You remember the scene in Sixth Sense where the mother was slowly killing her daughter over a long period of time by slipping a little rat poison in her food every day?
Everyone thought the girl had a chronic illness, and when she died, no one was surprised, and certainly no one suspected murder.
I believe that without even realizing it, many of us as wives and mothers are poisoning our families in a similar way.
No, this is not another post about plastic and toxins in baby care products.
I’m talking about a different kind of poison today.
How do you speak to your family when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed?
Do your children hear you complain often?
Does your husband take a tongue lashing when he’s not as helpful as you’d like him to be, or when you’ve had a bad day?
Your Attitude Feeds Your Family’s Spirit
We poison our families with our bad attitudes. A little bit on rare occasions, they can probably survive and recover from without much permanent damage.
But the more often it slips into their days, the more it builds in their systems until our family becomes visibly sick. Something isn’t right, but the illness is diagnosed as a busy schedule, or a cluttered home, or the children’s ages, or whatever life circumstances seem less than favorable at the time. And so the wrong treatments are prescribed.
We don’t address the root of the problem, and our family begins shutting down one critical organ at a time.
Are you guilty of poisoning your family? Be honest with yourself.
A sharp word here and there…a raised voice… Maybe you react too strongly to minor setbacks.
Maybe you hate cleaning and chores and it shows. Maybe you’re a saint to your children, but fight often with your husband.
I’m not faulting you, Mama. Motherhood is far more demanding than most people know or even admit. It’s brutal.
But it’s not an excuse.
None of your attachment parenting or baby wearing or natural products or homeschooling can save the bond you have with your husband and children if you take action every day to destroy it.
You might not even realize how much power and influence you have, but you set the tone for your home. YOU.
It’s sobering to realize that our children’s spirits are built or crushed by our very words, gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice. The very air when our husbands walk in the door tells them whether they are entering their home or a war zone.
I don’t think any of us intentionally set out each day to hurt our families. Most mamas probably realize on some level that this type of behavior is damaging, but it’s easy to fall into the entitlement mindset that our families owe us grace because of everything we do for them. They should understand when we’re having a rough day, right? (Even when every day is a rough day?)
To fix the problem, we need to recognize the problem. Not just acknowledge that “Yeah, I need to do better.” We need to be so familiar with our weaknesses and our triggers that in the heat of the moment, we hear our own voices or see our own actions and can say, “This isn’t right. Here’s what I need to do in this moment to correct.”
To do this, let’s talk about some of the attributes that trip us up and cause us to spill the poison.
Negative Attitude Profiles
At any given time, you might personify a mix of individual traits from these profiles, or you might fit a profile to the ‘T’.’
- Lacks control of her schedule
- No long term goals, or clear vision of how to achieve them
- Everything happens to her
- She is the unlucky one whom the universe has singled out to receive an inordinate number of adversities
- Feels like nothing ever goes right/as planned
- Blames anybody or anything else for negative circumstances
- Fills everyone else’s cups while hers is empty
- Is burned out
- Feels overwhelmed by the pressure of meeting everyone else’s needs
- Possibly struggles with chronic fatigue or exhaustion
- There is always too much to do and not enough time
- Feels like she can’t slow down to spend time with her children because of her task list
- Doesn’t spend time with other adults because she is too busy taking care of her family
- Feels guilty when “indulging” in self-care
The 1% (I’m the only one who does things right)
- She would rather do almost any given task herself than delegate because she knows she’ll just have to come back and do it over again anyway
- Nitpicks her husband and children when they miss the finer details of a task
- Feels like everyone in her home is just lazy because they don’t do things to the same standard as she does
- She’s “NOT a perfectionist” she just “wants things done right!”
- Feels like she shouldn’t have to ask people to help; they should see that a task needs doing and do it
The Quid Pro Quo
- Possesses a sense of entitlement for all the things she does on a regular basis for her family
- Frequently reminds her family of everything she does and points out that she doesn’t get paid for any of it
- She feels that she deserves her family’s grace when she’s in a bad mood because it’s a natural result of her workload
- Perhaps expects that the household duties should be even divided between her and her husband because he should be expected to “pull his weight” or “do his part” (while neglecting to acknowledge the source of their income)
The Momster (Otherwise known as Dr. Jeckle and Mom’s-Coming-Hide!)
There are two primary types of momsters: the Hangry Momster and the Hormonal Momster. When both rear up at the same time, they make the Two-Headed Momster. She is a truly terrifying beast and those who engage her are instantly decapitated.
- The Hangry Momster
- Has low blood sugar from neglecting her own mealtimes while caring for everyone else
- Becomes very territorial of personal space and lashes out when others trespass
- Is easily irritated by small things, like the fact that her husband breathes the wrong way
- The Hormonal Momster
- Feels overwhelming surges of emotion that objectively seem uncalled for
- Struggles with frequent mood swings
- Also easily irritated or upset
- May experience anxiety
The Liquid Nitro
- Small bumps in the day cause huge emotional explosions, seemingly out of nowhere
- Overreacts to/is triggered by anything and everything
- Has a temper
- In short, she’s unstable and blows up easily
I have certainly been any and all of these things, even within the same day or at the same time. These are not pretty people I’ve described above, and I definitely don’t feel my best when I know I’m behaving that way. However, it’s not always as simple as just saying, “I’ll do better next time.”
Where Does Depression/Anxiety Fit In?
Sometimes our moods, attitudes, and emotions feel outside of our control, and there’s a good reason for that. It is not uncommon to find a clinical or medical explanation underlying what seems, at the surface, a crummy attitude.
I struggled with a severe case of prenatal depression, so I know very well that there’s often a lot going on beneath the surface that can’t just be corrected with inspirational printables and morning affirmations.
I am not saying here that depression or anxiety is just a bad attitude, not even an extremely bad attitude. Mental health disorders stand independent from what I’m referring to here as bad attitudes. Depression is very serious, but it’s also deadly for your family because the behaviors and attitudes that stem from it can be a very concentrated strain of poison.
If you are wrestling with a mental monster like depression, you need to face it and start taking steps to eradicate it, both for your own health, and for your family’s. I’ve been there; I’ve felt how utterly hopeless and all-consuming it seems. I know that it blindfolds you and causes you to feel like you’re in a black pit with no ladder and no way out.
But it’s a lie. You can have a life without depression and anxiety. To believe that it has to be a permanent fixture in your life is to let it win. Start dealing with it now. Not tomorrow. Now, today.
You may need to seek medical help or counseling, but the following strategies can also aid you along the way.
5 Tips to Re-frame a Poor Attitude and Get Out of a Funk
If you’ve been honest with yourself and you’ve identified some of the attitude profiles popping up in your day, then you can start to identify them in the moment and stop the problem before it takes hold.
It might sound stupid, but it will be a bit like Dora the Explorer with Swiper. When she doesn’t know he’s there, he sneaks up, snatches the thing she needs, and takes off with it. She eventually gets it back and accomplishes the objective, but it’s harder and takes longer.
But, when she sees him coming, she can stop him before he interferes.
You need to channel your inner Dora. When you feel negativity overtaking you, Swiper-no-swipe it, keep it from stealing your joy, and in the process, you teach your children how to regulate their own emotions and attitudes.
Here are some strategies to keep your attitude poison in its bottle and eventually remove nearly every trace of it from your home altogether.
#1. Get Perspective
When negativity creeps into our day, it’s usually because we’re getting sucked into the strain of the moment and lose sight of the bigger picture. Maybe we never had a ‘bigger picture’ to begin with.
You need to be able to transcend your current circumstances to view the large scale. Take time while washing the dishes, walking, showering–any opportunity that you have a few minutes to think–and map out in detail the goals and dreams you have for your family.
In your mind, how do you imagine your family?
- What kind of activities do you see yourselves enjoying?
- What is the atmosphere of your home?
- How do your children respond to you?
- Where do you take your family vacations?
Questions like these give you a graphic image of what you’re striving for. A negative attitude will not help you get there. You need long term goals and dreams to break free of the monotony and mundane to which motherhood is prone.
Another facet of ‘getting perspective’ is to consider whether the thing that’s bothering you (the thing that triggered your mood) is really worth the effort and drain of being unhappy about. Does it matter in the long term?
Consider the trades you make any time you give in to a bad attitude. You might get some small minute of vindication by your mood, but have you set your children on edge for the rest of the day? Have you disrupted the peace of your relationship with your husband? Is it worth it?
#2. Play music and dance every day
Music and a good groove can almost always get me out of a funk. It’s really hard to be cranky when you’re dancing.
I’m a terrible dancer, so it forces me to laugh at myself.
Plus, it’s an activity your kids can enjoy with you! Crank some tunes and let loose.
#3. Get your hormones sorted out and manage your blood sugar
You might not think about the connection between your blood sugar and your mood, but they are so interrelated! When you spike your blood sugar, your mood goes up. When your blood sugar then inevitably falls, so does your mood.
With a little intentionality, you can keep your blood sugar steady and dramatically decrease your propensity for mood swings and even anxiety. I use the Trim Healthy Mama approach to manage my blood sugar and I’ve seen such monumental improvements in my mood and my power over my emotions since starting ‘on plan.’
It’s incredible how much what you eat impacts both your mood and your hormones.
If you really struggle with emotions/moods that feel hormone-related (erratic and difficult for you to control), see an endocrinologist. You never know what might be out of whack that you just attributed to your own brokenness or personal flaws.
#4. Separate yourself from the trigger
If something is upsetting you, get away from it, even if only for a couple of minutes. Return to strategy one and focus on perspective. Slow your breathing, turn on some music, whatever you need to do to Swiper-no-swipe that attitude right away.
Count backward and foward from ten, do jumping jacks, I don’t care. Come back when you’re calm and controlled.
#5. Remember your influence
Remember that every cutting remark, every side comment, every outburst is poison to your family’s spirits. That is a tremendous power you wield.
Most children don’t complain that the day is hot until they’ve been taught that the heat is undesirable and unpleasant. They don’t know the house is messy until they’ve heard someone gripe about it all day. They think the world of their daddy until they catch a snippet muttered under the breath that demeans him.
Set your intentions to influence your family with positivity rather than negativity. I think you’ll find that a lot of the time, they probably set the example for you. Let the joy of carefree little people fill you! Oftentimes, we moms are the ones that bring down the mood. What a shame! What is more important than the minds and spirits of our children and husband?
You are a good mama. By no means do I intend to suggest otherwise! Motherhood is strenuous and it’s completely understandable that you would be stressed and overwhelmed by it. It’s totally normal to feel crabby when the dishes pile up and every little detail of the day seems stacked against you.
But Mama, your children’s hearts are tender and malleable, and your husband more sensitive than he’ll probably ever admit. They need you to manage your thoughts and emotions. If you are even a tiny bit tense, they will pick up on it, and it will shape their day.
It’s important for your own health, too. A mind steeped in negativity will only brew discontentment and bitterness
Are there any attitude profiles I missed? What type of attitude do you struggle with? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
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