It’s a quiet Sunday and I’ve just finished cleaning up after having some ladies over for a dinner party the night before. It was an odd lot of women: some I’ve known for some time and some have recently become part of my circle. Inevitably, much of the evenings banter revolved around our kids and ranged from birth stories to pooping in front of our husbands.
I was listening to a couple of my friends talk between themselves and how as they are stay-at-home-moms, they complained of not having anything to do and feeling like they were not doing enough for their children on a daily basis.
I know both these women. One runs a moms group and schedules play dates, takes her kid to story times, and the like; the other does a stroller meet-up every morning and takes her kid to playrooms and events all over the place. Neither of these women in my eyes were “failing” at motherhood. Yet there they both stood choking back tears (thanks to a bottle of wine) about how they needed to get out and do more to engage their kids.
I interjected into their convo and offered some perspective. My husband is a stay-at-home dad and has literally NEVER complained or shared any guilty feelings about not doing enough for our son. Like these moms, he does music classes, swim classes, takes him to the park and has even been known to go to some of my mom meetups. He knows he is doing a great job and provides awesome activities for our child to participate in.
So I asked them, “How many of these feelings are just in your head”? Both women replied, “Oh, I know its totally in my head but I can’t shake these thoughts.” So why do we as new moms feel this way so often?
Here are three areas that I feel are the main sources to our own self-sabotage as millennial moms:
We don’t give our mental health the attention it needs.
I honestly don’t know one woman who has not suffered from anxiety or depression. Low self-worth and self-esteem are common ailments as well and can truly prohibit us from feeling like we are in control of our lives or that we are succeeding at what we are doing.
That old adage comes to mind: “You cannot love someone else until you love yourself.” This is true for our children, too! It is hard to feel that you are giving yourself to someone else when you don’t feel like you have anything to give! We MUST deal with our own personal demons and pitfalls before we can move forward in a healthy way. And believe me, even if you think you are “hiding” things from your kids like depression or anxiety, you’re not. Kids see everything.
We feel judged all the time—even if we aren’t ever really being judged.
As thirty-somethings, we have grown up in an increasingly volatile era where beauty standards, expectations for women, feminism and women’s rights have taken huge leaps and turns. Some of these things have been positive: we have taken great strides in gaining more respect and positions in the work place, made our voices heard within politics and about our healthcare and become a loud voice in the world for women everywhere to achieve their dreams and move forward.
But, we have also remained “objects.” We are to be a certain size, a certain color, wear certain things, go certain places and eat certain foods. Even the body positivity movement lacks progress because we now “applaud” people for putting a “plus-sized” girl in their ads. And as mothers, this list grows: how to raise your children, how they should dress, where you shop, what school they go to, how you discipline them.
It is impossible to fit into every bucket set before us and the proverbial bar continues to be raised higher and higher out of our reach. We will never escape the stigma that we should be something we are not or that we are never good enough until we learn to turn it off, let it go and be accepting of ourselves as who we are as women and mothers.
We believe the things we tell ourselves about ourselves—especially the untruths.
I have heard every single woman I know—myself included—make self-deprecating comments. These are usually followed by some defeatist language that enables the speaker to justify those thoughts, internalize them and believe them. Then we go on to live them.
Back to the initial conversation between my friends, they had both shared the same sentiments. Sentiments that they normally kept to themselves but found a safe place to vent about and got validation of those negative thoughts and feelings from someone else. I chose to fight for them in that moment. These are my friends and in my mind, they sounded absolutely ridiculous standing there and saying these things when I know what amazing mothers they are. Who else would have broken them out of that conversation?
Possibly, they both could have gone home that night yes, feeling good that someone out there understood them, but now have created an unhealthy belief that they are somehow unfit mothers. We need to learn to identify our weaknesses, stop commiserating,and lift each other back up out of the darkness.
I know that these thoughts of self-sabotage are inevitable. We all struggle in different ways. I am also not saying that it isn’t okay to fall or pity ourselves and each other every once in a while. Sympathy and empathy go a long way. But, how do you turn that around and not interiorize these thoughts and feelings?
Try to look at the bigger picture. We all do the best with what we are given—and if you feel you can do a little better than go for it! If you have a period where you feel like you are dragging? Cut yourself a break. In the grand scheme of things, you are probably still doing and being amazing. Learn self-love. Get the support you need. Make new goals and stick to them. Lean on your friends.
And never be afraid to interject and remind another mom how awesome she is.
Featured Photo Courtesy: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash