Have you ever noticed that when you read a book or article that is meant to be self-helpy that it leaves you feeing like you aren't good enough as you are? I recently cleaned up my Facebook newsfeed so I stopped receiving parenting or zen mama reads. Lately, instead of giving me good ideas or encouragement, I've kind of felt like a big fat failure. Reminders to slow down make me feel like a busy weekend was wrong. Impressing the importance of one-on-one time for a child's development brings me to tears when I think of how little Hailey and Robin seem to get from me. Any piece that tries to tell me what's important for a child or spouse makes me feel guilty when I think of all the times I wasn't calm/nurturing/supportive/present/inspiring enough.
On the other hand, the older I get, the more comfortable I get identifying what I like, what works for me, and what doesn't. This list is fluid, and changes with the season, but it's become easier for me to say, "Not for me, next," and move on to what suits me. So why do I still go to bed reviewing my days and feeling guilty for my missteps and mistakes?
I think the best way to put it is that I am a lone reed (as they say in You've Got Mail) and that means no one is holding me accountable here. Until my children go see a therapist who puts me under a magnifying glass, no one's checking up on me. I'm free to make mistakes, and given the liberty of doing what I think is best. With no one to hold me accountable, I step in and judge myself, evaluate my progress, and can be kind of hard on myself when I react abruptly or use sarcasm or yell. This applies to both parenting and interacting with others.
I am getting more astute in figuring out what sets me off, and that helps reduce guilt when I look back and figure, "Well, if I'd taken more time to do the task slowly, I wouldn't have felt so rushed and cranky." When I don't stay true to what works for me, I sometimes venture into territory where the unknown sets me on edge. With four little ladies looking up to me and a partner who relies on me at home, it can feel like the stakes are high when I falter.
So, what's the answer here? Heck if I know. I am trying to remember I'm never going to get it right, so I may as well work at doing my best instead. I try to talk to myself with love and less with judgement or condemnation, because that serves no one. I remember that, as Anne of Green Gables said, "tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet." I am relying less on books and articles to give me 'inspiration' when what I really need is to listen to the real live people around me and see what's in front of me. I need to start there. And at the end of the day, instead of replaying the mental loop of mistakes I made, I think I'll be better off thinking of little lights in my day for which I'm grateful.