Tired Moms Club:  Unpacking Thoughts that Keep Us Stuck


It was the end of a day of toddlering as I sat on the porch thinking about how my kid (specifically the toddler) had not been in school for over a year. Then it started. My brain started to churn out these thoughts at rapid speed.

He is probably going to be behind. He doesn’t talk like his brother did at this age. I have managed to teach him some things, but he is going to need more than I can give. Have I messed him up? Is he going to be more than a little behind? You don’t even plan those units of study that you used to at the beginning of the pandemic. You know you aren’t doing enough for this boy. I’m just not doing enough.

Without noticing, my thoughts turned to my eldest son and I began ruminating about how he needed more time from me. Just time with no agenda other than to connect. The going theme again was, “I’m not doing enough.”

If you have ever had negative thoughts about how you mother, I pray this post helps you know you are not alone.


A recent survey of over 11,000 mothers concluded that 73% of those surveyed felt like they were failing to fulfill expectations for their families. This ultimately means more mothers than not are experiencing anxiety around motherhood and maybe having frequent thoughts about failing their kid(s).

What is Negative Self-Talk

The thoughts I have (almost daily) are mostly centered around the growth and development of my children and many of them are thoughts about my ability to provide for them. These negative self-talk sessions occur at any time.  Negative self-talk is an monolithic dialogue you have with yourself that might be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities to reach your potential. These thoughts often carry the voice of someone who has been critical of you in the past. That could be a parent, partner, boss, childhood teacher, friend, etc. 

When people (parents, teachers, bosses, partners, etc.) are overly critical, it has lasting effects on you. Just think, you worked really hard to do something and someone quickly shot down the idea, project, or recommendation. Criticism is helpful for us all. The problem comes in when  the idea is shot down and there is no acknowledgment of your efforts nor encouragement to continue. That is when it really stings because the idea, project, or recommendation was just devoured by criticism only. And now our brains have been wired to speak to ourselves in this same tone steeped in what you “cannot do”, are “not good enough to do”, or “not doing enough” of. Well, let me serve up some warm tea; it is all a lie. You can do it, are doing enough, and are doing the best you can which by the way is good enough.  

Effects of Negative Self Talk

When we ruminate about something, we continuously think about it. Continuously could mean daily, hourly, weekly, etc. The very act of ruminating perpetuates the cycle of anxiety and worry. When we have the negative thought (i.e. I’m never going to teach this child anything.) it increases stress which produces more negative thoughts which increases mom guilt which decreases motivation which produces more negative thoughts and the cycle continues. 

Effects of Negative Self Talk:  Negative self-talk, stress, overwhelm, mom guilt, and burnout.

 

This extremely counterproductive cycle is steeped in criticism just like the one person (or several people) who criticized you without acknowledgment and encouragement. The negative self-talk also comes from comparing yourself to others, the supermom culture, and unrealistic societal expectations of mothers. 

Setting Boundaries

In last week’s blog post, Tired Moms Club:  Being Seen in the Thick of Mothering, I shared how we can find the peace we all desire by getting comfortable in a relationship with ourselves and setting boundaries. When you decide to fully engage in an accepting and committed relationship with yourself, you center yourself and honor your needs as best you can. 

One of the boundaries that you can set with yourself is reducing self-sabotaging behaviors like negative self-talk. This 5 step process has helped me to retool and reduce the negative self-talk in my head and ultimately reduce stress. When I am not stuck in my head, I am able to be more attentive, at peace, and less tired. If you need help setting boundaries, this step by step guide can help.

 

5 Steps to Think Positively

5 Steps to Retool Your Brain to Think Positively

Real-Life Examples

1. Recognize 

We experience warning signs that help us know there is something going on within. Your body will probably hold the answer. You might experience one or more of these…

  • clenched jaw
  • tense face muscles
  • release several heavy sighs
  • roll your eyes
  • toss things aggressively

I just noticed... I rolled my eyes and sighed really loud. I was thinking that I am not doing enough for my kid academically and he is going to be delayed.

2. Inquire  

Ask yourself if the line of thinking is helping the situation. 

Is this line of thinking helping me?

No, worrying really does not produce solutions. 

Yes, it reminds me to be gentle with myself and speak more positively. 

3. Acknowledge 

Tell yourself what you are positively doing in reference to the situation.

This is what I actually do in reference to the situation. You, read with him daily, sing lots of songs, provide nutritious meals, take him outside to run and play, play with him, etc. You giving him what you can.   

4. Redirect

State what you can control right now in reference to the situation. 

Right now at this moment, I can/am going to take a deep breath and trust myself. He is getting what I can give. 

5. Restore 

Take 5-10 minutes to do something else even if that means leaving the dishes for 5 minutes to take a breather. 

Let me change my scenery for 5 minutes. I’m going to make myself a Midnight Chocolate Chai Frappe. 


Negative self-talk and other self-sabotaging behaviors take away your power and control. Thus, shifting your mind can help produce greater results without the increase in anxiety. A large part of us reclaiming our time and headspace is in how we show up for ourselves and the boundary we set for how we think/talk about ourselves. Worrying about how we are screwing up our kids does not have to be a negative thought. It can be a reminder to be gentle with yourself and shift how you are thinking about a situation. And this in no way is to say that we should not experience emotions that are difficult or think critically about how we parent our children. There is health in thinking critically. I am working to tailor some of the criticism so that I do not become paralyzed in what I am “not doing” thus doing nothing at all and being more consumed and tired than necessary. 

Let’s chat in the comments.  How do you deal with thoughts of not doing enough? 

Steep tea and just be,


Talesha


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