While talk of self-care and prioritising yourself as a mama is important, it’s self-enquiry that our children really need from us.
It’s starts with survival.
When they are first born, our biological brain kicks in and the need to just keep them alive, feeding and healthy is all our brains can handle. We get through the best we can (some of us better than others), but in those early days, weeks and months, the simple act of keeping our little ones alive and safe is all we need to do.
Then, they start to flourish. And our roles begin to change.
Yes, we’re still ensuring their safety and survival. Decisions around food groups and ipads and boundaries fill our head, and we’re still very much focused on their behaviour. How are they growing? How are they acting? What do I need to do to make them the very best they can be?
And that’s where the good stuff begins.
Because, despite all the books and social media feeds and online courses on paleo eating and attachment parenting, the best way to ensure our children are becoming the best they can be is to make sure we are becoming the best we can be.
We’ve all had those moments when we’ve seen our own childhood patterns repeated right in front of us. When our voice suddenly sounds like our own mothers, or our reaction to something is exactly the behaviour we promised ourselves we wouldn’t do when we first contemplated parenthood. But buttons pushed and sleep interrupted, and those past patterns emerge. It’s like all our bad bits have been lying dormant waiting to be brought out on stage: mamahood really is the amplifier of all that is inside you. The good, the bad and the ugly.
Which is why we have to work on ourselves.
This isn’t a luxury we can put off. This isn’t something we can hold off until we get more sleep, have more money, the kids finally all go to school.
Beyond basic survival, this is the most important part of being a mama:
Healing ourselves so the next generation can do it differently.
Imagine a world in which all children believed in their own sense of self. They valued themselves beyond the way they looked, how much they earned, and what they did for a ‘job’. Picture a life filled with forgiveness and compassion, and a knowledge that you are inherently worthy of love, abundance and happiness – not because you worked the hardest, multi-tasked the most, or were the skinniest. But because you are you. And that is enough.
We can’t teach this if we don’t know it ourselves.
But boy does it take courage to ‘go there’.
Past patterns, the inner mean mama voice, the belief that it’s all too hard: they are not easy to overcome. It takes commitment, and a tonne of bravery, to admit that perhaps you need some healing and self-belief if you are to ever teach it.
We’ve all heard that our children learn from what we do, and not from what we say – the best reason to start modelling what you would like them to do in their own life one day. But how? When those negative self-beliefs that you need to hustle to get anywhere in life and you need to be perfect to be accepted have been your companion for life, how do you turn it around?
You most certainly don’t start with judgement.
When we are stuck in a place of ‘oh great, now I’m not only screwing up my own life, I’m screwing there’s up too!’, we get nowhere.
In fact, that judgemental voice that’s riding your back is only going to make those ugly parts of you grow. It’s like pouring fuel on the hate fire: we need to douse that flame with compassion first before we can start to rebuild anew.
Kindness and self-compassion really is the anecdote to absolutely every pain and struggle. It is the way to reconnect to your child after you’ve yelled, it’s the path back to being the woman you want to be for them.
If you can see, and I mean really see, that the way you react in times of stress is simply a learnt behaviour, then you can begin to understand your real power here: you can turn it all around.
If the way you talk, act, or beat yourself up is something that feels automatic, it’s not. It’s just a muscle that has been used so often you are not conscious of doing it anymore. It’s like blinking – we don’t need to think about it, it’s just what we’ve always done. And will keep on doing. Unless we focus on it, and change it.
Three ways to break the negative spiral and start believing in yourself
- Start by thinking of five things you know you are good at as a mama and a woman. Although this might sound simple, it’s actually tripped up a surprising number of mamas I’ve worked with. Five things? Ok… and then they get to number four and stop short. But we all have more than five – we’re just so used to focusing on what we’re stuffing up, we struggle to turn the lense towards the good bits. Persevere, mama.
- End each day with three things you’re proud of. Whether it’s not totally losing it when the kids wouldn’t get out of the bath tonight, or managing to finally get to the gym after weeks of broken promises, give yourself a daily congrats time. Like the five things you’re good at, this is all about building that belief in yourself, just as you are right now.
- Stop looking at other’s lives as a way to escape your own. So here’s the thing about social media, mama: it’s another form of numbing our own emotions. Whether you reach for instagram to avoid the housework or (more likely) fill the void, it’s an addiction which is only fuelling your disconnection from yourself. I’m all for a little scrolling every now and then, but when it becomes a knee-jerk reaction to every little tough moment or ideal second, it’s dangerous. And in my work with mamas, it’s usually accompanied by a pretty nasty dose of comparisonitis.
Our children need us to do this, mamas. Our world needs us to heal and rise. And whilst self-enquiry like this is not easy, there is nothing more important right now.