I once worked for a wise woman who loved to give us this advice:
“Fake it ’til you make it,” she’d say.
I’d think about her words as I herded large groups of preschoolers at picnics, as I gave presentations in front of big rooms of teachers and child care providers, as I made phone calls to angry clients whom I knew would most likely yell at me.
She was right. Pretending to feel in control, calm, and confident made me seem more that way…at least to myself…and projecting that image of myself made me believe that was how I’d felt all along.
I’ve been wondering whether this applies to my vocation as a homeschooling mom.
Is there some value for me in pretending (to myself) that I feel better than I do?
I tend to get sucked down into a negative vortex of sighs, eye rolls and wishful thinking. Sometimes, I even complain out loud. In front of my husband. In front of my kids, even.
“I wish it was naptime already.”
“I don’t enjoy weeding the flower bed.”
“This isn’t any fun right now.”
“You guys are making me so tired.”
Even though these things are often true, complaining about them does not make me feel better. Nor am I modeling to my children how to handle life’s inevitable frustrations.
I don’t want to create an environment where other people complain and sigh heavily and appear burdened, but sometimes, that might be exactly what I’m doing.
Hiding our feelings is not a good habit, and honesty in families is important. We have permission to feel however we feel at any given moment. Home should be a safe place to feel and to express those feelings.
But am I entitled to demonstratively complain about my feelings? Should everyone else be subjected to the gloomy irritability I feel in the face of certain chores or certain weather or the certain exhaustion that comes with nearing the end of a pregnancy?
I once read an article where a woman claimed that complaining was nothing less than a sin against God. God made everything, she said, and we were to be grateful and rejoice at all times. Complaining, especially to other mothers, about how difficult our lives as mothers are, was not just disrespectful to God but was encouraging other women to sin, too.
I took the article much too personally, feeling it sounded like a self-righteous lecture from someone I wanted to avoid. I discarded her perspective because of how it was written.
Today, though, I have to admit she had a point.
I’m still not sure if complaining is a sin. At the very least, though, it’s not the best I can do. Whining about what’s in front of me, even if I do it silently, is not making me the best version of myself. I’m not living up to my potential. I’m not fully embodying what God created me to be.
Besides, from a purely practical angle, complaining isn’t helping me get through the day. It’s not creating the home I want, where love, encouragement and creativity develop and flourish. It isn’t the example I want to set for my family, especially my children.
One of our foster children struggled mightily with complaining and negative thinking. Part of it was just his personality, part of it was his life circumstances, and part of it was that he was nearly a teenager. Things happened to him, some of them admittedly pretty awful, and he always, always saw only the dark side of them. My husband calmly talked with him multiple times each day about how although we can’t control our circumstances, we can always control how we respond to them.
“You ALWAYS have a choice,” my husband would say. And our foster son would repeat it back in a sing-songy voice, “You ALWAYS have a choice! Why do you ALWAYS SAY THAT??” and run from the room, slamming the door.
It takes some work every day to remind myself that my husband is right. I do always have a choice. I can complain, or I can choose joy and gratitude.
Choosing to be thankful is not an easy thing for me some days. There are days when I wake up fully aware that I’m going to have to work hard to choose joyful thinking.
There are times when I have to fake it, and sometimes when I’m faking it, I’m not sure I’m fooling anyone. But the choice is still there.
There will be messes and disappointments and tantrums and poopy diapers. I may not have a choice about any of that. I always have a choice about how I respond, though…and if I have to change and wash out six poopy diapers in a day, I might as well do it with a song in my heart and a smile on my face.
Even if I have to fake it.
Copyright 2014, Abbey Dupuy