The Happiest Place on Earth?
A few weeks ago, a close friend of mine went on a trip to Disney with her husband and their two young sons (3 and 5). It wasn’t their first time there, so she knew what she was in for and she was very excited to have time away with her family. Her husband, a Disney fanatic for years, leads the charge when it comes to vacation planning, so my friend was approaching the trip with a pretty care-free attitude, minus the hours and hours of packing she orchestrated.
When the trip arrived, she felt ready. She felt excited! On our first catch up phone-call post-trip (this friend lives too far for us to see one another regularly, but we have conveniently scheduled phone dates 2x each week) she was thrilled to report that the trip had been a success! The boys behaved, her older son had tackled his first roller coaster and everyone came home in one piece!
After filling me in on the trip overall, my friend’s tone turned more serious. Besides the warm and fuzzy memories that they had made while away, my friend said she wanted my opinion on another aspect to how she felt when she had come home.
“Happiest Place on Earth?”, she said. “HELL NO”!
Between the screaming fits (typical for the ages of her children), over-tiredness, over-stimulation, occasional saying no to endless opportunities for souvenirs, heat, rain etc., my friend and I lamented over the irony of labeling such a place, such an experience as “happy,” let alone the epitome of happy places that our planet has to offer.
My friend was left feeling conflicted and guilty due to her feelings. She confided in me that privately, she wondered what exactly was wrong with a mother who couldn’t whole-heartedly experience joy in the eyes, hearts, and minds of her children who were [mostly] over the moon the entire time that they were away? She further detailed that she secretly felt selfish, like she was “doing it wrong” or that plain and simple, she questioned whether or not she was a monster – for not absolutely loving every minute of Disney with her beautiful family.
We both articulated that as mothers, we often have very high standards for ourselves; our mothering.
The conversation was a good one. My friend walked away feeling heard, feeling validated that:
She had nothing to feel badly about.
Most moms we both know feel this way at some point in any given day. (Truth be told, I think most moms feel this at SEVERAL points throughout the day. At least I do). These were things that my friend already knew, but it just felt good for her to be able to share these things with a good friend.
I walked away from our conversation also feeling validated by feelings that I often experience myself (see point 2 above) and to know that I too am not alone. There are so many parts of motherhood – of parenthood – that leave us feeling that we aren’t doing enough. That we aren’t doing “it” right. I take comfort in knowing that for many of us, these feelings are shared by others. I also find comfort in knowing that for most parents, we’re all struggling with the magical (pun intended) balance of actually getting “it” right.
Julia holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Columbia University, advanced Clinical Certificates from NYU, and certification in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy from the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy. Julia can best be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website www.therapywithjulia.com.
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