My story isn’t that different from most.
I’m a mom.
I sign the weekly school folders and help with homework.
I shuffle my kids from one activity to another. I sit in car rider lines while listening in on conference calls or trainings.
I clean up my kitchen while rehearsing imaginary conversations with my spouse, my clients, and my friends.
I miss text message friend emergencies because I get distracted by the water boiling over on the stove, which I forgot about because my dog just threw up all over the carpet – again.
I feel the guilt and shame over the way I responded to that eye roll from my middle schooler.
I wonder if I’m spending enough time engaged in conversations about what my 4th grader cares about.
I wonder if I even know what they care about.
I sometimes find myself awake with worry about our budget, and whether or not we are providing enough opportunities for our kids to experience all the things that will make them into the well-rounded adults we’ve always wanted them to be.
Or at least enough that they won’t be behind.
Or screwed up.
As a therapist that mostly serves moms, though, I get to see the bigger
I see the sacrifice, and the potential, and the ways that we sabotage and sacrifice ourselves – often in a way that ultimately reinforces the stereotypes that we want to break down.
The moms that I see often only get treatment for themselves after their lives have reached a boiling point – they see their children breaking down, their relationships with their spouse, friends, or family that are in shambles, or they are completely burnt out from their jobs (whether their jobs are at home or in an office, paid or unpaid).
I see moms that have served (and served, and served) in every capacity that was put in front of them, until they just didn’t have any more room to say yes.
And even then, still continue to say yes.
They hold back expressing feelings of overwhelm, resentment, grief, anger – until their bodies take over and they begin having physical stress responses like headaches, indigestion, or even panic attacks.
I watch as moms continue to martyr themselves in the name of motherhood itself, and unknowingly provide a model to their own children that moms are made to sacrifice in ways that no one else is required.
We show our daughters that we can’t say no to others, and we continue perfectionistic cycles and pass on impossible expectations.
We tell them that they can be whatever they want to be, while showing them that we have to do what everyone else expects us to do.
We tell them to dream, but resent not having the time or space for our own.
How do we break these cycles?
As moms, like it or not, we are the nurturers of the world. The world looks at us, as a whole, to learn how to take care of things.
Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash
And our first priority needs to be ourselves.
While self-care seems to be the newest trend in mom products, if done right, it actually can change the trajectory of our families, our communities, and – on a large scale, our world.
Don't believe me?
If we believe that we are the greatest role models that our children have – which we are, and can see every day when we watch our toddlers pretend to be us when they are playing, or repeat the words that they hear us yell out (about that boiled over water on the stove, and my dog… you guys it was all happening at once, I swear I don’t talk like that all the time..) – then what happens when we take care of ourselves?
What happens when we set boundaries and say no when we don’t need something else to take on?
What happens when we take time for that phone call with a friend?
What happens when we talk out our differences with our spouse instead of biting back our resentment?
What happens when we turn up the music and stop for a dance break before the kitchen is cleaned up?
What happens when we take a day off – a REAL day off – and remember to love our lives first?
What happens when we believe that joy is something that we can have right now and that we don’t have to put off until all the work is done?
There is so much anger and pain in the world right now, and moms have the power to fix it. It doesn’t mean that we have to take on MORE volunteer work, or financial obligations, or even do more things.
Most likely, it actually means learning to reconnect with ourselves, and modeling for the generation that we are raising that it’s ok to say no.
We can model to them that it’s ok to be ourselves. We can model to them that it’s ok to dream, and find joy within our very own lives.
Because when they take those cues from us, the anger and pain slow down. We remember that we can live lives full of joy and purpose.
But it starts with us, mommas.
Need more support than what a blog post will give you? Are you ready to make some mindset changes and learn how to cultivate joy in your life? Want to learn more about how you can discover your identity and lean in to who you were made to be? Contact me here to learn more about my services.
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Brooke Williams, MA, LPC, is a licensed professional counselor serving South Carolina. She provides relationship and identity counseling online for busy moms and professionals. You can read more about her here.