There are three levels of intensity involved in my parenting life.
#1- I’m calm on the outside and on the inside. I don’t need to remind myself to take deep breaths during this lovely stage. I’m breathing just fine.
#2- I’m calm on the outside but not on the inside. I’m doing a good job of keeping my emotions from getting the better of me, but I’m having to manage them behind the scenes.
#3- I’m not calm on the inside or on the outside. I’m being what I ask my kids not to be. Er, I’m losing my shit.
After some close reflection (and much wild guessing), I’d say that I am only #3 intense about 7% of the time. And as we all know, these times are bound to happen. Everybody loses control sometimes & the valuable lesson that we teach our kids when we lose our shit is really how to find it again. Yes, yes. Wonderful moral to that story Katie, but that’s not what has got me a little flummoxed today.
So if I’m losing my shit 7% of the time, this means that 93% of the time I LOOK CALM. I will say that this is what I’m going for. I like to be calm as much as I can be. I like how it feels. And I generally like how I parent when I am calm. The problem that I have is that working toward this calm doesn’t mean that I’m not having emotions under the surface.
I think that much like in my last post, my vanity has a lot to do with me working to appear calm. I am, after all, supposed to know something about parenting, right? How can I make any worthwhile contributions to the already crowded parenting sphere if I’m generally looking and feeling like I’m at my wit’s end? So, I look, to the outside world, as someone who is ‘capable,’ not very fussy, no-nonsense, ‘balanced.’ And, to get back to my percentages, I think that I really am some of those things about 40% of the time. But this leaves…53% of my life (more than half?!) falling into category 2. I’m managing my emotions rather than basking in them. Ack!
I’ve only started to figure out that sometimes these “breathed through” emotions are coming back to haunt me. Just because I no longer feel overwhelmed (while appearing calm) doesn’t mean that that feeling didn’t leave a little residual stress somewhere inside me. A little trauma (as I said to a fellow mom earlier today). I find this to be most true when I get to the end of a day, a day in which I have generally behaved ‘admirably’ and ‘capably’ & I get pissed off at my husband for very little reason. It seems crazy that I’m only realizing now that maybe that happens because I haven’t actually dealt with the stressful emotions that I successfully staved off during the day.
And since I generally appear to have my act together, it comes as quite a surprise to others and myself when I let off some of the steam that I’ve gathered up during the day. I’ve even got myself fooled.
So while it’s cool to look like you’re keeping your head, it can have this ugly side effect of making you and the folks around you forget that you are actually feeling some things that you might have to deal with. Phew. Maybe I’ll go have a good cry now just to air things out a bit.