Mothers, not martyrs
When I became a mom, I didn't know mom guilt would be something that I had to contend with early on. I was a masters student studying full time and needed to go back to school two weeks after giving birth so I could graduate on time. The night before going back to school, I cried my heart out feeling all the guilt and fear of leaving my baby at home. What if we lose our bond? What if she stops breastfeeding? What if something happens and I am not there? Only 14 days a mother and I already felt like a failure.
Looking back at that moment now four years later makes me laugh a little. I was leaving my daughter with my mom who I fully trusted to love and care for my baby as her own. Bakit ko ba pinahirapan sarili ko with all that guilt and fear?
There were more instances like this. I felt mighty guilty for...
- waking up early in the morning to exercise because my baby will wake up without me... even when she was with her dad who was fully capable of caring for her for a few minutes to an hour without me.
- going on quick dates with my husband... even when we knew she wouldn't even enjoy going with us to a restaurant at her age.
- having to go on an overnight work trip to save me from traffic stress... even when she had her full breastmilk stash and her lola and dad to keep her safe and secure at night.
The list goes on, but you get the picture. We punish ourselves with our own unrealistic expectations of what a “good mother” should be to the point of being tired, burnt out, ragged, but still guilty moms.
Suzi Lula in her book The Motherhood Evolution shares: “Many of us martyr ourselves without even really being aware we are doing so." We have this belief passed on through generations that moms must sacrifice "for the sake of the children". Becoming a mother easily disconnects us from ourselves when we allow the all the chores and other self-inflicted expectations (the "doing") to trump the vital importance of approaching motherhood from a sense of "being".
But what is this "being"? Delighting in our being is when we are accepting ourselves, caring for ourselves and knowing we are more than enough and inherently worthy of love, respect and compassion as moms and individuals. Suzi shares: "Treasuring ourselves as mothers is something entirely different from the kinds of things society values, such as celebrity and overachievement. Treasuring ourselves comes simply from within, from delighting in our being.”
Approaching motherhood from a place of treasuring ourselves as mothers, Suzi asks: “what if we began to view the whole of motherhood through the filter of abundance rather than lack? What if we looked at motherhood through a filter of both-and rather than either-or? It’s not their needs or mine, but our needs together. Because we are all worthy of having fulfilled needs, mothers included. Wouldn't it be so much better to be giving our love and care from our own fullness, rather than from scarcity and raggedness?
Inspired by Suzi, my dream too is for a motherhood revolution ~ where moms delight in their being and are overflowing with inspired energy enjoying a fulfilling life where they freely share themselves with their children and their gifts with the world.
If you are a mom still operating from a place of lack and martyrdom – this dream may seem to be a challenging one, but it’s not impossible. I have met many “imperfect” moms who are keeping it real and embracing their being while being fulfilled in their roles as mothers and as individuals in society.
But how do we start the motherhood revolution? This shouldn’t be another thing to add to your already long to-do list. This inner care is the foundation you need to be a thriving mother. Here are three ways to start delighting in your being and thrive as a mother:
1. Make your physical needs a non-negotiable. In the busyness of motherhood, the first thing that flies out the window are the mom’s needs. Everyone is fed, bathed and well-rested while the mom is hungry, showerless and with no sleep. This week, practice meeting your needs by including it in your schedule or routine. Make time for eating healthy, physical movement, showers and sleep by eliminating actions that don’t serve your needs (like scrolling through your phone immediately when you wake up or binge-watching all night).
It will not be easy at first, but challenge yourself to let go of the mindset that it's them or me.
2. Let go of unrealistic expectations. Some of you might say that there is no time to meet your own needs AND everyone else’s needs at the same time even if you eliminate unhelpful habits. There is just not enough time in a day. This can also be true. But from my experience, our very long list of to-dos in a day also includes our exceedingly high expectations of how a mother should be. We want to be perfect mothers with clean homes, neat kids, home-cooked meals, DIY activities, screen-free childhoods and the list goes on. It’s nice to have all of these things, but not at the expense of a mom’s well-being. Ask yourself, what expectation can I let go of so I can take better care of myself?
You may find that as soon as you let go of your unnecessary expectations, you learn to loosen up a little and your children will notice a change in your energy – from being uptight and tense, to one of lightness and joy.
3. Reconnect with your inner being. A lot of moms feel that they lose their sense of self after becoming a mother. Instead of delighting in our new role as mothers, we get drowned with “doing” all that we need to do as new moms. We suddenly don’t have any time for ourselves, what makes us happy and eventually we forget who we are.
To reconnect with your being, you have to disconnect from the pulls of this world – social media, Netflix, emails, DMs, and your to-do list. Start with a little quiet time to enjoy the little things that make you happy. It can be a quiet cup of coffee, reading a book, a relaxing shower, meditation, movement or a hobby. Make time even if this means having to leave your kids with your spouse, a relative or house help for a few minutes. If you don’t have any help, you can wake up earlier than everyone else so you can start the day reconnecting with yourself. If you are a Christian like me, I also think of this time as reconnecting with my Creator.
You may find that as soon as you reconnect with yourself without the distractions, you will rediscover how wonderful you are, and the many things that give you kilig a.k.a your passions. That is the start of rekindling the flame in your heart that may have been overshadowed by the demands of motherhood.
My prayer is for all moms to be able to love their families and serve their communities from a place of abundance and joy – and it all starts with delighting in our inner being. This love month, may you start giving yourself the radical self-love that no one and nothing can take away from you.