This past weekend I went on a “girls weekend” to celebrate a dear friends 40th birthday. We were soaking in the lake, on the lilly pad, in record degree heat. And it felt like one of the most luxurious experiences I have had in years. I had absolutely no responsibilities, other than to lay there, relax, laugh, and stay hydrated.
A stark difference between my typical afternoons of running around chasing after my busy 3 year old and 17 month old boys.
As I lay there listening to a friend talk about how her sister had never had time away from her kids and was super stressed all the time, I started thinking about the fact that I was soaking up every bit of time away from my kids, with no inkling of guilt, shame, or fear of missing out. Which prompted me to ask myself some questions.
What does it mean that I don't feel that way?
Am I a bad mother for NOT feeling guilt?
Does it mean I don’t care about my children enough?
Am I selfish?
So in a sense...I spent a moment feeling guilty that I in fact wasn't feeling guilty.
Now you might think these sound like harsh questions to ask, but I see these as positive forms of self inquiry. My way of checking myself and the way I show up in the world around me.
This is a healthy response to “guilt”. examining our actions and feelings contributing to whatever moment is triggering the guilt.
Now, I want to preface this by saying that Mom Guilt and Mom shame are two distinct things.
Mom guilt is feeling bad about something you did or didn't do, but then using that to reflect on your experience to become a better person. Usually accompanied by a healthy dose of self compassion.
Where Mom shame is a reflection of you as a person. For example...I am a bad mother because I did or did not do X, Y, or Z.
Unfortunately, our modern patriarchal society, has led women to believe that if they are not being everything to their children all the time, well then they are not being a good mother.
We have stripped away a woman’s ability to define her own definition of a good mother, instead choosing societal narrative and stereotypes of “The Perfect Mother”.
Why did it NOT feel excruciating to be away from my kids? Why was I not flooded with tons of mom guilt and shame around leaving them for the weekend?
Or for the countless other times I speak up and asking for “me” time when I need it?
The answer lies in my beliefs around what I feel makes me a good mother, and what my true role is as a mother. I’m going to lay some of these beliefs out for you:
We were never meant to mother alone. We were meant to mother in community, our children were meant to have many mother and father figures. We were never meant to do it all and be everything for them.
There is no “Prefect Mother”, but I am GOOD ENOUGH for my children. (In 1953 Donal Winnicot coined the idea of a “good enough mother”. The idea that babies and children benefit from when their mothers fail them in manageable ways. The importance lies in the repair)
My children NEED to have their needs met by other people. I can’t fill all their buckets. Just like I can’t fill all my husbands buckets, nor can he mine. This goes back to the idea that community is imperative. (The belief of needing to be everything for our children or our spouse is tied to codependent dynamics, something I have spent years working to release from the way I interact with my relationships)
My capacity to love and show up for them is improved when I have time and space away. When I get to fill my cup up. When I am able to honor my needs, even in super small and simple ways, I have a greater capacity to be present with my kids when we are together. This presence is exactly what they need, and is exactly what I need.
By modeling self awareness in my needs for space, in my needs for support, and my needs for connection I am honoring my needs as a women, and am able to model embodied feminine presence for my boys vs. common patriarchal dynamics where a woman puts herself last and doesn't speak up for what she needs or desires.
And let’s be real for a moment…it’s not like I’m a super mom who is present 100% of the times because I took a luxurious weekend away and soaked in a lake.
I still make meals, clean the house, and all the other things… but the moments I do spend with my children are so much more connected.
And striving for 100% and thinking that is the goal would only drive me into feeling like I’m not good enough. Luckily, research has shown that even “good” parents are only attuned to their children 30% of the time.
Consider this your hall pass to stop feeling so bad about yourself and how your children will turn out.
So now that you have permission…where do you start?
Know yourself intimately. Know when you need to take a break. Know when making that 30% mark is a struggle.
Personally, I know that when I start getting frustrated, short, feeling resentment, overwhelmed, or stuck in my head, it’s time to bring in reinforcements.
Mama needs a literal time out.
And I know the tools to help me unwind my nervous system. And the tools to ask for the support I need and fully receive it without guilt and shame.
This intimate understanding of myself, how my nervous system works, how my body responds to and unwinds from stress wasn’t inherent to my experience as a woman and a mom.
It is from years of mind-body practices, somatic based tools, mindfulness, and studying birth, motherhood, the nervous system, and trauma.
It came from the depths of my postpartum anger and rage, knowing that there had to be a better way to relate to this whole motherhood thing.
And I've compiled it all together in The Resilient Mother Method, a 12 week program for women wanting to unwind stress and rewire their resilience.
The only way to the other side, to knowing you are already a good enough mother, is to look at all the reasons why you feel you are a bad mother. To examine them, feel them, and release them.
If you are ready redefine motherhood, book a 20 minute free consultation with me and let’s figure out what’s blocking you from mothering on your own terms.