Last week I asked on my Facebook page, “What is the greatest lesson you have learned from being a mom?”
I could relate to all the responses. Here were some of the answers:
“If you don’t expect perfection from your children, don’t expect it from yourself.”
“My children are a reflection of who I am. So I try to be a little better everyday.”
“That I can still learn, even from my children!”
“I thought I was a patient and calm person. Only as a mom I discovered am soooo far from it and have to do some serious work on finding real patience and inner calm.”
“To have a spirit of service each day when caring for my child and running our home. When I am not in this space, my child tells me with his behavior and things don’t run so smoothly!”
While I have learned so, so many things as a mom – some theoretical like the lessons described above and other things totally practical such as how to manage a household – I believe one of the most influential lessons I have learned is this:
My outer life is a reflection of my inner life.
Basically my thoughts and my view on my situation make all the difference for how I feel, how I act, and what I decide to do with my time. When I see joy, I create more joy. When I see frustration or disappointment, I find more reasons to dwell in those feelings. It is up to me whether I choose to focus on the best or the worst in my daily life… and that perspective will show itself in how my day, and therefore life, unfolds.
What does this mean specifically? Here is an example:
I look around the house at 4pm and see toys scattered around the lounge, crumbs and bits of food under the table, a sink and dishwasher full of dishes and pots, four loads of laundry in various stages (besides being in the drawer), and kids hungry for a dinner that has yet to be prepared.
When I see chaos around me and feel unnerved, everything looks worse.
When I view a messy house as the result of a day of fun and learning, I feel content.
Either way the physical reality the same. But with a negative set of thoughts my daily work feels like torture and I trudge through it… grumbling to myself about how there is no food in the house and rushing about trying to get things cleaned up. And on the other hand, with a positive mindset I can see the gifts in my situation and maybe even have a little fun. I might put on some upbeat music and challenge myself to make a quick tasty dinner with the few ingredients we have, while handing the kids the broom and setting the timer to see how quickly they can get the mess cleaned up.
Basically when my “inner life” (the inner dialogue I have with myself) tells me I am doing a bad job – or that I have so much meaningless work to do every day (I admit that the neverending cleaning, cooking, and laundry can feel pretty constricting at times) – I seem to have one battle after another. I feel grumpy, I give in to junk food, I yell at my kids. I’m just plain frustrated and my situation gets worse.
However when my “inner life” is filled with positive messages about who I am and what I am offering to the world, I thrive. I get that cleaning done, I put the laundry away, I play with my kids and purposefully give them opportunities to learn and grow, and I accept that I need to make compromises and ask for help sometimes as well. Life is not perfect by any means, but my perspective on it all makes the biggest difference.
I think this is a pretty standard life lesson, but it has been pretty all-encompassing for me as a stay-at-home-mom. Why? Because I am the only adult in my world on most days. I am in charge of my house and often go most of the day without being with other grown ups, at least not while having any quality chit chat time. I can decide to take ownership of my own emotions and get on track with my duties, or not.
My own personal perspective is the loudest and most constant message I hear every day. No one else is there to hold me accountable, to cheer me up, to say I am doing a good job or that it will be okay, or to help. It is up to me.
How can I use this lesson on perspective to become a better mom? I can figure out how to do my best to be in a positive mindset as often as I can, and be mindful of what triggers negative attitudes so I can get myself back on track.
To me, I am learning this means:
- Reciting an inspirational verse/prayer when I wake up in the morning
- Taking deep breaths when I am feeling frustrated and reminding myself, “This too will pass”
- Remembering my kids are *kids* and I should not expect them to have the same priorities, or skill set that I do; they are learning and their “work” is “play”
- Deciding to not be so hard on myself and taking a break when I need it… even if that takes the form of eating cereal for dinner one night or leaving the painting mess to take care of on another day
- Seeing life as a journey, not a destination
- Forcing myself to get out of the house or go outside when I am feeling trapped in mundane tasks
- Taking time to be thankful at the end of the day, and reflecting on how I am growing from my experiences
When I focus on keeping my “inner life” joyful, my outer life seems to miraculously match. Even when the kids fight. And the dust bunnies get bigger. Or a dinner plate gets dropped face down on the floor (yep, that happened tonight). I can take it all in stride – for the most part – a lot better when I am mentally creating space for beauty to enter my world, and not focusing on the darkness.
Everyone will have a different way to keep their inner life positive, and a different opinion on what it means to have a positive outer life for that matter. But this is just what it means to me right now, to me, at this point in my journey.
Do you find your outer life is a reflection of your inner life? Or what is the greatest lesson you have learned from motherhood? Please share in the comments.