If you read along with us in Part One, you remember that my spoons have also been running low and the most creative I could get with titling here is The Spoon Theory: Part Two. So, welcome to Part Two.
I’d love to know how you’ve been paying attention to your spoons and what the spoon theory means to you. I mean it: comment here on this post, leave us a note on Facebook, send us a DM. Share with us and share with other parents out there: what have you noticed about your spoons? How many do you think you start with each day? What kinds of things deplete your spoons? What kinds of things may one day add a spoon and other days may take away a spoon? Are you feeling like you have negative spoons more than you do positive spoons?
My last piece of writing (Spoon Theory: Part One) was written to educate us on The Spoon Theory. Without knowing about it, and without having the insight you’ve hopefully gained over the last few weeks, we can’t do anything about it. We have to gain insight and awareness into the things we want to change before we can take steps into changing them.
So now we talk about the change. How do we add more spoons? How do we stop falling into negative spoon land as we slowly creep out of a once in a generation global pandemic?
I’ll do my best to toss out some suggestions, but know this: these things are not a one and done solution. These are things to practice even on the days where they don’t feel like they’re working. They’re things you may struggle to maintain but I encourage you to try again the next day. They’re things you may need to share with your partner and family to help hold you accountable. And some of these things will work for you and others won’t. Let’s step into these thoughts with flexibility and the understanding that grace for ourselves is necessary.
- Manage your expectations: If you know that you’re starting your day with seven spoons, know that you can only accomplish things that require seven spoons. It’s unfair to yourself (and everyone else around you) to expect yourself to provide twelve spoons of tasks when you only have seven to begin.
- Be open about your number of spoons: Let your partner, your kids, your co-workers, your friends know where your spoon balance lies. It’s okay to say, “I can’t do that task today. I’m out of spoons.” (And leave out the apology. You don’t owe anyone an apology.)
- Ask for help: This is actually 2b on this list. Once we share with our loved ones how we’re holding up with our spoons, ask for help. Moms are particularly bad at this for lots of reasons. But just remember, if you only have two spoons left and your child has an ordinary situation (different from a crisis because a parent in a crisis functions on super powers, not spoons) that requires you to give four spoons of attention and love, you legitimately cannot provide what they need. There’s nothing you can say to convince me otherwise. I know I’m a therapist so math is hard, but I know we cannot give four of anything when we only have two. So ask for help to gain more spoons. You are the expert on you, so you know what you need to do to gain more spoons.
- Practice gaining more spoons: This is essentially 2c. What helps you gain spoons (like going for a run) may totally deplete all my spoons (this is a real life example for my non-athlete self). Some of us gain spoons by bingeing on Netflix. Others of us lose spoons as we become more sedentary and our brains aren’t engaged. Some of us gain spoons from a long hot bath. Others of us don’t physically fit inside our bathtub (or we don’t have one). So you need to practice learning about your own self: what fills you up? What gives you spoons?
- Believe that you are worth practicing gaining more spoons: Okay, 2d. If you don’t believe the math, if you don’t believe that you’re worth gaining more spoons, then you will continue to make excuses to not prioritize your own self. And as heartbreaking as it feels to be out of spoons, wishing for more spoons won’t give us more spoons. We need to be proactive in protecting our spoons. Hold on to them. Say no when we need to. And actively make time to gain more spoons.
- Lastly, meet yourself with grace: This even brings us back to #1. If we have high expectations of ourselves… as parents… during a global pandemic… we are setting ourselves up for failure and frustration and stress. Treat yourself like you would treat someone you love: offer grace, offer second chances, offer understanding, offer empathy and offer compassion. Reminder: we are in a global pandemic that consistently sets us up each day with less spoons than we would have started every day with over a year ago. Each day we have less spoons because of “pandemic brain.” If we are not actively practicing and trying to gain more spoons, we will always have negative spoons because of the nature of our world’s circumstances which are entirely out of our control. So lean into the things we can control in a world that feels like we can’t control much of anything.Which of these steps listed above seems hardest for you? Ask yourself why? My guess is you’ll learn a little bit about your values and deep beliefs you have about yourself. But I’m here to tell you that you are worth it. You are worth saying no. You are worth rest. You are worth breaths.
Hold on tight to your spoons. Use them with care. Use them with love. Use them wisely. You have much more power and control than you think.