Through countless conversations with moms in my practice, 5 truths keep resurfacing. I am sharing them with all moms to remind you that you’re not alone. Moms are generally unaware of how many other moms are struggling in very similar ways. I feel privileged to be privy to these internal conflicts, and want to invite women to speak more openly about them. The more we can release our own deeply embedded shame and guilt around how and who we are in motherhood, the more we are able to release our judgments toward other mamas.
You see, our struggles are not a reflection of our personal shortcomings, but rather a reflection of an unsupportive culture for mothers. There is a long list of unspoken, unattainable expectations we unwittingly adopt and inevitably fall short of. We experience these perceived shortcomings as anxiety, shame, guilt, anger, or sadness. There are strong cultural narratives driving too many mothers to overwork and burnout, and we have the power to stop it. So I’m going to drop a few truth bombs on you to get the conversation flowing.
Truths about motherhood:
- Motherhood is a complex, heart-opening, gratifying endeavor, and a choice that very few fully regret. It’s also exhausting, depleting, frustrating, often thankless work that always requires more input than we imagined. We must shift our tendency to put all of our focus on the needs of others, and actively reclaim space for ourselves. We must give ourselves permission to rest, guilt-free. The natural ‘tilling of the soil’ that occurs in embarking on the journey of motherhood is an awesome opportunity for personal growth that we can choose to seize.
- We aren’t necessarily born with instincts on how to navigate motherhood in the modern world (as Katie learned in Part 1), and breastfeeding is not something spontaneously mastered by most new moms. Stress can be a major barrier to milk supply, although stress is not in short supply in motherhood. Struggling is okay, you can seek help, and learning to address your physical and emotional stress response is key.
- Motherhood takes a village. Many mothers burn the candle at both ends shouldering the burden of family responsibilities that were once shared by many. This is a season of life when we have the least amount of energy to forge essential community support when we need it the most. We must learn to ask for help, knowing it is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength and resourcefulness. We are not meant to go it alone.
- It’s okay for women to get angry, even though it’s culturally discouraged. Anger is a natural response when our needs are not being met and you’re running on fumes. We have to be brave enough to dig into why we are angry, find healthy outlets for that anger, and continue asking for what we need. When it’s just a bubbling over of messy energy, it doesn’t feel good and isn’t productive. However, anger can be a powerful source of energy and inspiration when effectively channeled. Insisting on getting your needs met does not make you a bitch. Until our culture advocates more for mothers, we have to learn to be our own advocates.
- Our culture most often medicates the uncomfortable feelings stemming from our unmet needs, rather than getting to the root of them. This dysfunctional mindset trains us to think that our problems and ailments (especially our emotional discomforts) can be fixed by a pill. It’s not only wrong, but it’s also completely disempowering. Pills have their place for some, but they’re nothing more than a temporary band-aid for the vast majority causing downstream side effects and problems. You can and deserve to have your needs met, truly heal by braving the emotional realm, and learning to address the root causes of those uncomfortable feelings.
Motherhood is a fantastic opportunity for growth and clarity. The pressure of parenting pushes us to our limits in every way possible. This process can force our personal narratives out into the open, giving us a golden opportunity for insight, awareness, and the deepest kind of healing within ourselves.
My personal and professional journeys have taught me that we have a chance to experience motherhood with a totally different playbook than our culture gives us. We are designed to heal with others, and this work isn’t as easy or efficient when done alone. The choice is yours – how will you experience motherhood?