What Advice Would You Tell Your Younger-Self?

by: Terry Ternyila

As a mom, our roles are usually underrated. We are the ones behind the scenes that make sure everything is taken care of.   In most cases, no one really understands how much work we put into making sure that things are handled for the family, which leads us feeling underappreciated, misunderstood and usually exhausted. 

Sometimes I wish my older-wiser-self could go back and talk to my younger-struggling-self to give myself advice.  Looking back there are always things that you’ll wish you had done different.  I think I would have enjoyed the ride more, had I known then what I know now.  I wanted to share some of that advice, and hopefully it helps someone else. 

Put Your Health First

As a mom we put this extreme pressure on ourselves to be super heroes. We take pride in being able to juggle it all and look good doing it. In most cases, moms are running on empty.  We often forget to take care of ourselves.

On an airplane you hear the flight attendant instructing you if there was an emergency to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. This is an important rule for ensuring survival…if you run out of oxygen yourself, you cannot help anyone else.  And if we were in this situation on the plane, that would be the first thing we did so we could help our family, loved ones, and others to survive. However, in real life we don’t think of it. Knowing when you need, being able to pull back and take care of yourself, is one of the most important lessons I have learned. 

I was never one of those moms that could function on a couple hours of sleep. One of the biggest rules in our house (and still is today) is “don’t wake Mom”. If I didn’t get my sleep, I was irritated and frustrated all day, which would just filter down to everyone else.  Nothing good would come from a tired Terry, but I never realized how important eating healthy, staying hydrated and getting exercise was for me. My younger-self would just push that to the bottom of the list and tell myself I just didn’t have time. Once I put that first in my life, I felt so much better physically and mentally. I made myself a happier person and gave myself so much more energy.  This would have come in handy when the kids were younger.   

Don’t Stress the Small Stuff

If you cannot control the outcome, stressing about it will not change it either. The only control you have is your reaction to it. I am a planner by nature, so I will put as much as I can in order, then I have to remind myself to just try to relax.

I tend to stress about the “But what if’s”.  We even gave it a nick name, for when you are being a “BIF”. I will make so many scenarios in my head that it makes it even more stressful.  I try to remind myself, “What’s the worst case here”.  Most of the time the worst case is really not that bad, and this will limit the level of stress that I give things if they do go wrong.  

I can also say this is good to keep in mind dealing with situations with the kids. Again remembering the only thing we can control in some situations is our reactions. Like when your kid is having a melt- down in the middle of a restaurant, and you are so worried about everyone looking at you.  Your reaction is usually elevated and short-tempered, which just feeds the situation even more. Our reaction plays a huge factor in the outcome of most of the situations. My husband was always better in these situations because he would not get emotional or frustrated. I think over the years I have finally found that my reaction is so important.  So don’t stress the small stuff…

Finding the Fun

I tend to be so focused on making sure things go right that I miss the journey. I rush through things so I can hurry up to get there, when actually I should have been finding the fun in the journey. Or I plan a holiday or activity with the kids only to spend most of the time trying to keep it to how I pictured it in my head; if it doesn’t go as I planned, I get upset.  My focus is so distracted from the present that I missed the fun moments that happened along the way. 

My husband embraces when things go wrong. He always laughs and says, “well now we have a good story to tell.” Over the years he has shown me how to find the fun in the imperfect moments and even when things go terribly wrong.  Being able to embrace that we can’t control everything and to be able to laugh at those moments makes the journey much more enjoyable.

In my family, some of our worst moments have brought us some good stories that we now can look back on and laugh.

Feeding Your Soul

Doing things for ourselves feels selfish, especially if you are a mom. In all of our busy lives, we never put ourselves at the top of the list. When we make our to-do-lists, I can assure you on that list we put everything else that needs to get done except taking care of ourselves. Balance is the key to making sure you are a good mom. 

I am always looking for things that feed my soul.  For some people, it’s reading a book or doing something creative, while for others they enjoy being outdoors or exercising. Finding something you are passionate about and feeds who you are and what you love, just makes you a happier person.

I honestly don’t think I have found my thing yet, but I haven’t stopped trying. I enjoy browsing little antique shops and flea markets. I do enjoy getting outside; my husband and I have a two-seater bike we love to ride around town. This year for Christmas we got kayaks, so I am hoping this may be something I can do to clear my mind and help me de-stress.  

Having a Support System

I always felt a tremendous pressure to be able to do it all and do it all on my own. I felt like asking for help is a sign that I could not handle it. I wish I would have leaned on my support system more and put less pressure on myself to live up to this expectation that I need to do it all perfect, but having a support system doesn’t always mean to help with the kids. Having a support system means that you can get out for a night and get away to breathe, put your oxygen mask on.

Make sure you put time into nurturing friendships. My whole life became about raising my kids and now that the nest is empty, I realize that I didn’t have that balance in my life. My family is my whole world, but having life outside your family does not make them any less important to you. 

What we need to remember is if we are run-down, stressed, and not happy with our lives, that is what you will be projecting into your family life and onto your kids.   

I have been a wife and a mom for more than half of my life now. I have navigated through many obstacles of raising three awesome humans and have learned a lot along the way. I find pleasure in sharing my stories of success and failures with others in hopes that in some way it could help them in their journey, or at least give them a good laugh.  

What is some advice you wish you could go back and tell your younger self? 

It’s going to be a long flight…make sure you take care of yourself.

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