A while back, I reflected on what I thought were the 10 Best Mantras for Working Moms. As a reminder, the Sanskrit word “mantra” literally means an “instrument for thinking.” For me, they are short, affirming phrases I can repeat to myself to help move my head into a new, healthier story. I still truly love the 10 mantras I chose to write about back then.
As with anything, though, what works for us at one stage changes over time. For example, as a form of micro-self care, I used to stop for a 5-minute Insight Timer break during my commute to work. Now, I use Insight Timer as soon as I wake up and not during my commute. We all need to roll and adjust with the season of life we’re in at the moment.
My Newest Mantra
This newest mantra that’s been working for me lately comes in two formulations, both of which I have found extremely effective:
It is reasonable for me to…
It is not unreasonable for me to…
I know folks often say that when we’re trying to shift toward more calm and positive thinking, we should always frame things in the positive rather than the negative. But I have to say that telling myself something is decidedly not unreasonable sometimes helps more than telling myself something is reasonable!
When to Use This Mantra?
I’m sure there are a million places this reminder can be helpful. I’ve found it most effective in doing mental jujitsu on two main categories of thoughts: (1) guilt; and (2) child behavior issues.
In the guilt category, I’ve found it extremely helpful to remind myself that the actions I’m taking and the feelings I’m having are completely normal under the circumstances.
Here are a few:
It is reasonable for me to attend this work happy hour tonight. My children are well cared for, they know I love them, and I’m not abandoning them. Attending a networking event is a reasonable way to grow my legal business.
It is not unreasonable for me to feel (and act) grouchy this morning. I spent the night getting in and out of bed, attending to different kid-related ailments. Anyone who had interrupted sleep like this would wake up feeling “off.” Oh, and it’s not unreasonable to ask my husband to take tomorrow’s night shift.
What about the child behavior space?
Here are a few examples where I’ve found it helpful there:
It is reasonable for me to require my children to turn their clothes right-side out before putting them in the hamper. (Heck, it would be reasonable to require my children to do their own laundry…but we’ll get there, one step at a time.) My typically-developing 7 and 9 year olds can handle this task. It teaches them responsibility for their own belongings. And it makes my life (as laundry-folder) easier.
It is not unreasonable for me to walk away from this tantrum and engage with my child later, when he has calmed down. I’m not denying his ability to express his feelings by doing so. And not engaging him in his screaming teaches him that screaming is not a successful communication tool. It is reasonable for me to talk to him when he is calmer.
Why Does It Work?
I’m still half mystified and half disturbed by how much of what I do in a given day hits me initially as “unreasonable.” As though I have to defend it, or justify it, or that I’m “to blame” for something. Saying “this is reasonable” is, for me, an ultimate expression of self-compassion.
This newest mantra works, because it allows me to let myself off the hook. It reminds me that anyone in my situation would feel the same way. And it allows me to view the situation as though I were assessing it more logically. As though I were evaluating “reasonability” about someone else.
A while back, I wrote about how we can reframe telling ourselves we are being “selfish” with reminding ourselves we are being “healthy” (more here: Replacing “Selfish” with “Healthy”). Reminding ourselves we are acting reasonably under the circumstances is a page from that same book.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.