I know this time of COVID-19 and all the fears it has brought onto all of us are so much to bear. Most of us are spread thin every day without the addition of health and economic hardships. For me personally, a former nurse married to a frontline worker, I find myself in a constant loop of well my situation isn’t as bad as others even though periods of this time have been incredibly stressful. Minimizing my stress didn’t help anyone. Nor did aggressive Facebook commenting. Not enough sleep. A few extra glasses of wine. No quick fix helps in times like these, or any period of true stress. I laugh at myself thinking of all of the wild scenarios my anxiety has imagined, how did I not think up global pandemic? For those of us struggling (which is everyone not in denial) in one form or another, I am praying for you.
I am writing this post for you, but I am also writing it for me. On a standard day, my heart has runs of mama tachycardia (fast heart rate for my non-medically minded moms). Those moments when the kitchen chair scoots our too quickly with little legs on it. Or when it’s all just TOO quiet. I think it’s just part of the gig. If I could give each of you a day of peace from worry and stress, I would.
I have noticed particularly in times of immense stress (moves, new jobs, new babies, global pandemics) that my normal somewhat manageable level of stress goes into over drive. What emerges is even worse. Mom guilt.
No, Let’s Call It By It’s True Name. Mom Shame.
Guilt isn’t a bad thing. I have guilt when I tell a white lie. Hopefully this kind of guilt will be a type of moral consequence for the future. What is not healthy is mom shame. Mom shame is that ugly bitchy girl from high school in your head telling you “You’re a bad mother because…” Shame isn’t a teacher. She’s just a B who needs to shut it.
Shame also has a cliquey friend called comparative suffering. I apparently really want to be at the cool lunch table for how much time I spend with these two, but I digress. Comparative suffering is when you twist gratitude, and make it ugly.
Did You Know Gratitude Could Be Ugly?
Gratitude will say, “I feel grateful that I have a nice, safe house.” Comparative suffering will tell you that you don’t deserve to feel sad about whatever is upsetting you “because some people don’t even have a home.” See the difference?
Gratitude for something doesn’t mean you can’t have pain in other things. Feeling shame about your blessings don’t somehow share them with someone else.
Does This Mean We Can Ignore The Suffering Of Others?
Ummm no. But you know that. When you find a way to feel gratitude without the shame of comparative suffering you might just have more energy to help those in need. Or that’s my theory since, for the sake of transparency, often I am still stuck in the cycle myself.
Let’s Get Practical, Practical.
So I meant for everyone to sing Olivia Newton John’s hit song “Let’s Get Physical” when they read that line to lighten up the tone a bit, a song that I thought was about exercise for an embarrassingly long time. How do we move from mom shame and comparative suffering to gratitude? Work on it. Yep, it takes practice like all life skills. Here are some I personally recommend:
- Therapy/Counseling: if you are finding yourself stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts seek help.
- Journaling: write your silly/crazy/dramatic/scary thoughts on to paper where they are just words instead of brain lock.
- Talk to a good friend: yep a good friend. Not one who is going to tell you to suck it up (remember that’s comparative suffering!)
- Find a supportive group: church, moms groups, online forums (though in person when possible is preferable), zoom with some buddies.
- Reframe Your Thoughts: I am a bad mom because I yelled at my kids. I am a mom. Sometimes I loose my temper because I am human. I will use this opportunity to show my kids how to apologize when you let your emotions get the best of you.
- Seek Out the Experts: I am much more of a Brene Brown and Jen Hatmaker fan than a Rachel Hollis girl, but do what works.
- Use Your New FREE PRINTABLE to adjust your thinking.