Are you feeling overwhelmed as a mom? Do you feel like you sometimes can’t breathe with everything that you should be doing for your kids? And forget about “me” time – that’s for other people (mostly those without kids).
You look around and see other moms who look like they’re able to do it all, who look like they’re thriving. They manage to get to the gym regularly. Their kids are well-behaved. They have time to make muffins and plant flowers in their yards, and surely they don’t have a mountain of laundry in their basement.
What are you doing wrong?
I’m here to tell you that you’re not doing anything wrong. Many of us simply edit what the outside world sees. You don’t see the dirty dishes, the clutter in the basement, the unfolded laundry on the couch. You can’t see the feeling of resentment that another mom is carrying because she never puts her own needs first.
To top it off, we all have our own fantasy of what a “good mom” is like, and most of us assign her superhuman qualities that no mortal could reasonably embody.
The “good mom” fantasy weighs you down and shapes your life because you tell yourself what you “should” be doing. Unfortunately, you’ve got so many things on your should-do list that you’re scrambling to keep up rather than making the conscious decision to be the person you want to be.
You’re not alone. The “good mom” fantasy is weighing me down, too. If I’m not careful, it keeps me from having fun and feeling joy in my life, because I’m too busy feeling bad about the mess on my table.
Let me share a few of my “shoulds.” To be a good mom:
- I should cook homemade meals every night
- I should ALWAYS be patient with my kids and never yell
- I should play with them, doing whatever it is they want to do
- I should make sure my kids are independent and able to entertain themselves
- I should make sure my kids aren’t spoiled, but simultaneously support them in whatever they want to do
- I should always put my kids’ needs before my own
I’m scratching the surface here. My list – and I’m sure your list, too – is not only contradictory, but also completely unrealistic.
Being a mom is not black and white. You have good days, and not so good days. You might have been up with a sick kid three times last night, or you might have got an email from your son’s teacher because his behaviour was less than stellar on his recent field trip. Or maybe you’re tired of feeling like your family’s maid.
To complicate matters, there’s no set of guidelines for how to parent, because each of us wants something different for our lives. Some of us cherish staying at home with our kids, while others serve best by working outside of our homes. Some of us want to take the kids around the world, while others want to take our kids camping at the lake down the road every summer.
Ultimately, we are all human, imperfect and worthy, regardless of the choices we make.
That being said, sometimes you want to change how you parent, because you want to feel different in your life.
If you want to make changes, start by examining what you believe about motherhood. Once you know what you’re thinking deep inside, you can take steps to free yourself from your limiting beliefs.
A Step-by-Step Process for Identifying Your Limiting Beliefs
I’m a fan of life coach Brooke Castillo. Her podcasts always remind me that my thoughts are within my control, and my thoughts are what create my feelings.
I recently listened to Brooke’s podcast called “Questions to Ask Yourself” and I wanted to share her “thought download” process, because I think it’s really helping in becoming aware of your thoughts around motherhood (and also in the rest of your life). You can break down this process into smaller chunks if that’s more manageable for you.
How to do a thought download
- Grab a pen and your journal or a piece of paper
- Get grounded. This might be through meditation, taking a few deep breaths, or lighting a candle with intention.
- Answer the following question: “What am I thinking?” Write without censoring or judging yourself. Simply write, write, write. Get it out on paper.
- Once you’re done, read what you’ve written. You might be surprised at what’s in your brain.
- Pick one of your thoughts and then answer, “Why am I choosing to think that?”
- Next, ask “How does this thought make me feel?” It may be an unpleasant feeling, and that’s okay. Just sit with that feeling for a bit.
- Then, ask yourself, “How do I want to feel instead?”
- After you know how you want to feel, ask, “What can I think instead so that I can feel how I want to feel?”
- Finally, “What actions can I take to think and feel the way I want?”
Let me give you an example.
Yesterday, my daughter was complaining that she had a stomach ache. She was complaining about a stomach ache the day before, too, so I decided it would be okay if she stayed home from school and rested today, but, man, did I have a whole lot of thoughts floating around in my mind around that decision.
Here’s my thought download:
“I am a terrible mom. I don’t trust my daughter to be telling me the truth about having a stomach ache because she’s often had anxiety-related stomach aches before. I feel bad for giving in easily to her staying home because I worry that maybe she’s not really sick and maybe I should probe more to try and figure out if she’s actually sick or if it’s an anxiety thing. I just want to get on with my day and transition into work without the drama that comes with arguing with her about whether or not she’s sick. And that makes me a terrible mom, too. Why do I not have the patience to deal with my daughter calmly? If I had got out of bed when I originally woke up, I wouldn’t have felt so rushed and could have taken the time to talk with my daughter.”
The thought I want to deal with:
“I am a terrible mom.”
Why am I choosing to think that?
“Because then I feel guilty, and moms are supposed to feel guilty as a way of showing they care about their kids. So, by thinking ‘I am a terrible mom,’ I am actually, in a twisted way, acting the way I think a good mom should act.”
How does this thought make me feel?
“Guilty, heavy-hearted, tightness in my chest”
How do I want to feel instead?
“I want to feel connected to my daughter, and free of guilt so that the decisions I make are from a place of love and caring rather than weighed down by guilt and resentment.”
What can I think instead so that I can feel the way I want to feel?
“I am a caring mom who wants the best for my kids. This means having healthy skepticism when they say they’re sick, but showing concern for their well-being and accepting that I may find it hard to judge if they’re sick or wanting to play hooky.”
What action can I take to think and feel what I want?
“Remind myself that I am caring and doing the best that I can for my kids, check in with my daughter during the day to see how she’s feeling, coordinate with my husband so that we check in on our daughter during the day, remind myself that I may not always be able to tell if my kids are sick and that’s okay”
Even without taking any action beyond writing out and recognizing what I was thinking and feeling, I felt better about myself and the choice I made to let my daughter rest at home for the day.
Do you have a “good mom” fantasy? What are some of your “shoulds”? Head on over to the Facebook page and get in on the conversation.
Taking Away My Daughter’s Smile from Hands Free Mama
How You Can Stop Limiting Beliefs and Take Back Your Life from Lifehack.org
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