When do our family interactions become toxic?
Parenthood. Everyone tells you it’s the most amazing thing in the world. You’ll feel the kind of love you never imagined. It changes your life, in the best possible way. But nobody tells you there are times you want to get on the next flight going anywhere and change your identity so that your kid can’t find you, even with the help of the FBI.
I went from working full-time as a writer at a large New York City ad agency, to being a full time mom. While I could find some similarities between my baby and my boss—both required a lot of attention, both got very cranky if they hadn’t eaten—at least my boss could wipe his own butt.
For me, one of the biggest adjustments was not being able to check out, even if it was for 15 minutes. After a disastrous meeting at work, I could take a break, go to my favorite food truck on 52nd street and drown my frustration in a huge tray of perfectly spiced pad thai. And nobody bothered me. As a mom, you can’t walk away for 15 minutes, and you’re often lucky if you eat a few soggy Goldfish that fell out of your kid’s mouth, let alone enjoying your favorite meal while basking in the beautiful sound of silence.
My whole life I was always that person that needed time alone to think, unwind, recharge. But with temper tantrums replacing client meetings, I couldn’t run away to relax. I was stuck there, feeling my anxiety rising, and my patience withering away.
One day a friend of mine gave me some invaluable advice. She’s an expert in the field of tantrums being that she has four kids. The thought of having four kids scares me more than the five inch roaches I used to find in at least three of my eight NYC apartments. She told me that just when I felt like I was about to totally go off the deep end, to give myself a “time-out.” She said, while you clearly can’t just up and leave physically, you can mentally. And even if it’s for 2-3 minutes, it will take you from a 10 on the “I want to poke my eyeballs out” scale, down to a solid 4 or 5. She told me, if you can, go to another room, or even if you can’t, just turn the other way. Close your eyes, think about being at your favorite spot in the world, take five deep breaths, and count to 10 with each breath in and out. What she was talking about was meditating.
Now, I had heard people talk about meditation, but truthfully I’d never really thought much about it—until I felt my sanity was on the line. She was introducing me to the most basic form of meditation and calling it a “time-out” which fit into my mom vocabulary. Whatever it was, it was pretty genius because it worked. Just a couple of moments of “breathing myself off the ledge” enabled me to handle the tense situations with a sense of calm and control, as opposed to batshit crazy.
While I’ve adjusted to mom life, I still utilize my “time-outs” and credit them for keeping my blood pressure at a healthy 110 over 70. I still find it amazing that such a small effort can make such a big difference in how I feel. And just to be clear, while being a mom is definitely the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, it’s also by far, the best. My daughter just got potty trained, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, I will actually miss wiping her butt. Damn I love that kid.
The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was paid for their writing.