How are you feeling? No really, how are you feeling?
If someone were to ask you that right now what would you say?
Fine? Great? Good? All right?
And then you ask, “How are you doing?”
While you might be genuinely interested in what they have to say, I would guess this is also said quickly in return to help deflect whatever is really going on inside.
As mothers, we enter the foreign world of parenting without ever preparing ourselves for this crazy whirl of new emotions. Along with the amazing feelings of instant love, joy, bliss and happiness, come feelings like fear, anxiety, loneliness and guilt that seem to be magnified by the everyday learning process of raising these wonderful souls without a manual.
Speaking for myself, and for the countless women I have come in contact with over my years as a mom, unless we feel we are in a safe place to express what we are REALLY feeling, we tend to mask our feelings to present the, “I’ve got this mom thing in the bag” persona, when really all we want to do is cry for help.
Most of the time those feelings are fear. Fear of actually expressing how we really feel, fear of judgment from others when we actually tell them and fear of what saying how we feel will, well, FEEL.
Through the diaper changes, the long sleepless nights, the occasional friend time and the never-ending rotation of laundry and dishes we get to a point where we hit a wall (at least I personally did).
Who am I? How did I get here? And how do I ACTUALLY FEEL?
For me, pile on the emotional two and five year old I have running around and things start to get real cray-cray in my house.
So I embarked on a personal journey to figure out who I was in this world called mom, where I want to go in life and, most importantly, how I want to FEEL along the way.
I truly believe we are the models for the next generation, so in order for me to teach my kiddos how to identify and control their emotions I had to get right with myself and how I really felt. I started to read and learn. I started with Brene Brown and Danielle LaPorte. I knew I had to test out all of this newfound feeling info.
I decided to challenge myself. I call it the Feeling Freedom Project (just to myself, really. I like coming up with names for things and when something has a name it seems more official, right?).
Whenever someone asked me how I was doing I was just going to say the first emotion that came to mind and take the fear out of emotional expression.
It was so awkward at first. The first day I started this feelings experiment was a doozey. Let me set the scene for you:
I was at the grocery store with both kids right before lunchtime and after a few hours of being stuck in the house on a rainy day. One was screaming in the front of the cart trying the escape, one was over touching all the candy at kid level and asking in the whiniest voice possible why she couldn’t ever have any of the candy but every other kid in her class was allowed to (really, have I ever caved? Have I ever actually said yes? NO! Not in five years, so why are you asking for the millionth time!?).
Do you have that mental picture yet? Like I said - doozey.
So when the checker asked her standard, “Hi, how are you today?” while my kids are a traveling circus and I’m attempting to unload as quickly as possible so I can get the heck out of there, I’m sure she wasn’t expecting me to say what came out of my mouth.
I took a deep breath, looked her in the eye and said with a smile, “Overwhelmed, tired and stressed but I’m going to get through this because I love them.”
She paused, looked right at me, smiled and said so lovingly, “You are doing a great job and this stage will be over before you know it.”
WOW! It felt soooooo good to hear that right then at that moment. Suddenly, those feelings went away and I was instantly grateful for this opportunity to have these two little ones. I had honestly named my feelings and in return I received LOVE. Rock on!
Naming my feelings as they live inside of me at that moment has helped me to grow closer and stronger relationships with those around me. Through practice, I have now helped my five and two year old learn to label their feelings, too. This has made a 180-degree shift in the way I parent, how I view their tantrums and how my husband and I deal with what they are expressing to us. World-of-difference!
So now I issue this challenge to you. The next time someone asks you, “How are you doing?” give them an honest answer. Tell them, without fear, how you are really feeling. See what happens. I can tell you it has been life changing for me.