Thursday, November 6, 2014

Guest Post - Learning to Be a Better Me

The following is written by my friend, and former collegue, Vanessa. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at a large university:

It was the day after Halloween. I kissed my husband goodbye as he left me to deal with two kiddos who had just been out Trick-or-Treating and full on candy. He was going away for the weekend--about two hours west, to participate in his monthly Navy Reserve drill weekend, like he had for one weekend a month, two weeks a year, for the last eight years.

I was a bit mad. Frazzled actually. He had been gone two weekends before that, and was going away two weekends later. He was gone half the days of August and September. I was frustrated in that moment because I knew I was in for a fight getting the kids bathed and to bed, and I was exhausted from working full-time, helping other people solve their problems all day and all year. I’m a mom, a Navy wife, and a full-time therapist. To be fair, my husband also works a full-time job, in quality assurance/IT for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, so he basically works two weeks straight every month.

Our little family has been through a lot recently. 

The kids are used to going places and staying with others, sometimes because I am also out of town. Both our one year-old son and four year-old daughter can fall asleep easily, almost anywhere. My daughter knows that Daddy flies on an airplane to Bahrain and where in the world on a map that country is located. My son knows that Daddy works at what is essentially an airport/seaport and is obsessed with my husband’s Dixie cup hat.  They are resilient kids, just like most other military kids. They are “go with the flow” type of kids. They make me laugh every day. But, they also make me pull my hair out and get easily frustrated. 

Because I am alone with them so much due to my husband’s travels, I have discovered something about myself...

I have learned that I have low distress tolerance levels and am easily set off by something little. Spilled milk? Check! The dog runs loose around the neighborhood? Check! I locked my keys in the car when out to eat with both kids alone? Check! 

I often wanted to yell at my kids or to cry. Sometimes I did both. I had to get it together. I teach distress tolerance skills to my clients: Things like learning to self-soothe and finding things to distract yourself “in the moment” in order to calm down. This helps college kids to stop cutting or drinking, and get their lives together. 

I just wanted to be a better parent.

I started working on myself. 

I took a few deep breaths before responding to anyone to check my tone and formulate my response. I adjusted my work schedule to get thirty minutes of alone time before picking up the kids every day. I learned to laugh or make due with a lot of situations. I practiced mindfulness (the act of going within oneself; purposefully doing things one at a time to practice being in the present moment). I laughed at myself practicing mindfulness. I laughed so hard one day when the dog licked my face while doing yoga and no one was even home to hear me. 

I became happier, less stressed, and more confident. My kids and husband noticed, and things were going well.

Back to the day after Halloween: I felt that frazzled feeling coming on. I felt sorry for myself that I was going to be alone again for a few nights. But, I took a step back. I didn’t say something spiteful or curse the Navy. I thought to myself how thankful I was that my husband could be home to Trick-or-Treat with us, as many military families are separated for much longer. I thought how grateful I am to be living in my childhood home. I took stock of what my life has become, after marrying that handsome Sailor eight years ago after his first deployment. 

I can be proud of our family. 

I am not perfect. We’re not perfect. I don’t ever intend for us to be. 

But, we—and especially me--have been working really hard to be on our way.

***

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