Almost all mothers run into the pressure to be the *perfect* mom. Taryn Toomey, a mom of two and the creator of The Class by Taryn Toomey, is no exception. Here, the Well+Good Council member who created a new category of cathartic sweat sessions that are a major mental-slash-physical fitness phenom, explains how she learned to pull herself out of the "bad mom" spiral and, instead, use the opportunity to become a more conscious parent.
One day last week, I was about to leave for a 10-day trip, so I wanted to spend as much time with my daughters as possible. I organized my schedule to pick them up from school, envisioning a perfect moment when my kids were going to be so excited to see me.
Things went differently when I arrived. I had a hard time pulling myself away from a team member who needed answers from me by end of day. I was stressed and late showing up for the girls. They were indeed happy to see me, but before long (and no doubt reacting to my harried energy) my 6-year-old daughter had a full-on meltdown, ostensibly because she wanted a snack that I didn't bring. Then her sister stepped on her foot. More crying, more chaos.
On the subway ride home, I started to wish that I had just stayed at the office. That was the point when it would have been easy to go into a self-loathing, "bad mom" moment.
So much for an easy, harmonious moment of family togetherness. On the subway ride home, I started to wish that I had just stayed at the office. That was the point when it would have been easy to go into a self-loathing, "bad mom" moment. So many mothers do this; we feel frustrated when parenting is difficult, then we punish ourselves for being frustrated about that. We seek perfection—not just in our actions, but in our thoughts.
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In that moment, I decided to do something different: I acknowledged my feelings. When there's a lot of pressure in your day and there are little, irritated human beings around you, feeling frustrated—or annoyed, or exasperated, or whatever you feel—is a normal response. Sure, there are times when that type of crying and behavior doesn't get to me. I can calmly get down on my daughters' level, look into their eyes, and slow it all down for them. But on this particular afternoon, I just couldn’t engage as deeply. I just kept things quiet, held their hands, took them home, and went back to the office.
This kind of emotional honesty is what I practice in Class. I love sharing the human side of feeling overwhelmed, tapped out, tired, and not wanting to do what you have to do. Because within that experience, there's an opportunity for reflection. For instance, I realized that maybe it wasn't the best idea for me to pick up the girls after an important meeting I might have known would run late. Maybe it would have been better to plan a special dinner together instead. I like to reflect, as opposed to just being angry at myself.
The reality of motherhood is that there will always be those crazy, chaotic moments.
The reality of motherhood is that there will always be those crazy, chaotic moments. When it's 7 a.m. and the kids are throwing their shoes while I'm trying to feed them breakfast, I can choose a response, but it requires doing a little bit of self-study on my own childhood. I actively track patterns that have developed over time, and this awareness gives me the space to inform my own parenting. As a youth, what felt really bad? What didn’t? When did I feel others projecting upon me?
I also proactively try to notice myself, with all my learned and internalized and genetic tendencies. I think about the moments that did not affect me in a positive way. And then, I reroute the impulses that feel “conditioned." I take a deep breath. I feel the stimulus, hear the thought, and take a moment before acting—using the tools I have learned in Class and from the many mentors in my life. This does become somewhat exhausting at times, but I have found that the more I practice it, the less effort it takes.
And you know what? If it means creating a "new normal" for my children, a better way for them to feel seen and heard, so be it. I will do that work. This endeavor feels more important, potent, and powerful to me than dwelling on what I did right or wrong.
Known for transforming New Yorkers and Los Angelenos with her magical, virtually unexplainable workout, The Class by Taryn Toomey, Taryn is on a deep soul journey to become one with her past and open herself to higher purpose and greater fulfillment. The Class by Taryn Toomey is currently in New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Greenwich, CT, and the Hamptons—with plans to expand and bring its magic to major cities around the globe. To go deeper with Taryn, join her on Martha's Vineyard this July for The Retreatment.
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