This post originally appeared on MomAdvice.com.
We are still living in a time of peak television. But we’re also living in the summer of 2019. And that means stress of all sorts, including, possibly, the exhaustion that comes from the end of the school year madness being followed up by our kids being at home all the dang time. Tell me you know what I mean. And anyway, every season can be hard — and in those times, I am simply I’m too tired or anxious or overwhelmed to take on a new show — and instead crave the familiarity and comfort of old ones. I think that’s okay. I’ve written in defense of “comfort food TV” before, and I stand by that argument.
I must, because a couple months ago, I found myself rewatching New Girl from the beginning. And somehow, surprisingly, that simple choice has made me a little bit better as a wife and mom. It’s softened a few edges and helped me think and look on my people a little more warmly, with a little more grace. Weird, right?
In case you don’t know, New Girl is a half-hour sitcom starring Zooey Deschanel, and I vaguely recall loving it when it first came on in 2011. Somewhere along the way, though, I got a little bored or it got a little stale, and I stopped looking forward to new episodes. I watched out of loyalty and a mild curiosity about how the story would end. I didn’t even care one way or another when the show was renewed for a final season.
But all that changed when I started back at season one.
I’m not sure why, out of all the sitcoms on Netflix, I picked this one to rewatch — but it only took a few minutes to remember how much I’d once loved it.
As I binged one episode after another, I laughed out loud, often so hard I had tears streaming down my face. I found myself falling back in love with characters that had started to annoy or bore me, and I smiled at their most ridiculous antics with bemusement and affection. I cheered for their victories and ached at their disappointments. I couldn’t get enough of those crazy kids and was suddenly anxious for that final season to begin.
Maybe you’re wondering how on earth this delightful yet inconsequential experience could have anything to do with my life as a mom or wife. I get that. It seems like a stretch. But it’s not really. Not to me.
See, as I thought about how much my appreciation for this show was renewed by watching old seasons, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend several years ago. I was struggling with my oldest, whose behavior and sassy attitude were making it incredibly difficult to like her. OF COURSE I LOVED HER. But I think most moms know the feeling of loving our kids (or, ahem, our husbands) while not particularly liking or enjoying them much.
My friend listened with kindness and understanding — and then suggested I start each day by looking at my daughter’s baby pictures. She wondered if looking at photos of my daughter at her sweetest, most innocent, and most adorable might help me dig up some affection for her, even on the most challenging parenting days. We discussed how that act might just give me a likable anchor to hold onto when backtalk and disobedience threatened my patience once again.
And you know what? It works.
No, looking at Facebook’s On This Day reminders doesn’t magically drown out my daughters’ tantrums or arguments, and flipping through scrapbooks doesn’t erase the memory of a call from her teacher or a messy room or a dinner declared, “disgusting.” But it does balance out the harder parts of parenting with the sweet ones. And it does fill up my heart and my mind with all the good things about my kids that get overlooked when we’re dealing with the hard stuff.
This strategy works for my marriage, too.
On days when I’m most frustrated or disappointed with my husband, taking a look at our wedding photos or a vacation album really does pull me back from the edge. It doesn’t move his shoes out of the middle of the floor or write a love note inside the belated anniversary card. It certainly doesn’t teach us to communicate better or force us to consider one another’s feelings more. But glancing at a moment of joy captured and framed (or scrapbooked) reminds me that this irritating man is the one I chose and the one I love — and that though everyday challenges feel like they’ll never end, we’ve been in sync and happy before (and will certainly get there again).
Rewatching a favorite show that I’ve lost interest in reminded me why I fell in love with the show and the characters all those years ago. It refreshed my affection for the characters, bringing back to mind all the times I’d been moved or inspired or simply entertained by them. I remembered how much the good times outweighed the bad ones, and my desire to spend more time with a new season grew with every relived memory.
Reminiscing about my favorite people, who just might drive me crazy at times, does the same thing. It takes me back to the early days of our relationship, when I basically looked like a heart-eyes emoji and only saw the good in him or her. It reminds me of all the amazing times we’ve had together. And it gives me a big picture perspective, interrupting my in-the-trenches belief that the [hard] way it is today is how it will always be. I’m reminded how happy we’ve been in the past and feel hopeful that we’ll feel that way again. I remember that I’m in this — parenting, marriage, even friendship — for the long haul, through the best seasons and the worst.