All mamas know what it feels like to take that first step into motherhood. It begins with noticing a difference in the way we move. We begin to take note of how we feel and what we eat. No matter if it’s our first or fifth pregnancy, we experience a nervous excitement throughout our bodies as we prepare for the new life growing inside of us. From the moment we hold this tiny human, we choose to embrace the motherhood journey knowing it will be filled with uncertainties. This unknown territory challenges and redefines who we are while forcing us to be brave, embrace change, and think proactively to protect the life we’ve been entrusted with caring for.
We make decisions to shield them from illness, failure, and heartache because we know firsthand what this pain feels like to carry. But as we focus on holding their load, we start to ignore how heavy the weight is becoming. We learn that the path we’ve chosen requires us to be selfless and to prioritize our children’s needs. Feelings of shame or guilt arise whenever we attempt to bump ourselves up on our list of priorities because they conflict with our motherly values. But when can we take care of our needs if we must take care of our children’s needs first? How can we do both? The solution requires us to accept that all of our needs are working together for the best outcome.
Being selfless does not mean choosing others’ needs before our own. It means choosing the right needs before our own. As mothers, we sometimes blur the lines when making necessary decisions because we want to feel purposeful. However, fulfilling our motherly purpose to protect and care for our children requires us to be self-aware. This awareness allows us to explore our feelings and learn how our experiences impact us. Journeying motherhood without self-awareness is like traveling without a map. We can’t have awareness without being vulnerable and we can’t lead our children without knowing how to take care of ourselves.
But vulnerability and leading can be difficult because it forces us to also examine our pain. And if we’re being honest, no one wants to put pain at the top of our list of priorities. It’s much easier to focus on taking care of everyone else if taking care of ourselves requires us to deal with hurtful experiences. But, avoiding pain leads to bad habits filled with depression and anxiety. Neither condition is healthy for leading our children.
Our children are like sponges, soaking up our habits and using them as blueprints to form their own. We can’t protect them if we continue to embrace habits that avoid our personal growth. Healing leads to new habits that our children can depend on in time of need, but creating new habits require us to confront our feelings and sit with our pain. This process can be uncomfortable but rewarding. Incorporating these tips into our lifestyle can certainly help.
Challenge Your Perspective
Society places great emphasis on the bonds of sisterhood, but tends to shy away from motherhood bonds. After all, motherhood is unique to each individual and it’s not easy to be honest and vulnerable with the struggles we face inside our homes. Yet, when we do muster enough courage to share our experiences, we find that we are not alone. We shouldn’t be afraid to share our journey and listen to others in order to gain new perspectives. This doesn’t mean we’re taking everyone’s advice, but it does mean we’re exploring how others problem solve. Sharing our struggles can be scary because it leaves us open to judgment, but it’s all in our approach. We have to go from not only asking how to handle a situation to also asking why we are handling a situation a certain way. This reframing shifts the dynamics of the conversation from a one-sided opinion to an open dialogue that allows everyone to explore multiple opinions and solutions to a problem.
Practice Hard Self-Care
Post-pandemic culture embraces a world where saying no and setting boundaries is accepted and expected. We’re encouraged to practice self-care but it’s easier said than done. Taking care of our body promotes soft self-care by giving instant gratification in the form of massages, working out and meditating. Healing our soul is hard self-care because it takes time and commitment. It’s less glamourous and requires a deeper exploration into our thoughts. The truths we discover can lead us to a deeper understanding of our self-worth, but that process can get ugly and painful before producing results. While we’re reclaiming our time and filling it with things that makes us happy, we must remember to make room for the self-care needs that aren’t much fun to do. Going to therapy and learning soft self-care can help us get through difficult days, but discussing our trauma, releasing guilt and exploring painful experiences is what will get us through difficult seasons. It’s through these hard discoveries where we learn to love ourselves the way we should and set standards for how we allow others to love us. Learning this will prepare us to have difficult conversations with our children that we may normally avoid. We are our children’s first experience with love. They learn how to give and receive it by watching us. It’s easier to show them how to love themselves and others if our version of love is healthy.
Life is all about balance. When we’re living a balanced lifestyle, we feel a sense of peace because all of our needs are met. An imbalanced lifestyle can lead to stress, loneliness or a lack of safety. Providing a lifestyle that promotes good health and responsibility for our children requires us to challenge our thinking on what we need and how often we need it. As busy moms, we often thrive off of schedules and routines, but routine can be divided not only into days, but weeks and months throughout the year. Opening our calendar creates less stress and more space and time to commit to them. We may not be able to socialize every weekend, but can plan a night out once per month. We may not be able to hit the gym every morning but we can take a walk during our lunch break to stay active. Practicing flexibility is important for our children to witness because it teaches them to be proactive and not reactive to stress. Living a balanced lifestyle is learning to schedule time and dedicate attention to the things we love while also understanding that each day may look different.
Share Wins and Losses
Life is going to throw curve balls and our children will have a front-row seat to watch how we handle adversity. Sharing good news and excitement in our lives helps mirror expressions of gratitude and happiness when things go well. Sharing disappointments shows that failure is normal and common. It also sets an example of perseverance and prepares them for their own losses. We want our children to see us as great, competent leaders, but being one requires us to admit our mistakes and take accountability. It’s not easy putting our flaws on display, but being flawed is what makes us human. Authenticity is the only way to create safe spaces for our children, which helps them know they’re not alone and encourages them to share their personal struggles. Telling them what we’ve learned from our experiences instead of telling them what to do helps them analyze their problems and develop confidence in their decision-making.
Our children are only children for a little while before they embark on an adventure of their own. The journey we take together seems to fly by as we watch them grow. Along the way, we learn that being a good mother does not mean we are perfect mothers. It means we are aware of our imperfections and embracing our growth as we journey together. We learn that while we badly want to carry their load, we can’t. Instead, we show them how to carry their own with grace, love, balance and perseverance. We teach them that all of life’s experiences can be beautiful once we learn that healing is beautiful. That type of beauty is the fuel that ignites our path and leads the way to a better future.