“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” ~ Robert Fulgrum ~
Becoming a mother was the hardest adjustment of my life. I wasn’t prepared for the suffocating, constant, never-ending demands of a newborn. I wasn’t ready for that feeling of vulnerability, responsibility, and fear that comes from your heart beating outside your chest. All I ever wanted was to give up my career and have lots of babies. But learning to let go of myself, to open my heart and to survive exhaustion beyond comprehension (with leaking breasts, raging hormones and a new mushy body) was just so damn much at once…so much change so fast.
Instead of slowing down, adjusting to the new demands and finding a way to take care of myself and the baby, I pushed harder as most moms do. I wanted desperately to be a good mother and I believed good mothers put their kids first, always. And so I came last, always.
Instead of giving ourselves grace and love during this enormous transition, we believe it’s hard because we’re doing it wrong. The very opinionated world confirms our worst fears….loud social media keyboard warriors post rants, articles, and comments about everything we’re doing wrong. Well intended friends and family are happy to tell you how they did it differently (and better) or what you should or shouldn’t be doing.
Instead of everybody acknowledging that new moms are doing their absolute best, under the most strenuous, exhausting, and demanding circumstances, they pour salt in our wounds.
They post shit like this on Facebook (yellow objection text added by me)
Will We Ever Matter Again?
But I want to know where it’s written that when we have a baby we forever forfeit our right to have wants and needs again. Even if “everybody” speaks as if sacrifice equals love, is that really true? And when, if ever, do we matter again?
We aren’t new moms anymore. We’re seasoned, experienced, hustling, get-shit done, take no prisoners, leave no PTA meeting behind moms now. We work smarter, we’re more confident and efficient, despite being eyeballs deep in #momlife, and yet we still live as if all of this utter bullshit is truth. All of our time, effort, and energy is spent treading water, taking care of everyone and everything except ourselves. We never stop moving. We think we’ll rest when things slow down, when we get to the end of our to do list, but haven’t you noticed it never really ends?
I am so fucking tired of moms giving all of themselves away in name of good mothering. I am so fucking tired of seeing amazing, caring, selfless mothers settle for far less than they deserve. I am so fucking tired of moms making ridiculous excuse after excuse about why there isn’t any time for themselves.
I say this with total love because I know how hard you’re working, how many demands scream at you constantly, how much you’re juggling and how exhausted, overwhelmed, and burnt out you are. I see you, but I see what you can’t.
I see that all of your reasons for putting yourself last are simply fears masquerading as explanations.
Fear you aren’t doing enough. Fear your kids will suffer if you slow down. Fear of judgement from the world. Fear of fucking up. Fear of being seen as selfish. Fear of making your kids mad. Fear of admitting you want more. Fear of criticism. Fear of doing it wrong Fear of regret. Fear of failure.
You’re Living Out of Fear
The fucking fear is real woman. The fear that started the day you became a mother and that has driven your every decision since. The fear that drives you to over commit, over volunteer, and say yes when you’d rather say no. The fear that keeps you up at night. It’s better to put everyone and everything else first, always, at your own expense, just in case, just to be safe…right?
But aren’t you tired of living in fear?
Aren’t you tired of making decisions, determining priorities, and moving through life afraid?
What if all of your exhaustion doesn’t come from your busy schedule but from the effort it takes to constantly run from fear?
You’re so afraid of being a shitty mother you don’t realize you probably already are one.
You’re a shitty mother, because in your laser focused pursuit of being a “good” mom, you’ve become a terrible example of balanced, happy, well cared for woman.
You’re a shitty mother because you’re perpetuating the very lies you so desperately want to be free of.
You’re a shitty mother because you are teaching your kids to live in fear instead of faith, faith in themselves, in their dreams, in a life beyond other’s expectations.
I’m a shitty mother too.
But now that I see it, now that I see all the ways I’m failing myself AND my children, I am done with fear and excuses and hell bent on making real change.
If there’s anything I’ve come to know as total, absolute TRUTH over the years, children do not do what we say, but do as we do. If we want our children to grow into happy, balanced, thriving, joyful, successful people, then we must become that person first. If we want our daughters to be loving mothers free of guilt, comparison, and other’s expectations, we better show them how to do it.
If we want our kids to be fearless, then we must live without fear.
We worry so much about what everyone else thinks of us, not because we’re egotistical monsters but because we don’t trust ourselves enough to make our own rules. We don’t trust ourselves enough to figure out how we want to live and so we settle. We settle for some socially acceptable version of who we think we should be, all while slowly dying inside.
Every time you lose your cool with your kids, it’s because you’ve lost your connection to what matters.
Every time you feel resentment and anger simmering under the surface, it’s because you’ve given to everyone else without filling yourself up first.
Every time you keep pushing when you want to slow down, it’s because you’ve forgotten how to listen to yourself.
Every time you feel like you’re failing, it’s because you’re likely holding yourself to someone else’s standards.
Every time you feel like you can’t endure life another second this way, it’s because you’re living a lie.
Stop Being a Shitty Mom
I love my kids. I also want to be a great mom, but I will never be half the mother they need until I learn to take care of myself first.
I can’t show them how to love unconditionally without loving myself unconditionally.
I can’t teach them to chase their dreams if I ignore mine.
I can’t expect them to have the courage to follower their inner voice if I live by other’s expectations.
I can’t tell them to keep their bodies safe and healthy, if I don’t do the same.
I can’t inspire them to bring their individual light into the world if I’m ashamed of my own.
You cannot be a “good” mother at the expense of the rest of your life. You cannot continually sacrifice your health, your spirit, and relationships at the altar of your busy schedule. You cannot continue to pretend everything that keeps you busy is important.
Our actions are more powerful than our words. What do your actions say are important to you? Everything you put on your calendar is a priority. Everything you do that you don’t want to, is a priority. And everything you ignore, save for later, or don’t make time for, isn’t.
How are you living? Are your “priorities” in line with what you actually want to prioritize in life? If you weren’t afraid, what would you do differently? If you weren’t afraid, who would you be?
Stop defining your success by one measure (being a “good” mom) and pretending the rest doesn’t matter. They matter much more than you think. When a woman has the courage to remember who she is, what she wants, and begins demanding more, anything is truly possible. Only when you learn to slow down can you actually get ahead.
When a mom knows the best gift she can give her children is a well cared for mother, she will truly be a great mom.
I want to go back and hug the exhausted mom I used to be. I want to tell her she’s doing amazing and that her love for her family is so obvious. I want to remind her she can ask for help and still be a good mom. I want her to know she’s not alone. I want her to know she has nothing to prove.
Mostly I want to tell her that she is enough, that she can stop being afraid and instead choose faith. Faith that all the answers she seeks already live inside of her. Faith that her truths, desires, and instincts are valid.
I want to tell her the best thing she can do for her children is to get really good and ignoring the rest of the world, connecting with and caring for herself, and living without fucking explanation or apology.