This is the hat.
But first, I need to tell you about last Wednesday.
It was a busy day.
I had to be in to work downtown early because, well, it was a truncated day.
I had a lunch meeting at Carleton University for a board I volunteer on.
Then mandatory training at Tunney’s Pasture from 1:00-4:00.
And last? I was pretty sure I had to pick the kids up early – by 4:45 – in order to get to the gym, get them in playcare, and meet with my life coach for 5:00.
You know, that person who helps me figure out how working motherhood at this stage can somehow, well, WORK.
I hadn’t gotten the usual appointment reminder. Which was weird. So I sent her a reminder.
My husband was on late shift. With one shared downtown parking spot, this usually means I’d be bussing home to grab the second car to make daycare pickup. But there was no way I was making the day work without a car, so he agreed to cab home and I had the car.
I had notes for my lunch meeting, training materials and a gym snack for the girls and was out the door for work by 7:00am.
Rockin’ working parenthood!
Efficient morning at work.
Hadn’t yet heard from my life coach so I sent a follow-up email.
I was out of the office in time to get to the parking garage and drive to Carleton.
Because, I got this.
I arrived at the parking garage to discover my car had a flat tire.
But I have an air pump in the car.
Until the tire failed to inflate.
I’d done everything right to make the day work.
How on EARTH is it fair that it didn’t?
So alone, four levels underground, with a flat and no cell service, I lost it. I berated myself about my clear failure to have it all and make it all work.
For about two minutes.
Then I got in the car and drove four blocks to the nearest Midas on Bronson.
At Midas, following a somewhat stern lecture about not driving on a flat (how else was I suppose to get there in under 10 minutes?) because it would ruin the obviously already ruined tire, they checked the tire while I emailed Carleton to say I was missing the meeting due to a flat (honest!) and called Tunney’s to inform them I might be late and to ask how “late” was okay to not have to re-book mandatory training.
Midas put the spare on, congratulated me on not destroying my rim, and $9 and 30 minutes later I was en route to Tunney’s.
Made training on time and lasted until break when I could grab a sandwich for late lunch.
I also then sent email #3 to the lifestyle coach to say if I didn’t hear back by 3:00 I’d assume we were re-scheduling.
I made it home prior to daycare pick-up with time to spare. Given radio silence from gym I took ten minutes to change into park clothes so I could take full advantage of my “free hour” and take the kids to the park seeing we had a snack packed already.
In that moment of calm I finally thought to check my spam folder.
And there were all the “yes we’re still on”, “have you gotten this?”, “trying from a different account, please confirm” messages.
Off to daycare and notwithstanding my 3-year-old’s need to take a moment to inspect the “sooo cute new little tire!” I was only about 10 minutes late.
My coach asked how I was doing.
So I described my clusterfuck of a day.
After I was done:
Her: So you just had that small moment at the car?
Me: Pretty much. Then I got over myself and fixed it.
Her: Seems you handled it pretty well.
Me: But I still lost it.
Her: Remember the hat?
No. I hadn’t.
Back in February I’d told her about the hat.
It was a Sunday.
I’d made it through the whirlwind that was the week and spent Saturday dutifully grocery shopping, momming, and cleaning.
Sunday afternoon came and I’d planned to do the gym with the girls. Workout for me while they hung in playcare, then swim. Everyone wins.
All ready to go except…
… we couldn’t find my eldest’s hat.
And that was it.
I refused to leave before we found it. Tore the house apart searching for it. Berated myself for living in the squalid mess that allowed us to NOT FIND MY CHILD’S WINTER HAT in February.
I remember them staring at me. I knew I’d lost it. I knew they knew I’d lost it. And I still couldn’t stop until I’d found that hat. Finding it would mean I was back in control. Not knowing where it was signified I was clearly failing at everything.
I eventually found it but missed my workout. We drove to the gym to go swimming anyway. I remember sitting in the change room drinking tea asking my kids to give me a minute.
Bless them for quietly watching TV while I got my shit together.
I remember when I first described the incident to my coach how focused I was on how my behaviour impacted my kids. The poor example I’d given them as to how to (absolutely not) manage difficulties. How I slowly deplete myself all week at work/in public and leave the worst of me for the people I love most.
Instead, she focussed on how I was treating myself.
Her: Would you let anyone else treat you the way you treated yourself that afternoon?
Me: Of course not.
Her: Then stop it.
Easier said than done.
When I am kinder to myself, I am kinder to others and more patient with my kids.
When I am kinder to myself, a virtuous circle of awesome starts and self-perpetuates.
The message I took away from last Wednesday? I’ve come a long way from the hat.
So cut myself some slack.
Let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter. The house will get messy. That isn’t some deeper statement about my value or success as a person, woman or mother.
My kids had forgiven and forgotten about the hat long before we’d left the pool.
So forgive yourself.
In summary: Just be kind to yourself.
This post is part of #1000Speak, a group of bloggers who come together to blog on the theme of compassion. This month’s theme is self-compassion. Please visit other posts on the topic here.
Kit Dunsmore said:
Sounds like you’ve learned a lot! But it s really hard to be kind with ourselves, especially when we feel like we’re screwing up or otherwise making mistakes. Being able to just move on and fix the problem instead of getting bogged down in the tragedy is a big deal.
I think the learning is a work in progress! Taking a moment to calm down and figure out what to DO when hit with the feeling of being overwhelmed can be hard.
Thanks for visiting!
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This is one my fears…
When I return to work and still serve at church and am trying to keep the house clean and (hopefully by then) be building a special relationship I will be able to be kind to myself while letting some stuff go and really not expecting myself to have it all together.
Thanks for keeping it real!
Thanks for reading!
When you return to work I’m sure you will find the time and space to do what’s important to you – and let some of the other stuff go. It’s hard when in the thick of things to remember to focus on the big stuff – but I’m trying 😉
This is fascinating. I wondered what the hat had to do with self-compassion – and it turned out: quite a lot! What a good way to remember how far you’ve come. I remember a similar incident over a lost car parking ticket – I spent 30 minutes hunting the car, with 2 little girls complaining they needed the toilet, while I got more and more wound up.
The ticket turned up when I calmed down, which is often how these things end. I was trying to be the perfect mum that day, and of course it didn’t work out that way. I agree with you on letting go and forgiving yourself!
Thanks for your post!
Thank you for sharing your story! It’s nice to know I’m not alone in these moments of complete overreaction.
As for being the perfect mom – I use to plan these days or events out in my head. They’d go perfectly in my mind – never quite the same in real life. I once blogged about my child peeing on the grass near the National War Memorial on Canada Day (so full audience) – I think THAT was the moment where I finally just “got over” trying for “perfect mom”.
All that to say that YES – life goes much better when you let go of the picture in your mind of how you think your life SHOULD be, forgive yourself, and celebrate the good in where you are.
Thanks for reading!
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Corinne Rodrigues said:
I love how you’ve progressed. Thanks for sharing your story. I too am much kinder to myself in my 50s than I used to be in my 20s or 30s.
I wonder how related it is to coming to terms with who you are and becoming confident in yourself – because it’s certainly been related for me.
Good to know that if I keep things up I should completely love myself in about 15 years! 😉
Oh I can see how that bit about the inner voices in my post spoke to you, I have this tendency as well. Trying hard to change the record!
Me too! It’s interesting – I was an athlete and I wonder if some of the “negative talk” transcribes from those days. Ie: coaches who pushed with a “prove you can do it, bet you can’t beat so and so” vs a “look at what you CAN do” message. It’s something I’ve been thinking about as far as this goes as well… Also speaks to the internalizing of the negative (ie: I don’t think she can do this) evaluation of your skills and performance by others as opposed to focussing on constructive feedback and how to improve and succeed from where you are.
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Reese Speaks said:
It is awesome that you were able to catch yourself and be kinder to yourself. You have a monster of a day before your tire flattened. I applaud you for getting through the day with such grace!
Thanks! And the thing about it? Until it was pointed out by my coach that I HAD gotten through it pretty well, I was lamenting how horrid the day had gone.
But it HADN’T. All goes back to being kind to yourself.
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I was very curious to read on, to discover what a hat might have to do with self compassion.
I always enjoy your stories and posts for this linkup each month.
What a crazy day, both last week and the one last winter, but it’s those sorts of crazy days and experiences that seem hectic and out of control in the moment, for you, but of which your children won’t remember, years in the future. Surely you won’t either. As long as you give yourself a break when you can, to be kind to yourself, you will be a better mother for that, for your girls. That is what they will take with them when they are grown.
I’m so happy to hear you enjoy my posts for #1000Speak – thank you! I know the specificity above are the moments that no one really remembers – and so it is important to place them in the order of importance they deserve and cut myself some slack in my less shiny moments – so long as they don’t become the norm. At the same time, I think these are the moments that define the difficulties at various ages and stages – and why with rose-tinted glasses we know these times were challenging but can’t quite remember why – so I want to capture the why – both for me now and also in hopes that I can read this in future and so be more compassionate to those at the life stage I’m at now.
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