I work with many women whose mothers struggled a lot when they were young. A lot of the women I work with secretly fear they have the problems their mother did, like depression, addiction, anger, or just plain “craziness.” It’s often one of their worst fears, “Maybe I’m like her,” not talking about the good parts. It’s hard to even think about.
We think if we don’t look at that fear, maybe it will go away. Unfortunately, when this fear stays unspoken, or denied, things get bad. It starts to feel like faking it, like racing through life trying to appear flawless, trying to present the picture of a mom with a different childhood, a mom who doesn’t struggle.
But we all struggle. Every one of us. Not one of us can live up to that image.
When you give yourself permission to examine and talk about your worst fears, with people who really get it — “Are my emotions out of control? Am I emotionally unavailable? Am I high strung? Am I depressed? Am I an addict like my mom? Am I always critical? Am I a blamer?”– then you create space for critical thinking. You can honestly explore the questions and uncover truths. “I am critical at times, and I’m also loving.” “My emotions have been out of control at times, but I’ve made effort to own that and repair.” Or, “I do feel anxious, but I’m getting help.” That’s not so scary.
Allowing yourself to admit to the possibility of deep struggle in motherhood, and looking hard at those areas, is just you getting closer to your true self. Looking this deeply at ourselves, owning our story, we also find the courage to make an all-important choice:
“I choose to take care of myself, to work on my own mental, spiritual, and physical health, even if no one else appears to be doing that, even if my own mother didn’t.”
You don’t want your children to experience a mother who isn’t even you. If there is anyone you want authentic, deep, connection with, it’s them.
In order for them to know you and feel connected to the real you, you have to be you. They might have a mom who’s reading self help, who hates PTA, who needs breaks. They might have a mom who goes to therapy, who has to say sorry sometimes, who needs a full night’s sleep. No matter who you are, they definitely have a mom with needs.
Here are some of the basics:
Sleep. You need to have the nighttime hours off.
Connection: You need to feel seen and heard and known.
Affection: You need someone who is kind to you, who touches you.
Boundaries. You need to be able to say no sometimes, to family, to friends, to work.
Rest: You need to sit down during the day, put your feet up, and hold your own hand.
Food: You need more than leftover PB&J’s and power bars.
Play: You need to be silly, and laugh, and have kitchen dancing.
Exercise and hobbies: You need time to discover and do your own thing.
Adulthood: You need grown-up fun, grown-up books, grown friends.
Spirit: You need to feel reverence, a sense of awe, and inspiration.
When we get these needs met, and surround ourselves with people who truly support that, then the chances of “craziness” are greatly reduced. You may even find yourself with a sudden awareness that you are healthier, and that is a good day.
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