I have to admit, throughout my journey as a mother, there have been days and moments where I wish I’m doing something else, like having my nose in a favourite book instead of attending to the same multiple demands by my children. This does not come from ingratitude, but simply from being human and feeling the occasional pain of monotony.
This phase of motherhood can be so wondrous, gifting us with so many precious moments we want to tattoo in our hearts and minds, yet at the same time be so monotonous, we’d long for our carefree, younger days.
I have thought long and hard on ways to help spice up this parenting experience for days that scream boredom and for days when monotony is the louder voice. And I have discovered that the truly best guide to help us break the monotony really is our children themselves. Yes, the secret ingredient to help spice up our parenting experience is in our children.
I have guiltily realized that all it takes sometimes is the power to stop looking at my phone and to start looking THROUGH MY CHILDREN’S LENS instead.
Everything is new in our children’s eyes. Everyday is a new day to discover new things. Everything is a new different possibility. Everyone (and anyone) can be a possible friend to them. Every distant sound can be a possible jingle played by the ice-cream man. Every stray cat and every crawling insect can be given new names. Every object is a new word to be learned. Every puddle is a new dance floor to tap dance to.
And there is nothing monotonous about new muddy dance floors. Seeing through our children’s eyes truly can be an unexpected form of self-care in our parenting journey. The ingredient needed to spice up this parenting journey simply are OUR CHILDREN’S LENS.
In my Gratitude Log entry today (not pictured), my first point was on being sad. And this was an achievement to me. Why?
Because being grateful on a bad day isn’t easy compared to when everything is going our way. You know how annoying it can be when all we want to do is bury ourselves in a blanket and cry, and then someone comes telling us to “count our blessings”.
While it’s true that there is always something to be grateful for, I believe it’s equally important to not push aside or ignore our feelings. I believe that if we want to cry, it is healthier to allow ourselves to sob our frustrations away instead of forcing ourselves to suppress those tears.
Here is an important tip I've learned on how to practise gratitude on a bad day:
ACKNOWLEDGE, ACCEPT AND LET GO OF YOUR FEELINGS FIRST.
I have learned that it is after allowing myself to feel a particular difficult emotion and acknowledging it that I then easily come out of it. I would then see it from a different perspective, consequently finding something to be thankful from it.
This relates to my earlier post on the “drive-thru” of feelings.
The 'drive-thru' was an analogy I created, but a therapist once described to me this very "drive-thru" process beautifully - imagine our difficult feelings on dried leaves floating on a river. Acknowledge them, give them names, accept them, and then watch them float away. Picturing them this way will give us some form of calmness, and will train us towards being mindful of our feelings.
Earlier this morning for example, I felt sad about being late for my Fajr prayer. The sadness bugged me for a bit, leading to anxiety as I then worried in between tears that I would not have a good day if I didn’t start it right and if I didn’t pray on time.
I named this sadness “Pergi” (a Malay word which meant “go”), representing my wish to have that lateness for prayers go away forever. I pictured Pergi on a dried leaf, on a peaceful river stream.
Pergi flowed away eventually, perhaps into an ocean of possibilities. Because I, for one, discovered the beautiful possibility of experiencing gratitude even towards sadness.
I was grateful for feeling sad about being late for my prayer this morning, because it meant that Allah is in my heart. And this gratitude instantly lifted me up.
So if you’re ever having a bad day or dealing with a difficult feeling, give it a little 'drive-thru' procedure. Acknowledge that feeling, give it a nice name, accept it, and then let it go. This may just lead to an entry in a Gratitude Log AND a smile on your face. :)
Yesterday, I asked on my Instagram Stories if my readers knew some drive-thru food outlets available in our region aside from McDonald’s (the only one I frequent to). I am grateful for all the answers and the ‘drive-thru’ I ended up at instead.
I didn’t actually need a burger or a pack of fries that noon. I needed an outlet for my emotions. Yesterday was one of those days when I was overwhelmed as a mother. As a highly-sensitive person (HSP), I struggle some days with parenthood, getting myself drenched in the rain of overstimulation. But I do believe it’s normal to have some of these ‘rainy’ days regardless of whether we are HSPs or otherwise. More so, under the lockdown. I believe our lives are beautifully equipped with both the ups and the downs for us to learn from. In fact, I think the downs are pretty essential for us to then appreciate the ups, and for us to acquire the skills needed to go through life’s challenges.
I initially thought a quick drive-thru for some fries which I could conveniently pass to my children to leave me alone would solve all of yesterday’s problems. Instead, I parked my car in front of this serene view of the skies and the trees, cried away, texted with a friend, gathered my thoughts & returned back understanding what I needed.
I used to be both ashamed and scared of moments like this. I tend to get destructive thought patterns each time I’m overwhelmed.
But I realize it’s a beautiful thing that I now am aware of it. It is beautiful and essential to have moments to ourselves where we gather our thoughts, and then most importantly to ACKNOWLEDGE, ACCEPT AND THEN LET GO of our feelings. These are the fundamentals of the healing process. We need to allow ourselves to feel our emotions, and not ignore or suppress them, regardless of how painful they are. And it is through this process that we gradually learn to understand what we need, which we then can take action on.
And this is the “DRIVE-THRU” needed in the practice of self-love. I don’t have a pack of fries with me now, but I have a renewed energy in taking on the day, alhamdulillah, which I believe is much healthier & less salty.