Secrets to Being a Happy Mom

 

I have a love/hate relationship with blogs, Instagram and Facebook. They’re great because they keep me connected with people I care about, but not so great when they intensify my perfectionist tendencies. On rough days, I often catch myself comparing myself to other moms—I scroll through their photos and think to myself, How on earth is she keeping the house clean with four kids? or I don’t get how she looks good all the time whereas I can’t find time to brush my hair,or How is it that her kids all look like they came out of a Janie and Jack catalogue?Logic goes out the window as I become fixated on what I perceive the world views as the “perfect mother” and I slowly feel myself becoming unhappy.

As a therapist, this unhappiness sets off an internal alarm saying that I need to stop and process what’s happening. In moments of weakness, we often doubt ourselves. We lose confidence and forget about our unique capabilities and needs. We get caught up in what we perceive the world thinks our needs and capabilities should be. We believe we have to be perfect, and when we fall short of that unachievable standard we experience shame. The truth is obvious, but can be difficult to accept: we will never be perfect and that’s okay.

There are several things mothers can do to work through this damaging mindset:

1) Stop the comparisons. It’s easy to compare yourself to others, but it is important to note that we all come from different circumstances. Our upbringings, personalities, and hardships are different. Not only is comparing ourselves to others a bad idea that often leads to shame and despair, but     we fundamentally lack the context to make an accurate comparison.

2) Adjust expectations. Take a deep breath and relax. Re-evaluate and figure out what is realistic and what isn’t. Before becoming a mom, I spent many years studying and working with families professionally. I had wonderful imaginations of how I would be as a mother. Then, when I became one, I discovered the bar was set so high I couldn’t even see it. It was overwhelming, so I had to compromise. 15-20 minutes a day of one-on-one quality time with my kids is fine. It’s okay if I go out once a week with my kids instead of 4 or 5 times a week. Those things are still accomplishments. Re-assessing what is realistic and planning to do less was a welcome relief; I discovered that I actually accomplish more because I’m in control.

3) Be kinder to yourself. It’s okay to have a moment when you are frustrated with your kids. Allow yourself to be imperfect and accept it with open arms. Fight the natural inclination to feel shame when you slip up—you’re only human.

4) Own your mistakes. Be an example to your kids of what it looks like to make mistakes and bounce back from them. Your kids don’t need a perfect mom, they need a happy mom who teaches them how to deal with reality. Show them that making mistakes is a part of life—this is a profound lesson that will serve them well. Living this lesson will empower you, too.

Perfectionism is a trap that can catch even the best of us, but when we recognize we’re stuck, we can take steps to get out. We’ll never be perfect, but with work we can be perfectly happy with that.

Written by:

Originally published by Utah Valley Health and Wellness Magazine

What You’re Fighting About Is NOT What You’re Fighting About

This is a pretty mundane example of the type of things married people argue about. It seems like a pretty simple matter on the surface. The discussion was about doing chores. So why did I feel cornered? Why did something as simple as cleaning the kitchen make me feel so much anxiety? This argument was about more than simply cleaning the kitchen. I felt torn between two demands of great importance: my career or my wife’s good will. I keenly felt the burden of my family’s future resting on my shoulders, and what seemed like an endless to-do list. How could I stop working on that to do something as trivial as cleaning? What good was a clean kitchen if we were drowning in student loan debt? But not cleaning the kitchen meant the evaporation of marital bliss. How could I focus on my work with an upset wife on my mind? Either way, I was in trouble.

Any fly on the wall seeing our argument probably would have thought the issue was as simple as a lazy husband not wanting to do chores. But as in almost every argument, there was something deeper going on below the surface. To my wife, this was not merely a matter of having a clean kitchen. For her, it was about peace of mind. Coming home to a messy house after a hard day adds more stress. When the house is messy, it makes her mind feel chaotic and disordered too. Not only that, but a dirty house reminds her of the instability of growing up with a father who had bipolar disorder and refused to take his medicine. The issue of cleaning the kitchen was proxy for some deeper concerns. For me it was about earning enough to take care of my wife and to prepare for children. For my wife it was about feeling safety and peace in her own home.

Arguments can draw a couple closer together, or they can drive a wedge between them. What makes the difference? That question has a few answers, but one of the big things is whether we ever get to the deeper meanings under the surface of the fight. If we stay on the surface, we may have conclusion, but we won’t have resolution; whether I did the cleaning or not, I would have had stress and felt disconnected from my wife. That’s because what I needed, and what every person needs, is to know and feel that their partner understands and respects them. The reason we had an argument had nothing to do with cleaning at all, it was really about her basic need for safety, and my basic need for competence. We couldn’t fix the problem until we acknowledged the source of our strong emotions and what the fight was really about.

The moment we feel understood by our partner, we can think clearly, and then it’s easy to do problem solving. Next time you’re arguing and feeling upset, ask yourself about the deeper issue behind the disagreement. Find out from your partner what their position means to them. Empathize with their thoughts and feelings, and see how much easier it is to resolve arguments.

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness

Written by: Kenneth Jeppesen, LAMFT, MMFT

Kenneth is a therapist at the American Fork Center for Couples and Families and is a licensed associate marriage and family therapist. He enjoys helping individuals and couples find peace and happiness and spends the rest of his time learning about everything!

Emotions 101: The Basics

Most of us try to avoid uncomfortable emotions. Who likes to feel sad, depressed, lonely, hurt, scared or betrayed? Don’t we try to NOT feel this way? Some may even engage in unhealthy behaviors to avoid their emotions.  I encountered this as a common theme in my work at drug and alcohol rehab facilities.  Though it may be unpleasant, I propose that if we want to feel the comfortable emotions in life, we have to get good at feeling the ones that are not so comfortable.

It is important to realize that uncomfortable emotions are not bad.  We all experience a myriad of emotions; some make us feel better than others.  Because of the discomfort that comes with some, many try to avoid them all together, take them out on others, or deal with them in unhealthy ways.  The trick to dealing with emotions in a healthy manner is not to get rid of them, but rather to embrace them and then let them go.  As I work with couples or individuals in therapy, I often review three simple steps to dealing with emotions:

  1. Recognize: Identifying what we are feeling is the first step. If we don’t know what we are feeling, then we will not be able to do anything with it. It will unwittingly control us. When I ask a client what they are feeling they will often reply, “I’m angry.” Anger, however, is what I call a false emotion. It only exists as it attaches itself to what we originally felt. For example, if someone were to post something mean about you on social media it might make you feel hurt. What is our natural reaction to something like this? We might want to lash out at that person. This is us embracing anger instead of hurt. In this case, the anger covers up the hurt and offers the illusion that it is protecting us—that it is keeping us safe from future hurt—when all it is doing is making it so that we remain hurt. Anger is insatiable. It can never be satisfied. Have you ever felt good after embracing your anger? No. We feel even more angry. That is why I call anger a false emotion. Let anger be the first sign that you are actually feeling something else. Ask yourself the question, “What am Ireally feeling?” in order to recognize your true emotions.
  2. Feel: This is the hardest step. After we have recognized that we feel hurt, for example, we usually don’t want to embrace that feeling. This goes back to not wanting to feel uncomfortable feelings. When we allow ourselves to feel these emotions, we then have power to do something with them. Consider the following example: You have a couch in your house that you really detest. This is the ugliest, most horrible piece of furniture ever created. It is so ugly that no one will touch it. How do you handle it? You can’t magically make it disappear—you actually have to pick it up and move it yourself. It seems ironic that in order to move something out of your house that you don’t like, you actually have to get closer to it and touch it. The same goes for our emotions. When we feel them (get closer to them, touch them, pick them up) then we have the power to do something with them.
  3. Cope: This is the step most people want to skip straight to. We want to cope with or let go of our emotions without feeling them. But doing this can get us into trouble. When we try to cope with our emotions without first picking them up, what we are really doing is distracting ourselves from feeling something uncomfortable. This is similar to taking a blanket and covering the ugly couch in our house—it’s still there! What we choose to distract ourselves with (i.e., social media, pornography, substances, food, work) then becomes our go-to every time we feel uncomfortable, and an addiction is born. Coping with an emotion involves not forcing it to leave and not forcing it to stay. We let it go after it has run its course. Then we can do something that helps us recover—such as reading a book or talking with a friend.

Learning to deal with uncomfortable emotions can feel counterintuitive at times. Our initial response may be to react with anger or push them away.  But, as we practice embracing our feelings in order to let them go, we will develop habits that will improve our emotional health and overall internal peace.

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness

Written by: Triston Morgan, PhD, LMFT

Dr. Morgan is a director and co-owner of Center for Couples and Families, a counseling center, in Utah Valley. He is licensed as a PhD marriage and family therapist, and is originally from Oregon. He and his beautiful wife, Cristina, love to travel and see the world.

Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection by Reshma Saujani

We’re all hiding something. Let’s find the courage to open up by Ash Beckham

Six Signs Your Marriage Could Be In Trouble – by Dr. Triston Morgan

When Julie and Chris (not their real names) entered my office, they were not looking at each other. I could tell they had been in a fight recently, and that it had been a bad one. They told me it started last night when Chris came home late from work and didn’t tell Julie where he had been. When asked about it, Chris became defensive. “Can’t I come home without getting the third degree?! I’ve been working hard all day to support this family!” He told Julie to stop being “such a nag.” Julie shot back a quick remark about his incompetence as a father because he had missed their son’s basketball game, again.

Whether it plays out in marital therapy or in many of your homes, this isn’t an uncommon scenario. What I told Julie and Chris surprised them. I told them the fact that they fought wasn’t the problem. The fact that they argued wasn’t (read more)

Introducing therapist Kenneth Jeppesen!

Kenneth Jeppesen joined the American Fork Center for Couples and Families in 2015. He is a master at knowing what it takes for couples to be successful in their relationships. Kenneth uses the “Gottman Method” in the counseling room and has presented all across Utah Valley on this topic. This method is based on decades of successful marital research by John Gottman. With skill and precision, Kenneth helps clients apply these findings in a way that produces happiness in relationships.

Kenneth specializes in marriage counseling, depression, anxiety and faith-based crisis counseling.

Free Marriage Workshop – Kenneth Jeppesen

March 16, 7:00pm @ American Fork Library.

Marriage therapist Kenneth Jeppesen will condense 40 years of marital research and teach you how to have a happier marriage. His last presentation in Orem on this topic was standing room only. Come early to get a seat!