You know the kind voice and the mean voice who both live inside your head? No? Maybe it’s just me.
My problem is that lately, the mean voice has spread its elbows and legs over the kind voice’s assigned seat.
I’m overthinking interactions with my children on a ridiculous psychological level. How does one build self-esteem in children but not over-praise them? What’s the difference? No matter what I do, they will blame me either way, right? Should I start saving for their therapy now?
Letting the negative voice reign
When I start feeling tired or flat my negative voice starts coaching: “Of course you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re not cut out for this.” All it takes are a few shitty nights in Babyland, pacing and patting with the rising sun, I’ll start repeating; “I can’t do this.” And I’ll believe it.
I’ve spoken with my therapist at length about treating myself with the same grace and compassion that I would show a friend. Though I want to do this, I struggle. It’s important for me to reframe negative thoughts and feelings so I can re-train my brain to think more positively.
Learning to shut down the negative voice has been a process that took years of work. It’s been a daily task, like exercising muscles. Instead of a trainer, I used therapy. Instead of weights, I used writing and self-help books. Right now due to sleep deprivation and learning to have two kids, I don’t have the energy to use that muscle as much as I need to.
The weak muscle makes me feel bad that I don’t know Imogen, my second baby, as well as I knew Lavinia, my first, at the same age. How well can you know a three-month-old baby? I found a letter I wrote Lavinia when she was three months. Re-reading it now, I’m amazed at how accurately I pegged her personality. My little Imogen is forever doomed to a life of second-best, all I know about her at five months is that she’s sweet, smiley, and has reflux.
I’m a different mum this time around
If I reframe some of these negative thoughts it goes something like this: Imogen has entered into a different family than Lavinia but she’s been given a mother who is emotionally healthier, more centered, and often a hell-of-a-lot more secure. I would not trade that for the world. I’m sure she would feel the same.
Recently I watched a documentary about people with low self-esteem which triggered me into a puddle of tears. I let the negative train run away with my thoughts. It went off the rails so far that I found myself telling my husband that I don’t deserve my girls. In the light of day, I don’t believe that … mostly. I knew it was time to get serious about flipping my dark thoughts into lighter ones.
A more positive reality: Life looks different in our home than it did four years ago when we brought home our first baby girl. I was a wreck emotionally at the time but she got one hundred percent of my time and attention. I remember sitting there frozen if she were asleep on me, not even reaching for my glass of water so I didn’t disturb her. Looking back, I can see how unhealthy that was. Mothers don’t need to be martyrs.
It’s so utterly important for Mothers to put themselves first, if not a close second, to their babies. A happy Mum is a better Mum. I will write this in lipstick on my bathroom mirror. And I’ll believe it.
Have you battled with negative thoughts? Have you tried reframing them?