Friday, February 3, 2017
It’s an interesting time to be a mother. We are facing challenges no mother before us has faced, navigating the rough waters of constant social media and information consumption and raising children in an insta-everything world. We have more access to information than any generation before us, and we live, in fact, in a steady stream of it. Responsibilities are ever-growing and down time is ever-shrinking, and much threatens to chip away at our self-worth, our joy, and the time we spend with those we hold dear. In light of this, we need to think about guarding our own motherhood so that time is not lost that we cannot get back, so that our confidence doesn’t suffer regular blows, so that our self-worth isn’t measured by the opinions of others, and so that we can find fulfillment and sustaining happiness in our lives. These are the 3 things I’m guarding against.
During the recent election cycle, my home seemed to be constantly filled with the voices of a particular news network. It was all I watched, and as I took in all of this information, my anxiety rose considerably. I have become more fearful and very often saddened by the news I have been consuming, yet I told myself I needed to be informed. In “News is Bad for You and Giving Up Reading it Will Make You Happier” by Rolf Dobelli, he makes a compelling argument for giving up reading and watching the news altogether, and I found this particularly interesting: “It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress.” That certainly explains my anxiety.
But news isn’t the only overload. As we scroll newsfeeds, we remain always informed about the goings on in the lives of friends and strangers alike, which makes comparison ever so easy. In addition, opinions are ever present and coming from all directions. Working in the field of parenting, I have read thousands of pieces on what we should and shouldn’t do to raise our kids well, and sometimes I wonder what kind of parent I would have been without all the voices. Being overwhelmed with such conflicting information on raising children eats at our self-assurance and leaves us always questioning “am I doing the right thing?”
To guard against information overload, I now check the news channel briefly for headlines and then turn it off. I don’t linger to listen to the details. I am selective about the articles I consume, both in number and substance. Not only does limiting the information I take in lessen my anxiety which automatically has a more positive effect on my family, but less time spent scrolling, watching, and reading means more time spent playing, laughing, and talking.
Being self-controlled with news and social media also sets an example for my tween son who recently told me, “Mom, I’m going to limit the amount of time I spend on my iPad.” They are always watching us and taking cues from how we handle life.
A study found that “people who made frequent social comparisons were more likely to experience envy, guilt, regret, and defensiveness and to lie, blame others, and to have unmet cravings.” They further assert, “People who tend to make spontaneous social comparisons, therefore, tend to be unhappy, more vulnerable to the affective consequences of such comparisons, and more likely to get caught in a cycle of constantly comparing themselves to others, being in a self-focused state, and consequently being unhappy. More social comparisons, rather than serving a useful, coping function, merely serve to reinforce the cycle tying social comparisons to diminishing well-being.” (White, Langer, Yariv, and Welch)
This certainly seems to prove Theodore Roosevelt right when he said that “Comparison is the thief of joy,” but anyone who has been caught in the cycle of comparison could have confirmed this to be true. To guard against this thief, I practice gratitude daily. Gratitude is the antidote to comparison, and drawing my focus to the blessings of my own life makes me feel more content, happy, and fulfilled. I have found that keeping a gratitude journal is helpful for daily practice.
Busyness and Distractions
There is never a shortage of things to do, is there? I’m finding that, as my kids get older, it’s actually more difficult to spend down time together. Even though they take part in very limited extracurricular activities, just getting through homework and the evening chores seems to eat up most of our time together. Sometimes they finish up homework and disappear to pursue their own interests (read: X Box and Lego building) and I have to go hunt them down to get a hug. Not only am I busy, but they’re at the age where they’re pretty busy too, and I have to make a real effort to bring us all together for a little hygge.
Hygge is exactly how I’m guarding against busyness and distractions. Read more about hygge here. Each night, we cozy up together in the bed and I read aloud to them. This serves to bring us back to each other every evening before sleep. We also have designated movie nights or game time when distractions are put away and we give full attention to each other.
There is so much more than can be said about guarding motherhood, but take a few moments today to think about what is stealing and contributing to your joy, what is influencing your mind both positively and negatively, and what you want most out of life. Think about how you can protect what is sacred to you and what you need to find fulfillment and sustaining happiness in motherhood.
*This was originally published at Creative Child Magazine.