I am not very good at hiding my emotions. If I am upset, anxious, frustrated or angry you will know. Heck, anyone in a ten block radius will know. I don’t yell or scream or make a fuss. When I get upset I get quiet. And sometimes I clean. But, trust me, you will know.
I have always thought of myself as someone who was very emotional in my teenage years, but once I became an adult I thought I was pretty even keeled. I thought it took a fair amount to get me upset and I tended to handle everyday annoyances pretty well.
Having a child has totally changed that. If I ever was the easygoing person I thought I was (and in retrospect I question that I was), I am certainly not now. Things bother me. I let things get to me. Things that probably shouldn’t. And even with things that should upset me, I find I am more prone to really being emotional about them.
Either way, I can make peace with that. I don’t see being emotional as being weak. I think there is value in not bottling up ones emotions. Especially in a relationship, it is key to be able to clearly express what is wrong. I am pretty good at this, so long as I am given some time to sort it out in my head.
But as a Mom, I have come to realize, this trait is troublesome. I believe all babies are pretty intuitive, especially when it comes to their parents. Having only one child I don’t know if my daughter is more intuitive then others, but WOW is she intuitive. No matter how hard I try to hide it, I see a marked change in her behavior when I am not happy. Especially if it is near bedtime. She gets whiny, fussy and clingy. And this behaviour just increases my stress or frustration, resulting in a negative cycle. It is no fun for anyone and it means that it takes longer to get her settled into bed, making me even more frustrated because those are the days I really need the break that bedtime allows ASAP.
My Mom (being the wise person she is) has been reminding me a lot lately that having a child makes you be an adult. You have to be the bigger person and not let them get to you. I totally agree. This is something I need to work on. You see, I like to win arguments. But you can’t win an argument with a toddler and not long from now I will have a toddler. I will need to let go of winning and be the adult. The parent.
For me though, it is more then that. I feel like I have to learn a skill I have never felt was a positive thing before: how to bottle my feelings up so my daughter doesn’t feel stressed or anxious about things she shouldn’t have to worry about- like our monthly budget. Especially now, when she is too young to understand. To her, whether I am upset about something unimportant or not, it is all the same to her. Mom’s upset = danger = staying close to Mom and clinging to her is the best way to stay safe. It is basic survival instinct. Little does she know I am just annoyed because someone gave me bad customer service at the store. So I feel I should try and shield her from that stress and frustration.
Or should I? I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking she always has to be happy. I mean, we all get anxious, stressed, grumpy and down sometimes. I think by trying to always make things happy happy around kids, they may get the wrong impression that their feelings aren’t valid and shouldn’t be shared. Or worse, that there is something wrong with them if they feel sad or unhappy sometimes. I think it is important for kids to learn that their parents are human and get upset. And it is important for parents to respect their child’s intelligence by being willing to be honest with them about how they feel. That doesn’t mean telling them all the details, but being able to say “Mom’s sorry she got frustrated with you” or “Mom didn’t have a good day today, but reading you a story would make Mom feel better.” But I also feel, especially for a toddler, that a happy momma is the best thing. So what do I do? How do I strike the balance?
Or, what do I do to try and not sweat the small stuff so much? How do I regain my pre-child self that didn’t seem so easily upset?