere near perfect. I realize now that perfect doesn’t exist. Most of us are doing the best we can. I think you’re an awesome, thoughtful Mom and I appreciate your honesty and willingness to share!

  16. Camille Says:

    Hi Amy :)
    I’ve felt like that many times and I’ve yelled many times. It’s not easy raising kids and me like you spend too much time indoors. It’s hard getting out when you throw up all day being pregnant BLEH!! HOping it eases up soon with the nice weather we are having.
    I need to figure out how to lighten up with my kids especially with #4 coming (am I crazy! ??)

    I think time outs for parents are good!! I need to try that one out!!

  17. mb Says:

    my love,

    thank you from the bottom of my heart for that honest post. i can tell you, you are not alone. so many times i have said things or spoken in ways and even grabbed and repositioned in ways i never thought i was capable of. there was a time when sula was turning 1 and mia was turning 3…that i thought i wAS going crazy. i was a wreck and it seemed i could not get it ‘right’ and so i yelled and then felt guilt and then yelled and then cried and then felt guilt some more and it was a snowball. it seemed i lost all my insights and hopes and patience and all i could do was scream or cry or talk in ways i did not recognize. and i am light years ahead of the semi-abusive (i can not yet bring myself to call it abusive…)home i grew up in as a child. we are all growing and learning and i think the mixture of honesty with pure love that we have will bring us right through to the light.

    being a mother of 2 is not easy. but remember you are great at it. you are conscious. you are open. you breathe.

    my mamahood/sisterhoos support is with you.

    bless
    marybeth

  18. Maggie Says:

    ah Amy I think we have all been there. I know how hard it is to be honest…I opened up on one of my threads on the crunchy board of yada and it was SSSSOOOOO hard. I too never wanted to do anything physically harmful tomy kids and have spanked Ewan a few times…it makes me ill and I hate the look in his eyes when I do it. At the same time I have given myself permission to accept that it was done and not to continue to beat myself up over it forever. Now I try to move on and recognize how not to become like that again.

    Good for you for taking the steps needed to better parent your kids. I think the biggest problem is that most parents don’t choose to find ways to better parent their kids.

    Two kids is sooo very different from one…it is really hard and really challenging. It is one thing to share your person with one child but to continue to divide it becomes harder and harder and there is less left for yourself.

    Hugs!!!

  19. Maggie Says:

    by the way this post made me cry…your post as well as the responses…we are not alone!

  20. Elizabeth Says:

    Amy, I’m so honored that it was my post about what i learned at blogher that inspired you to write this post. It’s really interesting that you were able to use hypnosis to learn how to control your temper; i wouldn’t have thought of that. And I think I need to buy some Rescue Remedy TODAY. Thanks again, and BIG HUGS.

  21. Rachel Says:

    Found your post by seaching blogs for parental anger writings, because it’s an ongoing struggle for me. I’m completely devoted to gentle discipline, but I also have anger management issues stemming from a messed up childhood. Because my struggle is my focus on self improvement on a daily basis, I’m pretty upfront about it with almost anyone, and I get one of two reactions, relief from other moms that I’m honest, because they all have their moments, or dismissal, from moms who’d never admit that parenting has been anything other than easy, peachy for them. I think being open about this difficult part of parenting helps mothers support mothers, because being isolated with the guilt does not help us to not freak out again, it just fuels the bad feelings and adds to the daily stress and makes things worse.

    Hypnosis huh never thought of that one. I’ll have to look into it.

    Great post, thanks for sharing.

  22. [...] And then there was my own post – The truth will set you free [...]

  23. [...] And then there was my own post – The truth will set you free [...]

  24. My parents were both very angry with little patience and short tempers. At times they hit us. I know that they loved us very much and as an adult, I can totally relate to being so wound up that I could easily lose it like they did. I never want to treat my children like that though and HONESTLY, that is a large part of why I don’t want to have kids. I am afraid I couldn’t be the parent I would want to be.


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