The scene: first day of summer break.
Wake up with a headache after going to bed at 12:15am. Ugh. I knew better. Worst mom ever.
Get into the kitchen. Pull up a green smoothie recipe I'd seen earlier in the week. Getting my kids to eat spinach before 9:00am?? Best mom ever.
Don't have half the smoothie ingredients the recipe calls for. Wing it with frozen berries. Smoothie comes out puce-colored, foamy(!), and generally inedible. "Mom, I don't like it!" Pour smoothies into the sink, where the solids don't even make it down the drain filter. Ew. Worst mom ever.
Yell at kids to LISTEN TO ME for the fourth time to try to get out the door. Steam coming out both my ears. Worst mom ever.
Get to summer camp on time and patiently help 4 year old to transition to an unfamiliar environment. Drop off complete! Yesssss. Best mom ever.
Ask 8 year old what he wants to do now. He wants to drive back home to get the kickball, then go to the park. I agree -- but inwardly, groan. Athletic, I am not. I wish I were the kind of mom who delights in sharing interests with their kids. Worst mom ever.
Get kickball and go to park, even though it means making a near-complete loop to where we just were for summer camp. Find some pop-up soccer goals on a field and run around. It's actually kind of fun. Best mom ever.
Pick up youngest, rest at home, and successfully locate all the boys' swim gear for their first lesson of the season. Best mom ever.
Boys put on trunks. Little brother's are sliding down his hips! Check the waistband - the elastic inside has finally bit the dust, and I'm only just noticing. Worst mom ever.
Bring needle and thread to the pool. Take in the sides of the waistband as big brother has his lesson, with plenty of time to spare. Best mom ever.
Reward boys with treats from the vending machine as promised. Best mom ever.
Reconsider as they stuff alarmingly red Flamin' Hot Cheetos into their mouths on the drive home at 5:20pm. What's up with the naming the dyes "Red 40 Lake" and "Yellow 6 Lake"? And what, exactly, is "Xxtra Flamin' Hot Seasoning"? (At least they have the decency to list MSG straight on the package, lol). Worst mom ever.
Can you relate?
Have you ever had one of those days? A day that's a mixed bag of parenting highs and lows? Where one moment you're like, "I've got this in the bag!" and the next, "Ugh, I suck"?
I've noticed something interesting about the "best mom" / "worst mom" labels.
At its essence, those labels boil down to evaluating myself. My subconscious thinks, "I'm doing a good job, so I must be good...I'm doing a bad job, so I must be bad." And there's an interesting thing about evaluating myself this way - it doesn't make me want to try harder, do better, or become a better person. It makes me berate myself when I don't live up to my own standards. It makes me angrier, less gracious with my kids and partner, and more irritable.
It's a trap.
Self care for moms like me
Maybe we can all learn something from Carol Dweck, the researcher who gave us the insight to praise kids for their process, not their inherent ability. Let's take a break from labeling ourselves the best and the worst.
Here are some ways I'm trying out kinder self-talk and giving myself a break from the best mom / worst mom trap:
1) Catch myself in the act. Observe when the "best mom" / "worst mom" thoughts crop up in my mind, and try to do so without judgement.
2) Swap out the evaluations for phrases like:
As you probably know by now, self care is more than bubble baths and a glass of wine at night. Self care encompasses shifting the way we talk to ourselves as moms. Shifting from critical to gentle. From berating to encouraging. When we do this, life gets better. Our parenting gets better. Our view of ourselves gets better.
What helps you get out of the "best/worst" labeling trap?
A friend shared this question with me years ago and I've never forgotten it:
Where do you feel rich?
"Where do I feel rich?" I wondered, "Wow, I've never thought of that before."
(Coaching is founded on powerful questions, and this is a great example!)
Right now I'm staring, deer-in-the-headlights style, at the end of the school year, my bedtimes have crept way too late, and I'm mourning the end of being mom to a preschooler.
But even in this place of deficit, there is a place where I feel undeniably rich.
We have two ridiculously productive rose bushes that yield enough flowers for us, teacher thank-you gifts, graduation bouquets, and more. With the most basic maintenance, they produce dozens of florist-quality, Barbie-pink blooms, year after year. With a quick trip to the yard with scissors, I can make someone's day. We are rich.
Our brains are hardwired to dwell on the negative (more on negativity bias here). Particularly in motherhood, there is often the feeling of lack (of time, sleep, money, support, patience, etc). And yet, in my faith tradition, I'm reminded:
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." (Psalm 23)
Even in the times we feel most poor, there is abundance, somewhere, to be found.
I asked other moms where they feel rich and got some great answers. Lindsey, mom of one, said, "In friendships. I'm keenly aware right now of how many loving friends I have checking on me through the messiness of life. I am grateful."
Erin, mom of one, wrote, "I've been thinking about it all week! 1) Access to parks and nature even if it requires a little effort. 2) Amazing and affordable childcare that my son actually likes going to. 3) My own creativity and problem solving resources!"
Sarah A., mom of two, replied, "I feel rich when I can open up our home and experience the blessing of living life in community." Love that.
Your turn to play!
It's easy to focus on where we feel poor. But where do you feel rich??
You all have been asking me some great questions during the intake interviews I make time for each month! Today I'd like to share the answer to one of the most frequently asked questions:
What's the difference between coaching and counseling?
Here are some illustrations that have proven true in my experiences of coaching and counseling. Please keep in mind that these descriptions highlight general differences.
Life coaching and counseling are similar in that they both involve a helpful relationship with a person to support your wellness and growth. They are both rooted in listening and question asking, giving you space to process and develop new insights.
But, there are a few key differences...
In the driver's seat
Imagine sitting in the driver's seat of a car. Counseling is like looking into the rearview mirror. It can help answer the question, "Where have I been that has led me to where I am today?" It focuses on how the past (family history, relationships, diagnoses) has led you to the present.
Coaching is like looking out the front windshield at your destination. It can help answer the question, "Where do I want to be, and how am I going to get there?" It focuses on the future - where you want to be in a given amount of time - and what route might best get you to where you want to be.
Climbing the mountain
Imagine you want to climb a mountain, but you know you need some help.
If you have shin splints, a broken bone, or are otherwise physically unwell, you'd want the help of a doctor. A doctor can help your body heal and regain a baseline level of health before you take on additional challenges.
If you're in decent health already, you might want the help of a sherpa. A sherpa, or mountain guide, can help you find the best path up, navigate obstacles, and stay motivated on the journey.
Similarly, a counselor or therapist can help you:
While a coach can help you:
Who is the expert?
Julie Eickman, career coach and my former coaching trainer, adds this: "With coaching, the client is the expert. Their goals, desires, dreams, and intuition all take priority. Coaches see clients as whole, capable, and creative. In counseling, the therapist is the expert who offers solutions, perspective, and diagnosis."
Any other questions I can answer?
Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to help!
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