When my kids were little, I tried so hard to have patience. Everyone would tell me how patient I was, but they weren’t around in that moment when I lost it. That moment where my head would start to spin and I was outside of my body watching, as this lady I barely recognized yelled and screeched things.
Five minutes before that scene, I would be overtired and resentful for all the times they pushed my boundaries that day, yet would still be trying to keep a patient and fun tone with them.
Then later would come the shame attack. When they were in bed and resembling angels again: “I blew it – we had such a lovely day and this is how it had to end” self-talk with “They are only little for a short while; have more patience!” to top it all off.
It was lovingly brought to my attention around that time: “Jo, you don’t need to be more patient, you need to be LESS patient!”
I want to share my lessons in being “overly patient,” especially during this time when so many families are cooped up together and moms everywhere are understandably losing it and feeling bad.
When my kids were small, I was missing an extremely important element to my parenting: I matter too.
When I remember that I matter too, I monitor my own happiness throughout the day, as closely as I do my children’s, and I speak up about my needs before I turn into an overtired and resentful version of myself.
Here’s the personal check-in concept that helps me around patience:
Feeling resentment and anger usually means I need to review my boundaries.
Or, what did I want to say “no” to and said “yes” to instead?
The key I learned to not becoming resentful and angry was taking care of my physical, emotional and spiritual needs during the day, too. Cutting off their playtime when I was tired, saying “no” to the extra game of tumble purely because I was finding it annoying, and stepping up my parenting to include immediate consequences for whining.
Saying “no” to my kids more meant I had the energy to say “yes” to myself in other ways, like having the clarity of mind to make healthier food choices, or choose a 5-minute meditation in the bathroom. All of which served to keep everyone happier. I got a handle on it when they were little, and I’m so glad I did because it was a necessary warmup for the teen years. Not only did I need to remember that I matter, but I had to learn to guard my personal boundaries like my sanity depended on it, because it very much did.
I think we all get that one child – the one who makes you earn your mommy badge. The teen version of mine, perhaps a lawyer in training, would ask repeatedly and in multiple ways for whatever thing he was hyperfocused on that day. I would say “no” and explain “why,” then say “no,” and explain “why” again; then later say “still no” and “here’s why.” He wanted what he wanted, regardless of the words coming out of my mouth. At times I felt bullied by his persistence, and my tone would switch to annoyed and defensive, and then I would lose my patience. Then I would feel bad.
Thankfully with age comes wisdom and healing. It didn’t take many rounds of this for me to remember that feeling angry and resentful was my personal indicator that I needed a boundaries recheck. I matter too, and this behavior was not OK.
The problem was that I was being overly patient with his bad behavior.
The version of me that wants to keep everyone happy, even at the cost of herself, does show up sometimes, but I quickly remind her that her experience of life matters, too.
When I checked in with myself, I was resentful and annoyed by the behavior of my son repeatedly asking and not listening to my very thoughtful and fair reasons for saying “no.” If I felt like I was being bullied, I was. So, I set a new boundary around this behavior and a consequence. If he asked me something more than once, and I felt I had provided an adequate explanation, he lost his phone.
He still loses his phone a lot. This didn’t change his personality during these teen years, but it does keep my sanity. I even choose to be a little amused by it. I admire his persistence; it will serve him well one day. He does not however, get to rob my peace with his antics. I set that boundary and I guard it fiercely. While he stomps around phoneless in his room, I am sipping my coffee in peace, self-reflecting on a job well done.
To fellow peacekeeping, overly patient, people-pleasers out there, may this be a reminder to establish your boundaries and/or recommit to them with all the people in your life, especially in these hard times.
Remember: You matter, too!
Joanna Peters runs “Soul Weary Women” FB page. She is an author, life coach and mom.