Moms aren’t supposed to get angry or bored. We’re supposed to cherish every minute with our kids, we’re supposed to be patient, sunny, and flexible, but most of all, be there.
“You were always there for me, Mom” is the ultimate good-mom talisman, the movie line that chokes us up. Its vagueness connects with its unattainability. How can a person with a self and a life, work, friends, creativity, also “always be there” for someone else, even someone she loves? The answer is, she cannot; but somehow she must!
“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” ― Alain de Botton
In my practice, I see moms’ deep guilt that they cannot be “always there” for their kids contribute to a powerful unconscious belief many women carry around that they are failing on every level. Which leads to a terrible kind of despair.
I had a mother in my office saying just this to me not too long ago, an accomplished business woman with a lovely child and a husband she was crazy about before the baby. She was convinced that she was failing a) work by not being able to be as dedicated as before she had kids; b) her kid, by going to work and sometimes working at home while with her and; c) her husband, because things were alienated and unromantic and she was too exhausted to care.
These are real and important problems, and I’m not saying she was wrong about them, exactly, or rather, I had no real way of knowing yet which were the real problems. But what was preventing any thinking, what was crippling was the shame, guilt and sense of inadequacy—her goodness, her “trying” was erased. She was simply “a bad mom”.
She was also, of course, deeply envious of other moms, and convinced that she was the only one in her town who was feeling like a fake.. So she was also isolated, and confided in no one.
Luckily, this is what I love to help women work on, right in the seat of my own experience, passion and dreams for the world. I dream of the day when moms are held and supported enough to live lives of pleasure, nourishment and creativity, even while they are raising their kids. Coach Rachel Cole talks about supporting the “well-fed woman;” meaning much more than food—I want to bring that sense of abundance, ease and pleasure to women who are mothering.
With this particular client, here are a few things we did together:
We searched for the unique source of her energy, creativity, and humor in all of the chaos. This was her natural, rested, taken-care of self. She got to know this person all over again very well, so she could find her way back to her more often.
We built a toolbox of radical self-care for her to dip into when she felt depleted, based on her deepest preferences and pleasures.
We talked about that stages of child and mother development and the way that everything about her child’s needs and her job as a mom would change and change and change; she would always be behind the change—she would never “get everything perfect”. We talked about giving up perfect for “good-enough”, (and then giving up good-enough too). This is the unbalancing de Botton is talking about in the quote above.
We talked a lot about her own mothering, the messages she had received (consciously and unconsciously) from the woman who raised her, so she came to know the shape of the stones and pitfalls that had been laid in her path, as well as the unique gifts she had been given.
And she learned to really enlist her husband in her life, by confiding vulnerably, asking for lots more help, and by forcing themselves to go on adult time dates (even when it didn’t sound good).
All of these pieces are inadequate notes on many hours of hard work and vulnerability and I hope are not too glib or easy-sounding. It is my wish that this little case-sketch is of use to the moms out there suffering with shame and isolation. It can get better but you can’t do it alone.
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