Last night, I stood at the kitchen sink and felt ready to snap.
I washed dishes at the sink and my three-year-old son pulled his blue chair up beside me. Then he grabbed a dish brush and proceeded to “help me” wash the dishes. He dipped his dish brush into the soapy water, pulled it out and stuffed it down the garbage disposal slot. Over and over again.
Every time I cleaned a dish and rinsed it off, he would drag his soapy dish brush across it. I used every ounce of control I had not to yell. My temper rose over something as little as “helping” do the dishes.
I wish this was a one-time feeling, but I get to this point every single night.
These are the times I just want to melt down and quit. Where I think, “If I was a better mom, I would be able to keep it together.”
That’s what I say to myself. I start my sentences that way: “If I was a better mom…”
Do you ever feel like that?
I think of everything I do during the day:
- arranging dance carpool
- school volunteering
- picking up the kids
- working from home
- doing laundry
- planning meals
- cooking meals
- keeping the house picked up… it’s a lot.
That’s a lot of responsibility to juggle. I’m sure you have a list that looks similar.
How do we make it easier?
Why are we overwhelmed?
Ever notice how we wake up with a lot more tolerance and patience than we end the evening with? In the morning, my son can yell and scream about not getting his eggs for breakfast all he wants and I can calmly pick him up and put him in time out.
However, in the evening, my kids utter one comment about not liking dinner and this sense of panic rises in my stomach.
“Are they sick? I just spent so much time making this meal. Why won’t they eat? It’s probably because I gave them granola bars for snack. Why did I do that? Now they won’t eat. They’re going to get sick, be malnourished, develop cancer. It’s going to be my fault!!!”
A little extreme, right? Not to me. Not in that moment. Those are all perfectly rational ideas at that time. Reasonable explanations.
What in the world is going on?!?
How this Relates to Chocolate Chip Cookies
In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses the concept of willpower and it’s effect on our lives. One particular study he discussed led me to a huge revelation.
Researchers led undergrads into a room with a table in the center and two bowls on top. One bowl held freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and the other contained radishes. Some undergrads were told to only eat cookies. The others only got to eat the radishes.
Then, the researchers stepped out and observed. The chocolate chip cookie group was in complete heaven! Some even emitted little grunts of pleasure as they tasted each melting bite.
The radish group? Not so much. Most begrudgingly ate their assigned radishes while looking lustfully at the cookie bowl. One undergrad even picked a cookie up, smelled it, set it down and licked the melted chocolate off his fingers.
Not one student ate a single cookie.
The experiment didn’t end there. After five minutes, the researchers gave each participant a logic puzzle and told each person that it shouldn’t take too long. When they completed the puzzle or wanted to quit, simply ring the bell.
Actually, the puzzle was impossible.
What happened and why am I telling you this story? Here’s what’s interesting!
The chocolate chip cookie eating participants started the puzzle relaxed. When they reached a problem, they simply restarted. On average, they worked on the puzzle for 19 minutes before giving up.
What about the radish eaters?
The radish-eaters entered the room frustrated and grumbling. Every time they couldn’t complete the puzzle they got angrier. Some cussed. Some muttered about this being a stupid experiment. On average, the radish eaters spent only 9 minutes before calling it quits.
By being forced to ignore the chocolate chip cookies, the radish eaters depleted their willpower. When it came time to complete the puzzle, they simply had no more to give.
We’re not failing as moms
When we feel stressed, angry and down on ourselves, it is no reflection of our parenting abilities. We’ve used and flexed our willpower all day.
We used a little as we patiently sighed while our toddler screamed about his milk being in the wrong cup.
We consumed a little more as we sat in traffic dropping our daughter off at dance practice.
We utilized a lot as we devoted all of our focus trying to finish a project at work.
In the evening, when we see failure all around us. We are simply tapped out.
We’re not failing as moms. We’re pushing ourselves to the limits of our willpower. Here’s to us taking little breaks.