Five questions to ask yourself to turn any mama moment around.
What if, in those moments of not getting it ‘quite right’, we could rise above it, find the wisdom, and see what the bigger lesson is?
Sounds good, right?
We’ve all had those moments when we know we haven’t reacted in the best way. Big or small, those little moments of thinking ‘Oh, something about that wasn’t right.’ Cathryn Monro, author and mama, calls them ‘spilt milk moments’.
And we have a choice in how we react to those moments. Do we keep going, without pausing to see why it happened, and perhaps what we can do to change it? Because this is where the wisdom is.
Here, Cathryn shares 5 simple self-inquiry questions that can turn the burning moments of motherhood into moments of wisdom and joy.
This spilt milk moment occurred on holiday with our extended family when I publicly volunteered my daughter to do the vacuuming. Even though I could see that her effort would be appreciated, her glaring displeasure was plain for all to see. And instantly, I reacted.
My inner “relaxed holiday-taker” packed her bags in a flash, and in her place, my “anxious worth-prover” set up camp in my mind.. This anxious, controlling part of me is not someone I want to be on holiday. This part of me gets all tangled up in mixed motives and sinks her own boat doing the right things for the wrong reasons.
It’s one of those snaggy spilt milk moments.
Mums everywhere tell me they appreciate me dissecting my mothering in the open, because it helps to know they’re not alone. It also helps to hear how self-inquiry sounds when someone else does it. It can be such a foreign concept – inquiring into your own reactions in the middle of a challenging moment?
Let’s walk through these self-inquiry questions together and see what I discovered, and how it turned this moment around.
Here are the questions:
What concerns you about this spilt milk moment?
What is underneath your concern?
Reflect on this. What do you notice?
What are you reaching for?
How could you use this spilt milk moment to focus your practice and cultivate more of what you want in your life today?
What concerns me about this spilt milk moment?
That my daughters’ grumpy response will be chalked up against her, or me, as a character-flaw.
That I don’t know what to do. Do I take my foot off the gas and reduce pressure on her to avoid the ugliness, or is that just giving in, and being ruled by her mood? Or do I take her on, wear the mother-pants, put my foot down and dish out some consequences?
I’m worried that I’ll be judged for having non-compliant kids, and that my family will think I should’ve done better teaching my child to contribute willingly.
What is underneath my concern?
Underneath I realise I wanted her to put points in the family’s behaviour bank to protect her, and me, from the judgement that comes with a contribution low-score.
What do I notice when I reflect on this?
I notice that I’m wishing she’d just get off the wi-fi and offer to help. I’m wishing that she’d be amazing and impress my family with her compliant and willing attitude. OMG. Who am I kidding and what am I thinking!?
I thought the moment was about my daughter’s glaring behaviour. But I see now that I was throwing my daughter under the bus of my own anxiety. It was a tangled request. No wonder she glared at me, and no wonder I felt caught.
What I am reaching for?
Instead of judgment, resistance, and anxiety I want to cultivate acceptance, appreciation and reassurance.
I’d like to find a way to work with my daughter that teaches her about contribution respectfully.
How could I use this spilt milk moment to focus my practice and cultivate more of what I want in my life today?
I have an intention for myself for the holiday! When I notice my daughter doing something voluntarily that contributes to the family holiday in any way, I will let her know that I see and that I value and appreciate her offers.
I will practice noticing when I get anxious, and disentangling myself from the need to please others.
Phew! I feel clearer, empowered in the face of old patterns, and more of the mother I want to be. My “relaxed holiday-taker” returns smiling. Transformed from the “anxious worth-prover”, I have grown my friendlier and easier “appreciative worth-builder”, and can move through the situation with grace again.
Spilt Milk Yoga is the process of making space to think and feel through why we do what we do. It’s about coming to know ourselves through meeting the challenges of motherhood. When we understand more about what is behind our unconscious responses we can consciously cultivate new options for ourselves.
This inner Q&A brings us toward our own wisdom, connects us to our joy, and refreshes our sense of purpose as we live each day.
If you have a burning spilt milk moment big or small that you’d like to transform into learning, run through the self inquiry for yourself. Write down your answers, and see what emerges. There is wisdom to be found in there.
Cathryn Monro is a professional artist, writer, educator, facilitator and mother of two. She rates mothering as by far the most challenging, creative, important and fulfilling of jobs. Find out more about Cathryn and her amazing book “Split Milk Yoga” here.