What words speak to your soul? I’m guessing “toxic mama” isn’t what you had in mind. How often has something toxic come out of your mouth in a moment of frustration and reaction? “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That may be what the saying says, but I have to disagree. Words are powerful! What we speak into our children, our spouses, and even ourselves can create so much of our reality. It affects more than our emotions; it can manifest itself physically in your body.*
Do you want to know the number one way toxic words and actions come into my household? One word – managing. A dear friend sent me a link to a beautiful article, “How I changed from being a toxic-mom-manager to an encouraging soul builder.” In it, she said:
Rather than nurturing my family members, I took it upon myself to manage my family members until there was no room to bend or breathe.
Ouch. Have you felt this? I can so relate, even down to the example of hair brushing and seeing myself in the mirror. Sometimes, my own agenda can be so clear that I create blinders to what else is going on around me. If I’m not aware, I can become a toxic mama spouting orders and taking over. It’s all for the sake of my family, right? But when my family starts to cringe when I call their name, ready for the next order or criticism, I’ve missed the mark.
My Agenda = A Cloud Of Criticism
My friend, Natalie, shared with me her own struggles:
I crave control and an agenda I can keep. But with two toddlers, my patience runs thin and I lash out. When I do that, Grady looks at me with his big green eyes and asks,“Are you happy Mom?” Wow, talk about a gut check! How do I answer that? I’m not acting like it! I’m supposed to be the positive role model, their adult compass, golden rule, etc and I’m acting and treating them as if they are a burden. Then they are ugly to one another and I lash out about how they are treating each other…which I just modeled for them.
Ouch – a burden. I have so been there with my kids. They have wants and needs, yet are not competent enough to function without me. So instead of showing patience as they acquire new skills, I roll my eyes with disgust and wipe their butt for the umpteenth time. I mean, this:
We’re tired! It’s not all peachy, and there are moments…even days – where I am sick and tired of being interrogated by my mini lawyers. There are times when it’s a good thing I didn’t have duct tape handy because I might have used it on mouths and hands. There are moments where I crave freakin SPACE where no one is touching me. I’m tired of being mauled on, having food wiped on me, and answering ten million questions that only lead to more questions.
How Much Can A Mom Take?
When I’m already frustrated and exhausted, the last thing I’m looking for is patience – it’s long gone. That’s when my vision clouds. I walk into the house and see kids fighting, toys everywhere, their hair not combed, long fingernails, dirty clothes… When that radar turns on, you will see chaos and destruction everywhere. Can you feel me?
At that point, I feel it erupting – “Juliet, no clothes are going to make you happy. You have no choice now – put this on. NOW.
Ellie, just STOP IT. Sit down. Don’t talk. Don’t MOVE! Clara Isabel, you are…ugh. Clara, you…” Oh my gosh. Clara has a comment on everything. She has to pipe up and let everyone know what they are doing. She is this:
And then it hits. She is me. Always with the last word, the commentary on what everyone should be doing and how, if everyone just did it my way it would all be perfect. Oh my gosh. What if my whole family were ME? I’m not sure we’d make it a week!
You Are Not Alone
Too many days like this, and we go back to the quote above. It’s not just about not leaving my family room to bend and breathe, it’s the shift that happens within us. You see, you cannot spew toxic mama all day and not have that affect your own energy. Pretty soon, these were the words Natalie wrote me: “My sweet family is not breathing well, and neither am I! It all caught up with me…sleepless nights, toddlers that seriously don’t stop, work that weighs heavy on me, financial stress, a shaky marriage at best, friends moving away, dishes and laundry that never end….I CAN’T BREATHE!”
It can be frustrating when your family doesn’t do things your way. As a parent, it can be downright scary sometimes to have my child willfully fight me and refuse to do what I ask. I wonder if I messed up; if I failed on this whole parenting thing. Who am I to blog and coach on parenting when I don’t have it straight all the time?
Get Clear On Your Vision
Let’s go back to management. To manage a company, you have a clear vision. Goals, checkpoints, profit and loss statements…there are many ways to keep this in check, and there may be exact formulas to follow to produce the best results. But as a parent, there is no exact formula. Your child is unique, as are you. They are not a mini-me. We aren’t looking at producing exact replicas, or looking at mass production and how to get through this as fast as possible. These are beautiful little humans.
Think of what your goal is – have you written a story for who your children should be? Remember, this is a book that has been delivered to you, and although you have an influence on the book, they are the author. Give them the freedom to create something beautiful beyond you – the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Let their unique personality shine. Guide, but don’t dictate. Correct, but don’t micromanage.
Don’t paint the picture of your perfect bookworm who listens well and always keeps her room clean. What is most important to you? There are skills all children need to learn, yet that doesn’t have to become their identity. Allow your children to add their own flair and follow their own passions. Focus on the foundation – the things you don’t want to budge on. Raise children who think critically, and don’t lie, steal or cheat. Stand strong on being love, holding no tolerance for bullying, and showing respect to all things.
Make the extra effort – reserve that extra patience – to work on these things. And maybe, just maybe, the food battle or clothes drama isn’t such a big deal. Maybe this time it’s okay. What’s so bad about it? My brother-in-law used to ask his mama that when he was young. I think sometimes we parents need to ask ourselves this – really, what is so bad about what they are doing? Or is it just an inconvenience to us?
Re-Write Their Story
So next time you are in boss mode and feeling more like a drill sergeant than a loving mama, re-write the story.
Juliet Grayce, 4
Beautiful, sensitive Juliet. You take your time in all things. In my effort to rush you, I missed the sparkle in your eyes as you talked to your sisters instead of eating your food. You savor the moment, and life flies in and out of what you know, what you are discovering, and the vivid imagination that adds the glitter to life. Take your time, because for this moment, it’s okay. This is what’s important. Food is fellowship for you, and when you engage in meaningful conversation, food become secondary to the connection and happiness you feel from social interaction. You stop to listen, and you’re teaching me to slow down and engage more. For that, I thank you.
Ellie Rose, 7
My wildly precocious Ellie Rose. You forge your own path and don’t hesitate to make someone feel welcome and loved. Your energy can even be too much for you sometimes, and I am seeing you bloom and grow into an assertive and strong lady. So often, you challenge me and push me to allow things that are not on my own agenda. Sometimes we learn the hard way, and oftentimes we have to figure out a compromise. But even on the most trying days, we have each other’s back. You are love in every ounce of your being. And we’ll navigate this together. You fight for love and truth, and are a loyal friend to so many.
Clara Isabel, 9 1/2
Thoughtful, compassionate Clara. There are times I look at you and feel my heart drop as I see how you are growing into a young woman. You’re growing like crazy – not just physically but in the brilliant mind of yours. You are a teacher, and we’ve joked that we should only teach you and let YOU take on teaching your sisters. Your ability to make everyone feel important, to create peace, and to invent and imagine something beautiful amazes me.
When I step back and allow you to go at your own pace, I’m amazed at the wisdom and depth with which you learn and explore. You consistently teach me things about science and nature, and I’m very aware that there are listening ears always learning. I love to see your creativity in action, and I’m not scared of the pending stages we are coming up on. You’ll be an awesome tween and teen, and I’m looking forward to keeping up the talks we have now.
We don’t always get things right as parents, and lord knows our kids don’t always act like saints, either. We all have our trying moments. Don’t let a toxic feeling become a “toxic mama mantra”. Feel the frustration and then let it go. Ask “what’s so bad about it?” Look at your agenda. Determine what is worth it, and always, always, put the child before the task. Because really, these human connections are what life is all about.