I read recently that being the mother of young children is like being a doctor in residency. A resident works long hours, does a lot of things on a little sleep, is entrusted with people’s lives while in that sleep-deprived condition, and will, quite possibly, wonder why on earth he signed up for this. But wait a few years, get through the residency, become a full-fledged doctor, and things aren’t so bad. I mention this because I feel like I am often frazzled/impatient/tired/stressed or that maybe I come across that way. And I know a lot of other mother’s of young children feel this way as well. It is because we are in the residency of our motherhood. We are mothers, but we are not yet to the point where we recognize our job as what we expected when we signed up.
Truthfully, I enjoy what I do all day and generally have a feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day, but I wonder if that comes across when I write (or think) so much about the moments of frustration. I write about these moments because I want to do better next time, to get some support and insight from outside sources, and to cleanse my mind of the offense by putting it down somewhere and walking away so I can see it from a distance. I hope that I don’t come across as negative or as not being able to handle being a mom to young children very well. I really love being a mom and I think that I am kind of good at it, although I realize that, like a resident, I am actually still learning — often in the heat of the moment — how to do this job. In a few years I’m sure I’ll be much more proficient, graceful, and level-headed when faced with the stresses of being responsible for the lives and well-being of other people.
Because I recently posted about dealing with unwanted advice and criticism, I thought I’d share this article from the New York Times (okay, so pretty much everything I share is from the Times — I don’t have time to read from many places and the Times covers everything and does it well), about parenting criticism that comes from strangers. Chris Gottlieb, who defends parents in family court for a living, writes:
“Only after I had children did I truly begin to understand what I thought I already understood after years of standing beside my clients in family court: parenting is something we are inclined to judge harshly at the same time that it is impossible to do in anything but an extremely flawed way. You can’t get it right. We all know this. We all strive for greater excellence than we have hope of achieving. Yet we couple this knowledge with extreme intolerance for the shortcomings of other parents.”
Some of the cases she cites are really eye-opening. A mother is criticized for giving her child Kool-Aid, another for letting her kid run through the sprinklers. Funny how deeply we judge based on such a shallow glimpse into somebody else’s life. Myself included.
And then, since you all know about my propensity to deal with stress by running, here’s some insight about how exercise improves your mood on a chemical level. Basically, exercise increases levels of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin in humans is linked with mood disorders. That’s about as specific as they can get right now, but research also shows that “prolonged running altered the expression of almost three dozen genes associated with mood in the brains of laboratory mice.” The specific mechanisms and results are still being researched. The take-away is: “if you know that you’re going to be entering into a situation that is likely to make you angry, go for a run first.”
I think I can promote that advice. And follow it. Frequently.