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A Story of Parenting & Happiness

Photo by Sara Lando
Editor’s Note

Written 5 days ago.

I’ve been feeling pretty scattered lately. I think it’s because it’s been 3 weeks since I had quality alone time, and somehow in that time, taking care of myself slipped to the bottom of my priority list, again.

Yes, I know it’s important. At least in theory: taking care of myself will benefit everyone around me, and not doing so will hurt the same people I love. But when things get busy, as they always do, something has to give.

I yelled at Ryan today. At the top of my lungs, I asked, “What do you need from me?? What do you want?” No matter what I did, the boy just kept crying, at the top of his lungs. And by raising my voice I made it even worse. I just lost it. Lost in the noise of my own mind, blinded by frustration. Anger overcame my better judgment.

The look of horror on Ryan’s face is now imprinted on my memory, and I silently whispered a prayer that it isn’t imprinted on his.

When I picked him up, heavy tears rolled down his tiny face. And with the momentum of lifting him up, a few large drops landed on the edge of my mouth. They tasted salty, and at that instant, I felt a pang of sharp pain shooting through my body – pain from the sad realization that I had caused those tears.

I felt like a horrible parent. I felt like a horrible person. After Jeremy came home from work, I told him about it, and the look of disappointment on his face caused me to feel like I needed to be locked away in a dark room and have the keys be thrown away.

It was a pretty rough day. I felt defeated.

Jeremy said, – perhaps taking pity in me – that things like this happen all the time (to other people). I want to believe him, but I’m not sure. I think it’s me. I think I have anger/patience issues that I need to address and overcome.

From where I’m standing, every other parent seems to have it together. I see many new mothers who have the whole parenting thing together – they are not only patient, and make their own baby food, but also manage to take their babies to early education classes, bake for their family, and keep a perfectly organized household.

And then I look at myself: a baby-food-buying “horrible” parent who looses her temper. And our home is so messy that it looks like it’s been hit by a level 4 tornado.

It’s so easy to pick on ourselves when we are feeling bad.

Perhaps, Jeremy is right, that behind the closed door of every household, we aren’t as together as we let the world believe – an idealistic image of perfection and ever-flowing happiness. And only in the privacy of our own mind, do we silently hope that others won’t find out – that we’re not as perfect or happy as the pictures of our smiling faces portray.

I sighed, and thought, “motherhood is hard.”

And then I heard a voice in my heart say, “So what? That’s life! No one said it was gonna be an easy ride? You are creating the horrible experience by your thoughts and by your lack of awareness. You can change this!

Yes! Yes, I can! I can’t change the situation, but I can change, through consistent practice, my reaction to things. You know how the saying goes: you can’t change the wind, but you can adjust the sail. I love that!

Through my own observation, I realized that no matter how beautiful you are, or how wealthy you are, or how successful you are, we all have one thing (of many) in common, and that is, we all have problems (relationship, stress and insecurities are the most common ones I’ve seen.).

My point is we should stop blaming our problems on a lack of something we think we should have (ie. beauty, money, smarts, etc.). Encountering problems is inherent to being human, and part of having the human experience.

The underlying story may be different, but we all have our unique challenges, and we either learn from them and move on, or get stuck and allow the pain to sting a little.

That’s what life is – a constant unfolding of events and challenges that defines our experiences. How we choose to perceive these experiences is up to us. How we choose to welcome or resist the challenges is also up to us.

We, essentially, shape our future, by the decisions we make right now. Regardless of what happened in the past moment, regardless of the ‘mistakes’ we’ve made, the future is always fresh, and the power lies in the Now – where we get to decide how we will direct the path of our future.

Regret and self-pity will only keep us stuck in the past. And only we have the power, to keep ourselves stuck in the unhappiness of our problems.

After Ryan went to bed for the night, Jeremy and I talked about our options, and drilled into why it happened. The results were fruitful and plenty.

And if you’re curious, my biggest take away from that conversation is that I am trying to do too much when watching my son. I am dividing my attention between trying to be productive with house chores and my businesses, and fulfilling the needs of a very active (and very curious) 10 month old.

It just doesn’t work, and it is a conflict. A young child is sensitive enough to pick up on the energy that he doesn’t have your full attention, and will do what it takes to get your attention. At this tender age, it is important that he feels engaged, talked to, played with, read to, and not ignored – because mommy is busy with something else.

Jeremy also reminded me of how lucky we are that I have the option to stay at home and witness our little baby grow into a boy. And that this period of demanding infancy is short lived, and once it’s over, we’ll look back regretting that we didn’t appreciate how beautiful and sacred this period was.

With tears welling up in my eyes, I agreed. We are so lucky to have such a healthy and happy baby boy. And yes, I do take things for granted, and I appreciate the reminder for giving gratitude for the countless blessings in my life.

Next time I feel anger, or find myself at the tip of frustration, before loosing my cool I will do 3 things:

  1. Close my eyes and take a deep breath.
  2. Give gratitude that I have such a healthy and precious baby boy.
  3. Dwell on his innocence. Meditate on his cuteness and purity. Connect with him. In other words, being mindful around him, and appreciating the beautiful moments we have in the Now.

Most importantly, I vow to never yell at him again. I vow to change. I want to change. I want to be a better person… to be a better mom… to become a better role model for my little man.

If he is someone who I would easily give my life for, then I sure as heck can change to become a better person for him. My behavior and reactions to the external are a matter of habits, and a habit can be changed. It’s a matter of decision and commitment.

Today, I’ve decided to change. Today, I am committed to becoming a more patient and dedicated parent.

Along the way, I know I will make mistakes. And when I do, I will be kind to myself. I will accept myself for who I am right now, and know that I am on a pathway of awakening, riding through the challenges and overcoming emotional habits that are not conducive to the wellbeing of my family – who mean the world to me.

This morning (5 days later), while feeding Ryan his breakfast of yogurt and breast milk, in his playful mumbling, I vaguely heard “mama” snuggled in between the “baba” sounds. In that moment, time froze, and I felt as though my heart skipped a beat.

“Ahh, This is what happiness is all about. The simple moments where miracles happen that change you forever.”, I thought.

I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry. I think I did both.


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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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41 thoughts on A Story of Parenting & Happiness

  1. Hello!
    I wanted to say that I had a similar wake up call recently, when I raised my voice at my baby and I saw the surprised look on her face. Like if she said « what is this, why are you yelling ? You are my mommy you don’t do this! ». It’s hard sometimes, especially to keep up with work, exercice, take care of us, the couple, and the house… But honestly, it’s the best adventure ever isn’t?

    Great blog, when you learn French come and visit mine : )

    http://www.magalilegault.com/blogue/

  2. Stephanie

    Thank you so, so much. My son is nearly 2 & I could’ve written that article it was so similar to my life. Cheers for your wisdom and normalcy.

  3. Dennis M

    Hi Tina,

    I’ve seen my expectations frustrated, and anger powerfully overtake me when dealing with my new 1 year old rescue dog, Miley. Just imagine a relatively independent, open-schedule, do-whatever-he-wants guy like me suddenly having a bounded schedule with a dog that grew up as a stray and doesn’t have any concept of potty training. My angry face, and yelling, would make her cower and act overly submissive; and I’d later see she’s being trained the opposite of what I wanted for her (i.e. happy, relaxed, and confident).

    Likewise, as I have practiced more in meditation, I have *not* felt more peace. Instead, I feel like there’s more upfront rawness and intensity to my negative emotions. It’s not that I feel this wonderful blissful respite after practicing mindfulness and being present. I am actually more aware of how quick I am to judgement, anger, desire, frustration. Solitude feels much more immense. Restlessness comes in waves. Later, I’ll often feel trapped, and then despair and depression as I slip out of the present moment, and project things not ever getting better.

    I never really remember feeling these things so strongly. I used to even have unsympathetic thoughts like, “What’s with these clinically depressed people? Just snap out of it! Just think outside yourself and be done with this crap.” But I see now that’s because I was very good at living inside my distractions and projections. Whereas in the past I would just distract myself with possessions, politics, leisure experiences, now I feel like I am almost always in the midst of discomfort. My path doesn’t seem to allow for side-stepping reality, or leaning on a savior to get me out of it. I have to deal with it head-on, and most of the time, I really really wish I didn’t have to (which typically results in me reverting back to old habits).

    I don’t have any moral story to this comment, just sharing how your article resonated with me. Thanks, again, for being so honest in your article. I would be very easy for an arm-chair critic who doesn’t relate with your suffering to judge yelling at a crying baby, but you still very candidly share these experiences. And in doing so, you help many of us feel like our own struggles are not fought alone.

    Take care, and be kind to yourself.

    -Dennis

  4. I think it takes courage to look at the not-so-bright side inside us (which we all have), talk about it, and then work towards growing into a better human. That to me is inspiring! I can’t say I have that courage, and it’s something I need to work on.

    I know you’re going to be a great parent.

    thanks & take care,
    Mohammed Ali

  5. Tina!
    Thanks for the wonderful insight into early child parenting. I have been reading up a lot on this lately because we are about to have a little baby girl of our own. I feel so overwhelmed with it sometimes, i’m not sure where to even start.

    Do you have tips for a soon to be parent?

  6. Marie

    I love that final line you wrote. It’s almost poetry. :)

  7. Tess

    This happened to me too, today, and I think does happen to the best of us at times. Thank you for an uplifting and inspirational read when I needed it.

  8. mick

    any sites like this for fathers..my family is not having a happy time as I can’t get anything out without yelling it

  9. Sayward

    I “roared” in frustration, truly roared, for the first time this morning. I turned away and let it out, and when I turned back my boy was crying. It broke my heart that I lost control and scared him, and I was so filled with guilt. I remembered reading this article when you wrote it.

    *Thank You* I really needed to read it again, today.

  10. Never to late to change.

    I have to disagree though, most parents don’t have it together.

    Learn to let your child fail often. Failure builds success. Our job as parents is to give our children every tool to be successful. Not to provide for their success.

    I’m sure you are a great parent.

    SW

  11. Robert

    So so inspirational readings…, Bt hwever much i peruz thru such writings i cant find kind words 4 sme one who gave life to me. Think i need help bcoz am evn finding it almost imposible to trust women.

  12. What a perfect self-reflection. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I have a 4 year old daughter, and I have been in those moments of yelling and guilt and impatience. I take parenting seriously, and I keep it together way more in public. I always admit to my friends that chaos can ensue behind closed doors in my home. The most helpful thing for me has been to apologize to my daughter when I am in the wrong. This is the perfect way to teach empathy and model how to apologize. My daughter and I exchange many apologies with one another. We talk about loud voices and feeling angry. I always let her know, “that was not an appropriate choice mommy made. What choice can I make next time when we are trying to go to school and you don’t want to put your shoes on.” (just one example). Her replies have been, “next time I’ll listen,” or, “maybe you can squeeze that small squishy ball when you are angry.” I gave her a stress ball for her to use when she is feeling angry. Looks like mommies need stress balls too. :-)

  13. A similar scene happened to me when my little guy was about 8 weeks old (he’s now two). He wouldn’t stop crying and he wouldn’t take his nap. And I yelled at him… LOUD. Of course it did nothing to pacify him; his cry not only got louder but his cry said, “I’m scared.” I felt so terrible that he would be scared and that I was the cause of it.

    Ever since that day I also vowed never to yell at him, and so far I haven’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t get upset, or that I don’t sometimes throw attitude his way and show frustration. But I’ve never gone back to that anger where he felt unsafe or frightened around me. I couldn’t bear to see his little face crying out in fear and I told myself never again will I let that happen.

    What did I change? Mostly I accepted that life isn’t the same as before he was born. It’s harder and I have less free time. Prior to that, I tried to be everything: a mom that still has the luxury of time and less obligations as before. I accepted that that wasn’t the case anymore.

    I also try to look at things from his perspective and where he is developmentally. He cried because he has no words. He doesn’t understand many of the things that we easily do because of decades of living. I’ve grown more empathetic about his feelings, and this helps put me in check whenever I feel frustration boiling.

    And lastly I’m truly grateful. I read stories about children with far larger problems than the ones I experience. My boy is healthy and is loved. And other than this moment, we have so many more that are wonderful.

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