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How to be a Miserable Mom: 7 Traps that steal your JOY – Guest Tracey Eyster. Episode 60.

Not so merry and bright

There I stood, all alone, drenched in sweat, surrounded by absolute chaos, yelling my head off at no one in particular.  “How did this happen?”, I wondered aloud. “Today was supposed to be so memorable and so perfect”.  Instead the day had turned……memorable, yes, and very imperfect.  We had planned for days to decorate for Christmas, together as a family.  I had decided this was going to be our most memorable (a good memorable) Christmas ever.  Our oldest son is a Senior this year and planning on serving a two year mission (somewhere in the world) for our church as soon as he graduates, which means that he will be gone for the next TWO Christmases.  

Our three oldest kids are so close in age that I know once he leaves, it will be the beginning of the Great Exodus.  Who knows how many years it will be before we are ALL home together again?

Well, the pressure was on and I knew that nothing short of amazing would do.  NOW, it’s obvious I was setting myself up for a nervous breakdown.

‘Better watch out

We woke up Saturday morning to my husband sicker than a dog and needing to spend the day in bed.  Though I really did care about his well-being, the thought that went through my head was “Absolutely!  No problem. I can do everything alone.  Don’t give it a second thought”  Cue the teeth-grinding resentment.   Of course, I would never admit to my terrible thoughts out loud….Instead, I gathered my strength and my team of six hooligans and we readied ourselves to deck the halls!   

As we progressed in our decorating frenzy I kept seeing messes everywhere.  How could I put up decorations on the shelf if the shelf was covered in junk?  The thoughts began coming swiftly: “WHO put this HERE?! Why is it SO HARD for them to just put something away?  Have they EVER had an encounter with a trash can…honestly, have they?!? Why are there dishes UNDER the couch? You actually have to TRY to get dishes under there…and don’t even get me started on dirty socks!  I swear I live with animals. It would REALLY be nice if their dad was here helping….!” With each new thought my anger rose and orders to clean barked out of me. I became more and more DIS-enchanted by the thought of Christmas with each moment.  

To top it all off, I could see resentment in my oldest son’s eyes because I was making them all clean instead of decking the halls like I had promised.  I stomped into the storage room to put something away and was met with…you’ll never guess…a chaotic mess as if someone had played ‘whack-a-mole’. This is when I completely fell apart.  Instead of mostly keeping all those thoughts in my head I let them roar out of me like a lion!

‘Better not cry

My oldest son came running down the hall to see what had happened and to ask if he could help. I answered in the only logical way that I could.  I told HIM off for being disappointed in me because he had to clean.  (Yelling at him was a crazy way to act since I was trying to give HIM a perfect Christmas memory).  He assured me that he was in NO WAY disappointed in this day (How could he possibly be?  It was spectacular!) and then he quickly fled the room to clean somewhere else.  Yes, he has experienced this kind of crazy before and he knows that cleaning quickly and not making eye contact is the safest route to sanity being restored.  

As I stood there, alone, mad, victimized, and thoroughly UN-Christmasy, I wondered what in the world had happened?  How had I gone from “Let’s deck the halls, kids!” to “HOW is there UNDERWEAR IN THIS ROOM????  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE???”

Enter Tracey Eyster

On today’s episode some of these questions are answered by Tracey Eyster.  The “How did I get in this situation?” questions. She has nothing to say about the underwear.  Tracey is the author of Be the Mom, in which she shares advice on how to avoid what she describes as the seven most common “mom traps.”  (Here’s a clue – I was in one of those “mom traps” up to my eyeballs).

Here’s what I LOVE about Tracey (other than her accent).  Usually when I learn about “mom traps” I feel a LOT of guilt because it’s pretty clear that I have “stuff” that I’m dealing with.  Tracey isn’t advocating perfection in motherhood. She knows it’s hard. She says that moms are too hard on themselves. They take on motherhood thinking that they’ve “got this” and when things seem REALLY hard they think that maybe they weren’t cut out for motherhood.  She says that’s not true. “It’s normal to have ‘yucky feelings’ and be stressed as a mother. It’s not that motherhood is hard, it is just that motherhood brings out all ‘your stuff’.”

Well, I clearly have plenty of “stuff” to go around!  

Tracey identified the seven most common “mom traps” in an effort to help her daughter as she embarked on the journey of motherhood.  The book is written in an encouraging tone that makes you feel like there is a possibility of learning to avoid these “traps” as we learn to recognize them for what they are.  The problem isn’t us. It’s our attitude.

To say that Tracey is fun and easy to talk to is like saying that the Rockies are “biggish”.  I cannot begin to say how much we LOVED our conversation with her. Her laugh and wit are infectious (And if you listen closely, so is her accent.  Beth unknowingly switched into a Kentucky drawl halfway through the interview!)

Mom traps

Here is the list of Tracey’s “Mom Traps”.  Listen to the interview to hear a complete description of them as well as how we can combat them.

  1. “I’m just a mom” trap – We’ve all said it
  2. “Me” trap – In this traps description you’ll hear the parable of ‘the askew towel’
  3. “Martyr” trap – Here’s a shocker…this is the trap that took me down while decorating for Christmas.
  4. “Busy mom” trap – We wear busyness like a badge of honor
  5. “Mirror mom” trap – Comparison is the thief of joy
  6. “Tomorrow mom” trap – Moms have an “illusion of permanence”
  7. “They say” trap – Well…..you know what “they” say….

The warrior mom

Tracey’s final bit of wisdom to us is one that I would LOVE to shout from the rooftops.  She said “Trust in the Lord and be a warrior mom!”  Tracey is a woman of God who knows that motherhood is a divine role.  She knows that it’s not easy…it’s not supposed to be easy. God will be there with us (if we let Him in) to guide us as mothers.  He gave us those children and He wants us to succeed. It’s imperative that we succeed.

So, let’s go forward!  Let’s learn about these traps that bring out our “stuff” and try to avoid them.  And when we don’t avoid them, but instead fall in head first?

Well, let’s go back to my story:  As I stood there, in the storage room, wondering what in the world had happened, I realized something really remarkable:  I was an idiot. I had let myself lose my focus on what was actually important and had slipped into the “martyr trap”.  So then I did the only thing I should have done.  I went to my kids, apologized for acting like a crazed clean-a-holic-grinch, promptly put on Christmas music, took care of my actually very sick husband, and decorated my heart out with all of those hooligan kids.  And do you know what? Even though I didn’t get my junk together until mid-afternoon, we ended up having a marvelous day full of Christmas cheer. God really does help us…when we let Him.

Tracey’s Mom Squad Challenge

Stop beating yourself up and recognize it is not you, it is your attitude about whatever is going on. Pray and ask the Lord to help you understand that there isn’t anything wrong with you and give yourself mercy.

To find out more about Tracey:

Tracey is the Founder and Creator of “Mom Life Today” where, for a decade, millions of moms have gathered together from every stage of life to find encouragement and community.

She is also the Founder and Creator of the “Mom Life Boot Camp/Mom Camp” events at Pine Cove Christian Camps.

Be the Mom, Tracey’s book, is filled with  advice on how to avoid, what she describes as, the seven most common “mom traps.”  

She is the co-author of the Life Way Bible Study: Beautiful Mess – Motherhood for Every Moment

She’s been a guest on the Focus on the Family broadcast, FamilyLife Today and co-Host of Encouragement Cafe radio. (Have a listen here.)

She enjoys hiking, kayaking and horseback riding with her family on their horse farm in central Kentucky.

Tracey’s Books

Be the Mom:

 Beautiful Mess – Motherhood for every moment:


1 Comment

  1. When I was a young mom and had five children the oldest of whom was not quite five I got a lot of strange looks and questions about my sanity. I came from a small family, just me and my brother. I had always wanted a large family and the laughter and fun that I saw some of my friends having in their large families. I had consciously chosen to have a big family, but it was hard and sometimes very discouraging. That made it very difficult to deal with negative comments from other people.
    I finally came up with a response to the question “What do you do?” that worked to help me remember what kind of Mom I wanted to be.
    “What do I do?”
    “I’m a professional Mom. I spend a lot of time studying and experimenting to find out what works best for me and my family.”
    I also got a lot of flack for being responsible for “over population”.
    My response to that was that I intended to raise children who would contribute to making the world a better place.
    I had a lot of “Mom fails” along the way and we still aren’t perfect, but keeping myself focused on my true goals helped me to raise the family that I had always dreamed about.

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