At the end of a long day, what plays on your mind?
Is it something like any of these?
The way you yelled at your son?
That you were late to child care or school pick up because of your paid job?
How you didn’t really listen when your daughter was telling you (for the 8th time) about how her doll loves the Wiggles?
The hour that you “ignored” your children while they watched TV?
When you didn’t look up from your phone while you talked to your son?
How you said “no, mummy doesn’t have time right now” when your kids asked you to play?
When you sighed heavily and walked away after your daughter “told” you that you WOULD GIVE. HER. ANOTHER. COOKIE?
That you didn’t take your children to the park, because you just couldn’t be bothered getting everyone organised to leave the house again?
We are so, so good at remembering all the things we did wrong.
Maybe you feel guilty about them, or maybe just sad. Maybe listing those things gives you the resolve to do better tomorrow. Or maybe you’re beating yourself up about not being the kind of mum you really want to be, for those children you love so deeply.
But lovely mum, what about all the things you did right?
Can you recall those so easily?
Give it a go, start making a mental list now…
Is it a bit more challenging?
I know there are many things you do right each day.
And when I say “right”, I mean right for you and your family, not necessarily for anyone else.
So, when we’re doing many things right each day, why do we find it easier to recall all the things we aren’t so proud of?
Why is it easier to remember the negative things?
Well, your brain has a lot to do with it.
Negative emotions tend to involve more thinking and therefore more processing by our brains. This means, that when we experience negative emotions in a situation, it is embedded more firmly in our memory. This also makes it harder for the memory to fade away or be disproved.
Then, when your inner critic replays the situation over and over in your mind, you feel more guilt, disappointment or inadequacy, further reinforcing the negative effect.
Let me give you a personal example. I’ve shared before about how my son and I both found the experience of childcare very distressing. When I think about the intense negative emotions I experienced and how many times they were repeated, it’s no wonder that I find it so hard to shake the guilt about that situation. And now, as we think about sending my son to kindergarten (called pre-school in some locations) next year, all those same feelings are triggered and fear kicks in.
In the longer term, focusing on the things we feel we haven’t done well, and feeling bad about them can impact on our confidence, self-esteem and self-belief.
Mistakes and missteps are inevitable
As parents, we are going to make mistakes.
That’s ok. It’s normal.
It’s ok for your children to see that you aren’t perfect and for you to role model learning and growing.
The key is that you aren’t defined by your mistakes and missteps. Rather you keep trying and learning from them as you go, rather than dwelling on them.
If you can view the mistakes as opportunities to learn, they can actually have a more positive effect on you.
Be your own cheerleader
We all know motherhood is challenging and it’s vital for mums to have the support of people around them. However, sometimes (and not intentionally) no one is there in the moment when you need support the most.
So, for the times when it’s just you and the children, or when you’re lying in bed replaying the events of the day over in your mind, you can actually be your own cheerleader.
If that sounds a bit weird to you, then try thinking of it this way. You’re already talking to yourself constantly. Right now, you might be saying more negative, critical things to yourself than positive, encouraging things.
As your own cheerleader, you’ll be noticing and commenting on all the things you did right.
Lucky for you, you do so many things right every day, lovely.
Things like these:
- loving your children unconditionally
- kissing, hugging and holding them countless times
- telling them “I love you”
- listening to them when they talk
- comforting them when they are sad or hurt
- nourishing their bodies with food and drink
- teaching them about the world, through conversation, play and activities
- reading an extra story (or even reading at all)
- remembering their jacket when you go out
- being silly with them
- dancing and singing with them
- teaching them new skills
- tucking them into bed
- taking twice as long to hang out the washing because they want to “help”
- picking up their favourite treat
- setting boundaries so they feel safe and learn to navigate the world around them
- reminding them they are special and valued
- answering their countless questions
- organising things that they enjoy
- playing with them (yes, even for 5 minutes)
- keeping them physically safe, and
- providing a home and loving family for them.
See what I mean? You do so many things right.
Since they’re there already, you just have to get good at noticing and remembering them.
How to focus on the things you did right
Here are 4 tips to help you practice seeing all the things you do right each day.
1. Savour them
Neuroscience studies have found that it takes approximately 5 – 20 seconds for positive events to be emotionally absorbed. So when you do something well, take a little longer to savour it. Alternatively, rather than pausing in the moment, you can do this on reflection. When you recall what went well during the day, let the thoughts and feelings linger for a few moments, appreciating the things that went well.
2. Make it a habit
The more you focus on the things you did right, the more you will notice them (your brain does that for you!). So, make it a habit by being intentional about it on a regularly basis (at least daily!). You might like to set a time each day to reflect on the things you’ve done well or even use a phrase to draw your attention to each time you catch yourself doing something great. For example “great job mumma!”.
3. Write them down
If you find you have trouble remembering all the things you did right, write them down and reread them when you need encouragement. An easy way to do this, is to spend 3 minutes each night, writing down 3 things you did right in a journal that you can refer to later.
4. Use an affirmation to help you focus on the positive
If you struggle to see the things you did right, then try selecting an affirmation to help focus your mind on a more positive view of your efforts. Say the affirmation out loud to yourself daily, as many times as you need to. Some affirmations to consider and try are:
“I make mistakes AND I also have many successes every day”
“I am doing my absolute best”
“I am making a difference in my children’s lives”
“I am the best mother for my children”
“I demonstrate my love and care for my children every day”
“Today I will see the best in myself”
“I am a blessing to my family”
1. What did you do right today, lovely mum? – Take a moment to write down at least 5 things. You have plenty to choose from!
2. Would you like to start using an affirmation to focus on seeing the best in yourself and your efforts? – If your answer is yes, then I’ve prepared a pretty Affirmation Card for you to print and write your chosen affirmation on. Place it somewhere visible as a reminder to use it! Make multiple copies if you need to! Download it here.
3. And lastly, I’d love to know if you found this blog post helpful! Leave a comment below to tell me what resonated with you the most.