We all walk through life with our own struggles; we are all fighting battles that can both be seen and unseen. So how do some of us seem to breeze through motherhood so calm, cool and collected?
I was recently mom-shamed on the same day that we received a learning difference diagnosis for our son. I was already overwhelmed and fearful of the implications of such a label for him, so I was feeling completely out of sorts. Typically, if someone might say something to me (and it has happened), I would have been annoyed, even angry, but I would have moved on, prayed for them, and not let it consume my thoughts for the next week. But this time, I replayed it in my mind and conversations over and over as I mistakenly assumed that it would help take the sting away from my heart. It seemed like I was stuck in an unhealthy cycle of self-pity.
Where were my resilience skills that I so often think and write about for children? What was happening to me? I always strive to be an example for my children; if I can’t model resilience and good mental health, they can’t be expected to do it as well. (Just like the principle of yelling to get your kids to stop screaming. You have to show them how to behave as they learn more from your actions than words.) So, I decided to dig deep into my previous research and positive psychology books (thanks, graduate school) to create a list for mothers out there who might be going through the same experience or season in life.
Good news! You CAN build resilience anytime, even later in life. Yes! You can learn the skills, and I’ve drawn from a variety of the sources below to create my mom-friendly resiliency list.
Be Kind to Yourself (Self Awareness and Self Compassion)
- I assume you’ve been told this before – that as mothers we are all too hard on ourselves. Easier said than done, right? I love the idea of writing yourself a letter as you would a friend to offer words of encouragement. I’ve done this before and enjoyed the exercise. Oh, and know thy self. Do the hard work of learning about how your experiences have shaped you (not to mention your how it’s impacted your parenting). Read Parenting from the Inside Out and figure out your baggage. (I just wish it was this simple.)
Be Kind to Others (Connection and Forgiveness)
- Make and keep friends. Learn how to reach out. We teach our children to play with the lonely kid on the playground, but do we do that ourselves. (Or how many times have we been that lonely kid?) Also, holding onto anger and pain is hurting you, girl. Shake it off.
Practice the Growth Mindset (Gratitude and Optimism)
- First, be thankful for what you have. I try to write a list every day or keep a running tally. One particularly tough day I wrote “my shoes stayed tied today,” but at least I am trying. In my brain, gratitude is the foundation for optimism. We can then see setbacks and obstacles (and mean girls) as temporary on our road to growth and a good life. Check out Mindset or Grit from the library today. Life changing, trust me.
If you want more information, I’m happy to send any and all readers additional articles and research reviews. But my favorite resources are the Penn Resiliency Program which teaches 18 skills around six core competencies that are necessary to build emotional health, character, and strong relationships. Competencies include self-awareness, self-regulation, mental agility, strengths of character, and optimism and also Greater Good in Action out of Berkeley.