motherhood wholehearted living

Moms: What Could You Accept—to Live a Happier Life?

How many things around your home and in your life do you tolerate (but not accept)? The shoes that get left out, the dishes someone placed in the sink instead of the dishwasher, the way your children pick apart what they like and dislike about every meal you make…

I climbed into our minivan, buckled my seatbelt, put my hands on the wheel, and turned at the waist to get a glimpse of each of my children.

Sandals on one. Basketball shorts and short-sleeves on another. A summer sundress on the last.

It was chilly and raining out.

Lightly, but still, there was literal water dripping from the sky, and my children were dressed for the fourth of July. 

Tolerating vs. Accepting

Tolerating stinks.

Tolerating wears on our nerves; it breaks us down (breaks us down, people!) over time. Tolerating the irritants around us doesn’t alleviate them. If anything, it gives them more power, because each time we pass the light left on or the smudgy handprints on the walls, the frustration builds up inside of us.

But when you share a house with children and pets and a spouse, it feels like tolerating is part of the job description.

It’s not even low down on the list. It’s like #2. Right there under Be the Person Who Finds Everything.

But what about accepting some of the irritants you can never resolve?

How would that change your everyday? Could it lighten the stress and agitation you’re carrying in your shoulders? Could it reduce the number of times per day you snap at the people you gave life to?

What Science Says

In a study of the brains of long-term couples, scientists found that their happiest participants showed reduced activity in a region of the cerebral cortex that is associated with the tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive.

By opting not to dwell on the negative, these people had cultivated contentment in their relationships.

Scientists call this phenomenon “positive illusions.”

“We humans are able to convince ourselves that the real is the ideal.” Helen Fisher

The real is the ideal. I love that phrase. At my house, the REAL is that my boys won’t wear anything but basketball shorts and my daughter detests socks. The REAL is that they complain often, and it wears on me. The REAL is the nonstop struggle to stay on top of the mess in my kids’ rooms and to not get agitated when they’ll only eat the bread at dinner—again.

But maybe—with enough purpose and practice on my part—the real could move a little bit more toward ideal.

Amanda Castleberry Photography

Moms: What Could You ACCEPT—to Live a Happier Life?

5 Irritants to Let Go Of

1. Clothing Preferences 

Every time I see a well-dressed baby, I want to commiserate with the baby’s mama about how nice it is when kids let you dress them. Before they decide that matching and skinny pants are for the birds.

Could you learn to accept the inside-out T-shirts and disdain for jeans, instead of (barely) tolerating them?

2. Weather-Appropriate Attire 

Granted this varies based on where you live (I’m in Northern California), but most of our children’s winter apparel choices won’t kill them. I suggest setting up a rule or two that the kids can live with and then letting the rest go. (For instance, “You must wear a jacket when you go outside, but whatever is under it is up to you.”)

I think most parents would agree that the more we nag, the more our kids push back. Maybe if we drop it for a while, they’ll come to a decision on their own that it’s more comfortable to dress for the weather. (I’ll try it and let you know.) 😉

3. Complaining 

Recently for my birthday, I told our kids that the only thing I wanted was a day without complaining. They tried, really they did, but we couldn’t even make it ONE DAY without complaining. Not even close.

I want to help my children learn to see the positive around them, but I also know that some knee-jerk complaining is normal in their development.

4. Messy Bedrooms 

I once heard a mom with grown children say one thing she wished she’d done differently was not worry about the state of her kids’ rooms. It seemed so inconsequential when I first heard it. I thought, If that’s the only thing you’d change about your motherhood experience, I think you did pretty darn well. 

Now that my children are a bit older, I can see what she means. It’s so tempting to constantly lean on my kids about their rooms. I want them to grow up to be respectful roommates and spouses, but I also want to get through raising them with my sanity intact. 😉 It’s a give and take.

5. Picky Eating 

Comedian and dad of five Jim Gaffigan says giving a four-year-old a taco is like throwing a taco on the floor. Ha! It’s aggravating to continually make food your children won’t eat, with their preferences changing with the wind. But again, fighting for control over the little people we can’t entirely control is an uphill battle.

I think only ninja-level mothers have accepted all five of these at once. But if you notice one or two on this list that put continual strain on your happiness, maybe you’ll consider sliding away from “tolerating” and moving toward “accepting”—eventually merging some of the “real” with the “ideal” in your life.

Related: 32 Ways to Savor Your Kids While You Have Them

I’d love to hear where you guys are at with these five common irritants. Are there some that you’ve accepted and others that you (barely) tolerate? Which one could you work on? (I’ve zoned in on #2 for the time being; 3 is up next!) 

Beautiful photos courtesy of Amanda Castleberry Photography, Salt Lake City


  • Reply
    January 10, 2017 at 6:55 am

    We can convince ourselves that real is ideal…that is something I have never thought of, and I LIKE it. The clothing preference thing is one that I had to give up fighting long ago. My oldest daughter, who is now 14, has been SO picky about her clothes from the time that she was two. I mean, you would have thought the world was ending if I asked her to put on long sleeves in the middle of the Indiana winter. She wanted shorts and short sleeves, and that was that. And, she wanted them to be the same shorts and shirt every single day because they were her favorites. She would put on a coat only after she went outside into the subzero temperatures. She is still as picky as anybody about her clothes and hates to wear winter clothing. At least now we live in AZ where it doesn’t matter as much. Oh, I could tell you stories of the battles that were simply not worth it. Kids grow and change and things like this fade into memory and make you smile.

    I am a champ at closing bedroom doors because that is not a fight that I am willing to fight on a daily basis. But the complaining…that is the one I need to work on. Thanks for the great food for thought.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 16, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      Hey Lynnette! I’m late saying so, but thank you for this comment! (Apparently I haven’t been getting my comments emailed to me for the last week or so; I just thought it was extra quiet on the blog lately! 😉 ) Anyway, oh my goodness, I can’t imagine a kid that stubborn in Indiana winters! My kids are about the same way, but thank goodness we live in a more temperate climate! And you too now. Sounds like the move to AZ was especially convenient for your daughter!!

  • Reply
    Linda Sand
    January 10, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    My great-nephew ate mostly lots of bread at a recent family dinner. His Dad was not worried about that because the one thing he will eat today will be different from the one thing he will eat tomorrow. Sometimes it’s meat and sometimes it’s vegetables so Dad’s theory is that it all balances out. I’m not sure the child’s Grandma was reassured by that. 🙂

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 16, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      Ha! Linda, this cracked me up. I can totally see myself in those exact shoes with my parents or in-laws. 🙂 Thanks so much for the comment!

  • Reply
    Rachel Thueson
    January 12, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    I love this list! And especially because I’ve feel like I’ve talked with you at least about a couple of them recently. The picky eating is a hard battle for me–I feel like what my kids eat is so out of my control and I don’t know how to get a handle on it. Thanks for the advice. And I will enjoy my 2 year old baby who lets me dress him. 🙂

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 16, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      YES! Enjoy that sweet Sawyer who has no opinions yet on how he dresses. I miss those days like CRAZY! And I am all sympathy about the picky eating. My kids kids have never been too too bad, there are always weird things cropping up. (Like, “I suddenly don’t eat string cheese, even though I’ve eaten it my whole life up until this point!”) 😉

  • Reply
    Tina W.
    January 15, 2017 at 8:54 am

    The clothing issues I accept. Both my kids have chosen their clothes since 18 mos. In winter we say they must bring a jacket in case they get cold. We have a playroom that can get pretty messy, so we ask them to clean up once or twice a week, or more if we’re tripping over things or losing toys. Their bedrooms are usually tidy, at ages 2 & 5 this hasn’t been an issue yet. But, picky eating and complaining I struggle with. I get tired of the comments if I haven’t made hot dogs or pizza every night. Having bread available is a good idea; my parents had bread at almost every meal growing up, and so did I. At least then when I make something new I want to try, they won’t starve if they don’t like it. Complaining, though. I could really use some help on that one. I feel like Mr. 5 could be more grateful but not sure that it’s developmentally possible yet.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 16, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      Ohhhh I can so relate, Tina! For what it’s worth, I tell my kids that I always offer at least two things (like the main dish and bread or the main dish and fruit, etc.), so there will always be at least one thing they’ll like. Then I try not to sweat it too much if they don’t eat one of them. That said, it still drives me a little crazy when the thing they won’t eat is the thing I actually went to lengths to MAKE… or when it’s something that they ate happily last week but are refusing to eat this week… the list goes on. Guess I still have a ways to go on this one!! 😉 Good luck to us both!

  • Reply
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    February 4, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Accepting my kids in all 5 of these areas has been relatively easy for me thus far. I have four kids now ages 10-20, and they have appreciated this practice and attitude. My most difficult challenge is accepting my husband’s annoying quirks that tend to grate on my nerves the most. I SO need to work on this.

  • Reply
    April 7, 2017 at 7:08 am

    The worst has to be when you have freshly cleaned the bathrooms and you wonder if it will make it to the end of the day before somebody husbands included wreck your pristine toilets!!! Drives me squirley!!!

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