I’m a bad mom. A terrible wife. A horrid housekeeper. I should be able to keep up with things. I should yell less and be more patient. I do too much. I do too little. I can’t handle this. 

Have you ever come up with similar negative thoughts? These counterproductive cognitions can sneak into our minds and bring us down. They pile up and sometimes we don’t even realize how negative we’re becoming.

I’ve been in the process of moving for months, and now I find myself a mostly-stay-at-home mom (never been a dream of mine) with a houseful of boxes, kids to get to a new school, navigating a new town, two mortgages, more expenses, writing online articles and newsletters without access to the Internet (yep, issues with hook up) and still maintaining clients 90 miles away (which means figuring out travel and childcare once a week).

I had a lot of negative thoughts the other week compounded by a breakdown and guilt because 1) I’m a therapist and know better, and 2) there are so many others out there with worse situations than I’m in. I even called my sister to ask if she ever broke down during the time she moved her family to a new city right after giving birth and in the midst of her husband’s cancer treatments. She only laughed and said “I can’t tell you how many times I told the kids ‘Mommy needs a timeout’ and would lock myself in my room.”

Ok, reality check. Bring on the positive thoughts and replace these negative pieces of junk. I’m a good mom, with room to improve. I’m a loving and hard-working wife. My house is supposed to be a boxed mess because I just moved. Any “shoulds” that I think are only assumptions or expectations that I’m placing on myself based on comparisons with others.

I hear this often in therapy. “I SHOULD…” What? You should what? Do things the way others do them? Throw your instincts out the window? Compare yourself to others, with their different experiences and ways of handling things?

It’s very difficult to NOT compare ourselves or to place unrealistic expectations on ourselves based on those comparisons. After all, aren’t we bombarded in the media with slogans and ads on how to be more like so-and-so? Our laws are meant to guide us to make positive decisions, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in them that we build up too much anxiety. We see THAT person, walking down the street, all calm, cool and collected, looking hot in the designer outfit, and we know he/she has 2.3 perfect children at home who NEVER misbehave. And we compare.

However, the outward appearance doesn’t always match the inside. We don’t know the struggles and hardships others have faced or are currently working through. They don’t know ours.

When you feel those negative, no-good, counterproductive thoughts creeping into your mind, take some time to relax, breathe, and note the positive things in your life. Be thankful for those things. Make plans to improve the things that still bother you. Know it’s ok to cry or have a meltdown. Use your positive coping skills, like drawing, reading, baths, exercise, etc. Replace the negative with positive. Find positive friends to be around. Laugh, even if it’s at yourself.


Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.