Over the years, I have pinpointed a few behaviors that — though widely accepted and even promoted by popular culture — simply don’t serve me. Changing these behaviors is a process and one that requires both a willingness to take personal responsibility for our choices and a continuous countercultural commitment to creating our lives by a truer, though “less convenient” set of standards.
However inconvenient, these subtle shifts sure have made for better living in my experience — that is, once I sorted through the mainstream confussion surrounding what makes for good living.
- Believe that you must have it all now. This one is running rampant through our culture, creating discontent within every demographic. Because we are suddenly aware of the existence of millions of products, experiences and ways to “improve” upon our lives, because millions of dollars are spent annually to creatively convince us that we need that which we’re suddenly aware of AND because instant gratification is now assumed and expected, it’s easy to see how we’ve become totally caught up in this defeating mentality. It is equally present within the mainstay of motherhood. We are taught that we can have careers, babies, balance within our homes, bigger homes, more time with our spouses, more organized closets, physical fitness, money in savings and vacations to counter the chaos (to name a few) ALL AT ONCE. Then, in an attempt to manage impossible loads (or ease our guilt for having failed to do so), we consume — because according to the ones spending the millions, that will solve the problem. Guess who wins in this vicious cycle?
- Compare yourself to other mothers (including your own). You are your own unique version of motherhood. No one right way exists to raise children. Just as comparing our bodies to the photoshopped depictions of the “perfect” woman distorts our sense of beauty and perception of what is desirable or even possible, comparing ourselves to other mothers — the lives of whom are either totally fictitious (instant bliss upon the uncapping of a bottle of laundry detergent), largely made up by our wild imaginations (“so and so” has it “all together”) or comparisons of apples to oranges (remembering your mother’s home when you were a teenager and comparing it to your current home full of babies) — leaves us senselessly unsatisfied and seeking contentment where it can never be found.
- Base your contentment on the state of your house. I like a tidy house. I feel more on top of my game, at ease and productive once it is relatively “clean.” But I would have gone insane (and taken everyone with me) if I held onto the idea that I could only be content once everything was “in its place.” Kids exist to dispel this notion. Likewise, feeling the need to apologize for the state of things upon welcoming unannounced visitors is like saying, “I’m sorry you have to see that we live in this house.” The notion that homes must look like display windows before they are presentable to guests is a crying shame in a culture so starved for community.
- Allow “them” to dictate your priorities. Every time we walk into a store, open a magazine, hop on the highway or turn on the tv, we are bombarded with images that shape our perspective on what’s important. Even seemingly harmless sites such as Pinterest can leave us wanting and wishing when we’d been hoping for inspiration. For more on this subject, head to my blog and check out my most popular post to-date, Let’s All Compare Our Perfect Lives and Then Try to Enjoy Our Day.
- Build stories based upon unevaluated “truths.” So much of the misery we experience in life is based not upon actual occurrences, but the stories we create about things that might happen (which we can’t predict) or could have happened differently (which we can’t change). Byron Katie’s Loving What Is is a must-read if this is something you struggle with.
- Play the martyr role. There are few more direct roads to resentment (both resenting and being resented) than behaving as if your own needs are of little importance compared to the never-ending demands of your family. Statements such as, “I can’t go to the party. I have to stay home to nurse the baby,” are about worthless for encouraging the sense of empathy you are likely needing in that moment. Learning to be an effective communicator will benefit you as much as your relationships.
- Make decisions based on guilt. We often say “yes” to commitments, not because we have a genuine interest in them, but because we have not yet learned to honor our own personal balance over other peoples’ perception of us (or what we think they think). Protecting ourselves from overcommitments is not selfish, it’s just plain smart.
- Stay isolated for the sake of “independence.” Though just about everything in modern (US) culture tells us otherwise, I do not believe we are intended to go it alone as mothers. We are not stronger because we “don’t need help,” nor are we weaker when we ask. Women all over the world raise children together, and have been since the beginning of time. Creating community in our car-dependent, single-family-household society is no easy task, but one that I believe to be essential in any conversation regarding the support of motherhood and the betterment of this country.
- Believe that you’ll be happier when_____. “I’ll be happier when my kids are out of diapers.” “I’ll be happier when we have more monthly income.” “I’ll be happier when the washing machine is replaced, when the husband comes home from work, or when my kitchen has been remodeled.” Really? Will you? How can you be so sure? We have no idea what tomorrow (or next hour) will bring. Deferring happiness until some hypothetical future experience only serves to rob you of the only happiness that truly exists — that which is available in this moment.
- Allow “busy” to become your default answer to, “How are you?” Busy does not equal fulfilled. Busy does not equal valuable nor important. The quality of your experiences is more important than the quantity. Feel like no matter how busy, you never quite do enough? I’ve got a post for that, too. Reword your everyday accomplishments and realize just how productive you really are.