Parenthood is filled with conflicting emotions. Sometimes I find that my children are the most magical beings on earth. Other times I find them to be unbearable. There are also times when I just want to run away and never come back. And finally, there is shame that I don't always like my children and that I am not the mother that I am expected to be. I am most ashamed about not feeling the way I am supposed to feel. Motherhood is meant to be the pinnacle experience of our adult lives. We are supposed to shout from the rooftops that our lives are now complete, and that nothing better has happened to us in our lifetimes. Alas, no. We whisper our collective secret to our trusted friends and we nod and hang our heads as if we have committed a crime. We feel so guilty that we reflexively punish ourselves: we blame ourselves when something has gone awry with the children, and we sabotage ourselves when we are seemingly having a good run at it.
Self-sabotage is a bewildering experience. There is a sense that life is happening to me. It is as if I were moving in slow motion, witnessing myself in the third person as I make a poor decision, fully cognizant that it is unwise, and yet somehow unable to stop myself. I can hear myself yelling at my son for hammering holes in the wall when he wanted to hang a picture. Although I knew I could respond better to his failed attempt to beautify his room, I felt powerless to change my own behavior. Thankfully, I have learned that life is not actually happening to us. We choose how we live.Our choices range from the trivial and mundane to the exotic and complicated. We choose how to react or respond to things that happen in our environment. Some of our options may seem ordinary, but they are often fraught with strong emotions, such as when I am unable to keep calm and ignore the unreasonably screaming toddler. Another difficulty with our emotions is that we are confused about what types of decisions are most in sync with our deepest dreams and which are in line with social standards.
My own dream is to be the best possible mother that I can be. On the surface, this means appearing with perfectly groomed and impeccably behaved children in public. Deep inside it means to cultivate and multiply the most enjoyable moments I have with my sons. Our dreams are not always obvious to us because we are conditioned to disregard our inner voice. We can learn to seek and recognize our own light, and in so doing, slowly revealing our true selves to us. After peeling off a layer or two of our public selves, it is possible to identify and choose our dream. Fun is my stealth weapon. When I see the pleasure and delight reflected back to me, I trust that I am living my dream right there, in that moment. We hug each other tightly; we roar with laughter; we share unconditional love. What about your dreams? Use fun to choose how your dream should look and feel like. Do you imagine that you have a cheerful laugh constantly gurgling in your throat? Are you so giddy, that it feels like rays of light are tumbling out from inside you?
We can choose more consciously. Find the dream that resonates the most within you, and then purposefully choose that dream. In times of distress, be empowered by the choice to show up as your best self. I can do it by closing my eyes and flashing a picture in my mind of myself having a blast, as if I have already attained my dream. I flood myself with the magnificent feelings of success. My whole body warms up, my fingertips tingle, my heart beats a little faster, and I smile. I smile! So when my little guy refuses to practice piano, I can then hug him, show him his beautiful, musical self, and gently persuade him to practice his instrument. Choose to dream big, especially in the most desperate moments. Keep dreaming bigger.
Mila Atmos is a columnist whose work has been featured by The Huffington Post, Quartz, and Medium.
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