How many things around your home and in your life do you tolerate (but not accept)? The shoes that get left out, the dishes someone placed in the sink instead of the dishwasher, the way your children pick apart what they like and dislike about every meal you make…
I climbed into our minivan, buckled my seatbelt, put my hands on the wheel, and turned at the waist to get a glimpse of each of my children.
Sandals on one. Basketball shorts and short-sleeves on another. A summer sundress on the last.
It was chilly and raining out.
Lightly, but still, there was literal water dripping from the sky, and my children were dressed for the fourth of July.
Tolerating vs. Accepting
Tolerating wears on our nerves; it breaks us down (breaks us down, people!) over time. Tolerating the irritants around us doesn’t alleviate them. If anything, it gives them more power, because each time we pass the light left on or the smudgy handprints on the walls, the frustration builds up inside of us.
But when you share a house with children and pets and a spouse, it feels like tolerating is part of the job description.
It’s not even low down on the list. It’s like #2. Right there under Be the Person Who Finds Everything.
But what about accepting some of the irritants you can never resolve?
How would that change your everyday? Could it lighten the stress and agitation you’re carrying in your shoulders? Could it reduce the number of times per day you snap at the people you gave life to?
What Science Says
In a study of the brains of long-term couples, scientists found that their happiest participants showed reduced activity in a region of the cerebral cortex that is associated with the tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive.
By opting not to dwell on the negative, these people had cultivated contentment in their relationships.
Scientists call this phenomenon “positive illusions.”
“We humans are able to convince ourselves that the real is the ideal.” Helen Fisher
The real is the ideal. I love that phrase. At my house, the REAL is that my boys won’t wear anything but basketball shorts and my daughter detests socks. The REAL is that they complain often, and it wears on me. The REAL is the nonstop struggle to stay on top of the mess in my kids’ rooms and to not get agitated when they’ll only eat the bread at dinner—again.
But maybe—with enough purpose and practice on my part—the real could move a little bit more toward ideal.
Moms: What Could You ACCEPT—to Live a Happier Life?
5 Irritants to Let Go Of
1. Clothing Preferences
Every time I see a well-dressed baby, I want to commiserate with the baby’s mama about how nice it is when kids let you dress them. Before they decide that matching and skinny pants are for the birds.
Could you learn to accept the inside-out T-shirts and disdain for jeans, instead of (barely) tolerating them?
2. Weather-Appropriate Attire
Granted this varies based on where you live (I’m in Northern California), but most of our children’s winter apparel choices won’t kill them. I suggest setting up a rule or two that the kids can live with and then letting the rest go. (For instance, “You must wear a jacket when you go outside, but whatever is under it is up to you.”)
I think most parents would agree that the more we nag, the more our kids push back. Maybe if we drop it for a while, they’ll come to a decision on their own that it’s more comfortable to dress for the weather. (I’ll try it and let you know.) 😉
Recently for my birthday, I told our kids that the only thing I wanted was a day without complaining. They tried, really they did, but we couldn’t even make it ONE DAY without complaining. Not even close.
I want to help my children learn to see the positive around them, but I also know that some knee-jerk complaining is normal in their development.
4. Messy Bedrooms
I once heard a mom with grown children say one thing she wished she’d done differently was not worry about the state of her kids’ rooms. It seemed so inconsequential when I first heard it. I thought, If that’s the only thing you’d change about your motherhood experience, I think you did pretty darn well.
Now that my children are a bit older, I can see what she means. It’s so tempting to constantly lean on my kids about their rooms. I want them to grow up to be respectful roommates and spouses, but I also want to get through raising them with my sanity intact. 😉 It’s a give and take.
5. Picky Eating
Comedian and dad of five Jim Gaffigan says giving a four-year-old a taco is like throwing a taco on the floor. Ha! It’s aggravating to continually make food your children won’t eat, with their preferences changing with the wind. But again, fighting for control over the little people we can’t entirely control is an uphill battle.
I think only ninja-level mothers have accepted all five of these at once. But if you notice one or two on this list that put continual strain on your happiness, maybe you’ll consider sliding away from “tolerating” and moving toward “accepting”—eventually merging some of the “real” with the “ideal” in your life.
I’d love to hear where you guys are at with these five common irritants. Are there some that you’ve accepted and others that you (barely) tolerate? Which one could you work on? (I’ve zoned in on #2 for the time being; 3 is up next!)
Photos courtesy of Amanda Castleberry Photography