“Suffering is one of life’s great teachers.” ~ Bryant H. McGill ~
All of our lives we step into the roles we believe we were made to fill. We become good students, star athletes, accomplished graduates and eager employees. We get married, settle down, and become doting wives and mothers. As Glennon Doyle says, we spend years, or whole lives even, “becoming” the people we think we should be, burying who we are under the weight of other’s expectations. I spent my teens and 20s busting my ass to become the vision of who I thought I should be, of who would make my parent and society proud. I wanted to become a hard worker. I wanted to become financially successful. I wanted to become a rock star employee. I wanted to become Jason’s loving wife. I wanted to become a selfless mother. And so I did. I became all things I imagined, but instead of feeling more and more accomplished as expected, I came to feel more and more alone, more disconnected from the core of who I was. I didn’t realize this of course, mostly I just felt life getting harder, getting heavier each year. I, like so many others, blamed adulthood, I blamed motherhood. I missed the carefree days of my youth and accepted the empty, gnawing hole burning through my insides as “just the way it is.”
But something happens when you forget who you are, when you let the roles define you and other’s expectations guide you, when you shove down your needs and desires and work tirelessly to prove your worth…suffering.
Suffering shows up in silent, sneaky ways. Shuffering shows us up as anger, jealousy, frustration, resentment, sadness, fear, overwhelm, exhaustion, and loneliness. Suffering shows up and weighs on our hearts when we seemingly have “nothing” to suffer about it. Suffering sneaks in bed with us at night, it whispers to us throughout the day, and settles in step besides us.
But suffering isn’t here to punish us for not being enough. Suffering isn’t isn’t a sign that we’re failing, doing it wrong, or unworthy.
Suffering is here to save us.
Just as pain alerts us to stop (think touching a hot stove), suffering also alerts us that the direction we are heading is going to cause us additional harm. Instead of pulling our hand back at the first sign of heat though, we slowly move closer and closer towards the flame. We ignore the pain, grit our teeth, and tell ourselves to toughen up. We believe suffering is inevitable and unavoidable. And while that’s true to some extent, the degree to which we accept suffering as part of life is utterly mind blowing.
We are so disconnected from our soul, from our wants, needs, and desires, from who we really are, that even the most profound suffering fails to get through to us.
It’s time to wake up.
It’s time to open our eyes.
It’s time to see how suffering is present in our life and pay attention to what it’s trying to teach us. Most of us don’t even realize how suffering shows up in daily life.
After talking for hours and hours to moms struggling to find their way out of the overwhelm and into lives they love, I’ve identified 5 primary Miserable Mom Archetypes. These archetypes help personify and demonstrate the ways suffering presents in “normal” mom life.
Which miserable mom are you? More than one? All? I can honestly say I have deeply identified with nearly every one of these women at some point in the 12 years since becoming a mother. I also see now, how identifying and addressing each one was the key towards peace (and less suffering).
Miserable Mom Archetypes
THE PLEASER: You are responsible and reliable, people can count on you. You pride yourself on getting shit done and taking care of everyone.
You’re a hard worker, a contributor who lifts, not leans….but this means you don’t know how to say no without feeling like you’re letting everyone else down. You genuinely want to help but you’re exhausted, living for everyone else first, always.
Your calendar is filled with commitments you don’t want to do, your evenings and weekends are scheduled for months in advance, and your family is feeling your hectic life, wondering when you’ll actually be home and present.
Your greatest desire is to lock yourself away in solitude for a week by yourself.
THE DOORMAT: You want peace above all else. You don’t like drama or chaos, you want everyone to get along, and so you accept less than stellar behavior from most people because it’s easier than asking them to change or distancing yourself.
You worry stating your needs will only cause more problems. You often take burdens upon yourself, feeling sad, angry, and alone instead of standing up to others. You want to establish boundaries but you don’t know how and fear you’ll make things worse.
You suffer silently, believing it’s the best for all involved, and what nice, good girls do. You hope things will change. Your kids notice your behavior because you often take your resentment and frustration out on them. You’re irritable, short, frazzled, and on edge. Mostly your sad and tired of the emotional turmoil.
Your greatest desire is that all relationship problems and negative feelings will magically disappear.
THE HUSTLER: You’ve got shit to do. Dominating the laundry, the dishes, the kids’ lunches, the doctors appointments, the landscaping, the birthday parties, the meal planning, the cleaning….making everything with love from scratch is how you roll.
If you slow down you feel guilty, like you’re forgetting something so you find things to do. You never get to the end of your to do list because it keeps growing. You never feel like you’ve done enough.
You don’t know how to rest because you don’t feel you can until the work is done but it never is. You despise lazy people, pride yourself on being a hard worker, never take shortcuts, and don’t make excuses. But you are also exhausted, angry and simmering with resentment for doing it all and never getting a break. You snap at your kids, lose your temper, cry in frustration, and fight anger constantly. You wonder why everyone else seems to have this mastered, has an easy life and you are left here busting your ass, holding the bag.
Your greatest desire is to feel a sense of total satisfaction, at peace with all your work done.
THE APPROVAL SEEKER: You just want someone to notice you, to tell you you’re amazing, that you’re doing a great job, that you’re beautiful, and awesome, a great friend, a good cook, smart, funny, and excellent at folding laundry.
It doesn’t matter what it is, you just want to be seen. You feel invisible in this world, the silent support system for all the people in your life. You keep hoping someone will notice and thank you, pass a compliment your way, or go out of their way to help you without asking. You dream of a friend sending a supportive text, your kids cleaning up their shit without asking, your husband planning a surprise date night or even simply offering a random compliment.
You feel like a failure, like you’re not enough because surely, if you were enough someone would notice and feel compelled to tell you or do nice things for you. So you resolve to be better, work hard, be kinder, ask for less, smile more, and give until someone notices how amazing you are.
You feel no matter how hard you try, you are not giving enough to the people in your life. You’re sad and lonely, doubting your worth and wondering how to be light and happy when you feel so under appreciated. You want to stop caring but you feel empty and totally alone inside.
You flirt with the idea of running away or finding new people who’ll appreciate you. You start resenting your family for not seeing your worth. You wonder if you’ll ever be enough for anyone.
Your greatest desire is to adored, praised, and celebrated for who you are by the people you love most.
THE MARTYR: Good moms put their kids first always, and so you do. Good moms don’t care about frivolous things, and so you don’t. Good moms are selfless, and so you are. Good moms don’t have desires, and so you don’t.
You’re a good mom above all else, but YOU don’t even exist anymore. You don’t have wants or needs because you believe what you want and need doesn’t matter. You don’t have time for your hobbies or interests, because there is no time left for fun.
You don’t care about your looks or make time for self care of fitness because you believe only frivolous, selfish moms make time for those things. In all the seeking to become the best mom ever, you’ve erased 99% of who you are. The kids matter above all else.
But you’re sad and lost, feeling aimless and like a robot. You’ve lost enthusiasm and zest for life. You’re just going through the motions, running from one thing to the next in a fog. You don’t set personal goals or dreams anymore. You’ve totally lost yourself in motherhood and your kids see don’t respect or admire you.
Your greatest desire is to just get to bedtime and the glass of wine waiting for you, numbing out with bad TV and falling asleep in utter exhaustion.
Which mom archetypes feel familiar? Do you see yourself in any of these? When you realize the ways you aren’t showing up for yourself, all the ways you are living for others solely, and how you’ve disconnected from who you are in the name of good mothering, you can begin to make change. Knowing where to start is the hardest part but once you recognize the ways suffering is presenting in your life, you can begin to turn it around.
Once you’ve identified your archetype, start paying attention. When you find yourself people pleasing for example, stop. Pay attention. Ask how you’ve self abandoned. Ask what YOU want in this situation. See if your actions and intentions are aligned and start moving in the direction of who you want to be instead of who you believe you SHOULD be. Baby steps, small changes, and subtle shifts make all the difference. Once you remember who you are and put her first from time to time, you’ll feel the suffering start to dissipate. Living for everyone is is no way to live. You can care for your people and be a good mom without letting the roles consume and define who you are.
Which mom archetype most resonates with you and how can you begin to turn it around?
Want help understanding which Miserable Mom Archetype you are or get some ideas on how to begin working towards peace? Schedule an Out of the Overwhelm Assessment Call with me to chat. I want to hear what you’re struggling with, help you identify where to begin, and give you some tips on how to start making the change you crave. Find a time on my calendar, fill out the form, and I’ll be in touch!