My husband and I set out to start our family about 12 year ago (in fact it is my oldest daughter’s 11th birthday today)! For no explainable reason, we set our sights on having 4 children, which we achieved through 3 full term pregnancies. So what I discovered about myself through the process of having babies, having 4 kids under age 4, and now with a very lively and vocal brood, is quite interesting. And I find this relevent because many mothers that I’ve counseled over the years have found themselves in a similar boat.
With screaming babies in tote, as a mother I found myself getting very short on patience at times. Sometimes I just wanted to explode. It felt like my insides were building pressure, I was hanging on to my momentary sanity by a string, and I was super tense. I wasn’t always like this, but it seemed like I was stressed out more than I thought I “should” be. It was probably about 4-5 years in to motherhood that a realization hit me. The realization came one day as I was reviewing the diagnostic criteria for Autism for a client. Autistic people typically have a very hard time dealing with loud noises. It’s as if their nervous system just can’t handle the disruption. That’s when it hit me, that I was similar to that. Now, I’m not on the Autistic Spectrum, but I came to realize that I have probably a stronger sensitivity to noises than the average person. Maybe it is tied in to my personality- my introversion. But either way, it is just a part of who I am.
It was a real epiphany to me. Up to that point, I never tried to manage my environment for noise. I would just find myself in a tenuous situation where I was emotionally depleted. Now that I recognize this issue for me, I able to actively manage it! The restaurant that is the hardest for me is Buffalo Wild Wings (or almost any sports bar that has 40+ TVs). So I know that towards the end of the meal, if I am feeling stressed, I just head out to the car while my husband pays and wraps things up inside. When my kids are being “lively” in the car and I’m getting overloaded, I have them play the quiet game for 5 minutes or until we get home. When they are getting super loud at home during mealtime, I simply remind them to use their inside voices.
These are just a few of the more common times that I notice my tolerance wearing thin and my internal pressure rising, and then how I have adjusted my own behavior to be proactive instead of reactive.
If you reflect on your own tendencies and internal reactions to noise and find you might be similar to me, know that there is hope for reducing your stress level. You can make some simple adjustments to your day and your environment to support your emotional wellbeing. Recognizing this about myself even has lead me to ensure that my workday is more quiet so that I have as much emotional capacity for my kids when I get to spend time with them after school/after work. One of the biggest benefits of this epiphany to me, is it has increased my confidence as a mother. In the past, I started to feel like I wasn’t a very good mother because I was often getting short with my kids. Now I dismiss those thoughts and remind myself that I am a wonderful mother who loves her children dearly, but just needs to balance out the loud noises of vibrant children. It’s really a much more pleasant and productive way to interpret my feelings!
I encourage you to find some creative ways for managing your environment to better support how you are wired. You might just find it as a game-changer!!