Mothering is not an easy job. With a little self-care the role can be a little easier.
"After you have children, you enter into the unknown every day. Be like a river. Be ever present and flowing," quoted Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa.
In my mothering journey and in my psychotherapy practice, I am often reminded of the second "Mulan" movie. In it, there is a song about bamboo bending in the wind. I’m not exactly sure of the lyrics, but I got the message loud and clear.
It is a message I try to hold onto and share with other moms. If we are too rigid, there is a tendency that we are inflexible and will break when a big wind blows through. Mothering is a series of big winds — hurricane strength winds — and our own ability to bend is crucial.
Now, let’s talk about being rigid. In other words, controlling. In order to make sense of all that is going on, we try to control it and end up presenting as rigid.
We might hold tight to schedules or procedures in our home and life because things feel out of control. We aim to make sense of the chaos. Often, our own historical wounds are triggered, and we are flung into overdrive.
This overdrive feels like an out of control freight train with more and more piled on, so that the view from our perspective is blurry and dizzying. The sound of the whistle may be a deep mom yell through tightly clenched teeth. The speed with which we’re traveling and the load on our shoulders is far beyond what we were designed to carry.
The good news is that we can offload, stop, undo some of the rigidity, and tame the historical wounds. Breaking is not necessary in order to become flexible. Here are some tips for becoming less controlling and how to be a better mom:
1. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
When you feel inspired or triggered to take on one more task or clean the living room in a frenzy at 11pm, check your motivation.
Does the tidying need to happen then? Do you need to do it, or are you angry that your partner or kids don’t clean up after themselves and are cleaning in order to send them a message?
Does your de-cluttered living room somehow represent the mom you are, the woman you are? Did tasks go undone in your childhood home and are you on a mission to not be your mom?
Be sure you are doing tasks based on drives that are in the present, not fueled by the past.
2. Practice yoga or stretching.
The brain is powerful and there is nothing like a little mind-body work to make a change. Take 3-5 minutes and stretch or do a sun salutation. The body moving and becoming less rigid can assist in your thoughts and attitudes opening up too.
Try it for 5 days and see what happens. You don’t need to be a yogi, just stretch and breathe.
3. Ask for help
Don’t fool yourself — you are already asking for help. You might be stomping around the house or putting things down with great force. All this is done in order to get your point across to your partner, or others in your life. They don’t understand your brand of acting out.
When you fold the laundry forcefully, your partner doesn’t know that you are asking for their help in getting the kids to bed.
Figure out areas that you can off-load and ask for help. Use your words, write them down, or consider texting. You might be on a new path toward discovering your new role as a mom while your partner is likely knee deep in their own confusion about it all. Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs once you have figured out what they are.
4. Let it go.
This is a tough one, I know. It’s way easier said than done. For now, try to let it go. If you have a "To Do" list, decide what can you take off your list, or put off until later. Only put tasks on your list that you can actually complete.
It is important, especially during these new mothering years, that you feel some sense of completion. If you can’t get it done today, don’t put it on your list.
If it's a big task that cannot be completed in one day, like picking a pre-school, consider breaking it down into pieces that can be accomplished day by day. Try visiting one school, calling a school, or asking a fellow mom for a list.
Whatever it is, put it on your list and be sure you can complete it. This sense of accomplishment will go a long way.
5. Be the person you want your kids to be.
You are not alone in this journey. There are countless other moms that are going through the gigantic life adjustment called becoming a mother.
We dream of this role our entire lives but with relatively little preparation or teaching. Remember to be gentle with yourself. This is truly a marathon and not a sprint. You can do this!