There are so many things going on in this world that can steal our joy as mothers. Not feeling like we measure up. Evil and violence in our communities and the world. Negativity from people around us. Fear of the unknown. I could go on, but you get the picture.
In this age of connectedness, we see the perfect versions of our friends’ and acquaintances’ lives. Their perfect meals, their perfect children and husbands, their perfect jobs and perfect houses full of Pinterest-worthy DIY crafts. And it is so hard not to compare ourselves to them and feel like our lives just don’t measure up. Mama, that steals your joy.
There are times that I allow my thoughts of the evil and violence in this world to steal my joy. It was especially bad when Little Miss was a newborn. I was already overrun with hormones and this amazing love toward my new daughter. Then, pair utter exhaustion with late-night Facebook and Twitter browsing and I knew every single bad thing happening in the world. Posts of human trafficking, terrorist attacks and armed robberies led to nightmares and sob-fests while clutching my baby as I rocked her back to sleep. I had basically convinced myself that we could never leave the house again. Now, sleep deprivation probably had a lot to do with my state of mind at that point. Bad things always seem much worse when you’re tired, and mama, that steals your joy.
We all know those people that focus on the negative all the time. They can bring a happy occasion to a screeching halt faster than Debbie Downer from SNL. It doesn’t seem to matter what the subject is, they always have a negative response readily available to bring the mood down. Mama, they’re stealing your joy.
Sometimes the future seems so exciting and almost magical, and then other times it is so scary. The best and worst thing about the future is that we have no idea what it holds. Thoughts of sickness, job loss, death, natural disasters and so many other bad things can paralyze us with fear. Or it least it can with me. And I’ll admit, that magnified about 3,000,000% the day I became a mother. But mama, worrying about the future is stealing your joy.
I’ve dealt with all of the situations listed above at some point in my life. Let me share with you a few ways that I’ve found to keep this world and its problems from stealing my joy.
Find someone to talk to
Talking out a situation can be so freeing and comforting. Personally, I choose prayer as my go-to when I’m scared or upset about something I don’t understand. A trusted friend, a counselor, your spouse or a family member can also be great people to turn to when you’re losing your joy.
Talking out the problem helps you lay out the specifics of what is bothering you and can help you identify a solution for solving it. A word of advice here- make sure that the person you’re talking to is going to keep your worries and concerns private. You don’t want to confide in someone that will run out and tell everyone else you know about your problems.
Turn off the TV
When tragedy unfolds, many people turn on their TVs and watch every single detail. Some people may be able to handle the news coverage and it doesn’t bother them, but I am not one of those people. It has come to the point that if I realize that what I’m watching is going to start me down a path of worry or fear, I turn off the TV. We don’t watch the news in our house and that has been so freeing to me. I even deleted the news apps off of my phone!
Some people may say that I’m uninformed or burying my head in the sand. That’s not the case. If something is of major importance, I hear about it. I just choose not to allow myself to be engulfed in it. The news seems to report all of the bad things going on, and if I let myself get caught up in every single new disease outbreak or murder or car accident I will have a nervous breakdown. I just know myself well enough to not allow it to get that far.
Be picky on social media
Social media is a wonderful thing in many ways. It allows us to connect with one another and share exciting news and pictures of babies and funny videos. And with that ability to share whatever is on our minds comes a lot of negative news and arguing. It’s a little unnerving to go from wedding pictures and videos of how to make insanely delicious looking (yet crazy naughty) desserts to seeing videos of terrorists and political rants.
And sometimes even those happy events can cause us to feel sad and inadequate. When I was single and wanted so badly to get married and start a family, it seemed that every person I knew was getting engaged or married. When we were struggling to get pregnant, all I saw were baby pictures and more friends announcing their pregnancies. I know how happy those times were for my friends and I’m glad they had a place to share their joy with all of their friends, but sometimes I just had to avoid those posts to keep from losing my joy, and that’s ok.
If something triggers those feelings of fear, worry or sadness, get rid of them! It’s your social media feed and you have the right to choose what you see. Here are a couple of ways to clean up your feeds:
If it’s a one time thing, you can just block the post so it doesn’t keep showing up if other friends like or comment on it. You would click “Hide post.” If the same person continually posts things that bother you, you can unfollow them, but remain friends. This way their posts won’t appear on your timeline, but you are still friends with them and can check up with them from time to time to see what’s new in their life. To do this, you would click “Unfollow.” If it’s someone you really don’t care to keep in touch with anyway, you can just unfriend them. It’s up to you and your relationship with that person.
Twitter is such a fast-paced network that things you don’t want to see may fly by before you even notice. Also, Twitter tends to be a less personal social media platform, so it’s not so offensive to unfollow someone. The same options are available on Twitter that we talked about for Facebook. You have the option to mute someone- you still follow them, but you don’t see their posts. Another option is to block them- this is a little more intense because now that person can’t see your tweets and you can’t see theirs, they can’t follow you or add you to lists. Or you can unfollow them by hovering over the “follow” button and it will become “unfollow.”
Instagram really only has the option to unfollow someone. You can do that by clicking on their profile picture and clicking the follow button, which will unfollow them.
Be choosy of your company
Sometimes you might feel like you’re surrounded by bad news because you’re with someone who only talks about negative things. It might be someone you work with or that’s in the same social circle you’re in. If you can, avoid that person.
Other times, it might be someone that you have to be around, like a family member. In this case, you may just have to be upfront with them and explain that the things they choose to focus on and talk about upsets you and that you would appreciate it if they could find something else to talk about while you’re around.
Now, if you’re like me, the thought of having to create possible conflict makes you want to throw up and crawl in a hole simultaneously. Maybe you have a friend or family member that can tactfully bring up your concerns for you. Or you might just have to take a deep breath and do it yourself. You can do it!
Control what you can, forget the rest
One of my biggest struggles has been worrying about things I can’t control. I spend hours agonizing about the “what-ifs” and worrying about what might happen in the future. I’ve wasted precious time that I could be making memories with my family by focusing on the unknown. What I’ve learned is that I can’t make those things my focus, but I can choose to focus on the things I have control of.
For example, I have no control over what people around me talk about or what they do. But I do have control over who I surround myself with. I have no control over whether or not I will get some terrible disease, but I can control the foods I put in my body and how often I exercise. And I have control over my really bad habit of Googling symptoms, which leads me down a terrible path of dread and fear of diseases I’ve never heard of, but probably definitely have. I have no control over the future of my loved ones, but I can control the time that I have with them now and how I spend it.
Once I started focusing on what I can control, my joy came back with a vengeance. Now, I’ll admit, I still catch my mind wandering down those dark paths of the “what-ifs” and reading news stories about all of the bad things happening in the world and worrying that my life doesn’t measure up to my friends on social media. But now I’m able to stop myself much quicker and turn my thoughts to something positive.
Being a mama in a generation of information overload is tough. There have always been bad and scary things in the world, but now we hear about each and every one in great detail. Sometimes we just need to take a step back, look at our beautiful families and blessings and enjoy them. So, don’t let the world steal your joy today, mama. You’ve got bigger fish to fry.