3 Steps to Free Yourself from the Overwhelm of Motherhood
“Come Mother’s Day, it is doubtful that any mom anywhere will receive a card that reads: “Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who always notices we are running out of toilet paper.” This is a good thing, because anyone who presented their partner with such a sentiment would die a quick death. But the point is, we mothers deserve props for our seeing superpowers.”
-ELLEN SEIDMAN, lovethatmax.com
Ellen puts a fun and empowering spin on the “invisible work of motherhood” — you know… making sure the household is stocked with
-clean silverware/bowls/plates/favorite cups.
-clean underwear, unless you count the pairs with holes which some people do.
-toothpaste/dental floss/mouthwash/anti-cavity rinse in bubble gum flavor and NOT the one with SpongeBob on the bottle/soap/shower gel/shampoo/conditioner/that detangling spray that supposedly wards off lice [insert product critical to good hygiene].
-matching socks, unless you count the pairs with holes which some people do.
-creamy peanut butter and chunky peanut butter and Natural with Honey peanut butter and whipped peanut butter and I so wish our family had consensus on p.b.
etc… her funny list goes on.
But the reason it is so healing (for me and probably others) to read her light hearted article is because usually managing ALL of this stuff is utterly exhausting, draining, overwhelming, infuriating, [insert stressed out adjective here].
So would you like to know the 3 steps I have used to free myself from this insanity? Here it goes…
- The first step to freeing yourself from this insanity is to be unapologetic about your mistakes. Ok, so you ran out of paper towels… be completely shameless and unapologetic about it. You’ll survive! More than that, you and your family can thrive without paper towels that day! Laugh about it and clean up the mess with tissues, or a rag, or a sponge, or cotton balls, or don’t! Leave it there! Let it be messy! But whatever you do, do NOT beat yourself up about it, or feel even the tiniest tinge of guilt.
The bad news about motherhood is that so much of our guilt and suffering is self-imposed. But guess what? That’s also the good news! Yes, my dear, it’s totally twisted that we live in a culture that teaches the women in the culture to shame themselves incessantly whenever they fail to meet an impossible standard. But you know what else? It’s totally POSSIBLE to free ourselves of that shame and to CHANGE our twisted culture from WITHIN. Because at the end of the day, we each as individuals get to choose our actions. And we as a collective of women and mothers, if we break through the internalized oppression that says we need to do everything alone and everything perfectly, we can start to stand for each other.
Make it a priority to choose pleasure over perfection. The freedom starts as an internal shift. Freedom starts with changing the way YOU talk to and treat yourself. Life would be great if our husbands all decided that they want to take on more housework… but even the kindest and dearest of men have ALSO been trained and indoctrinated to encourage the paradigm of suppression of the feminine. Try this idea on: the men are innocent. The women are innocent. Your parents are innocent. Freeing yourself also requires freeing the people you are blaming for your suffering. Look at those people as children. Those terrible people were children once. See them with the compassion you would hold for a child who was struggling in life. We are all as innocent as children, doing the best we can with what we were given. [I’m not saying people who commit crimes should not be dealt consequences or that boundaries should not be set, I’m just saying, we can always take necessary actions from a place of love and compassion]. Human beings have evolved over thousands of years with instincts that shape our behavior. As Alison Armstrong says, there are 2 parts to human beings, human animal and human spirit. Mostly, we are run by human animal, by instinct. If you think you aren’t, just think about how often you feel tension in your body… that tension is your animal instinct kicking in.
My point is this, you’ve already got the power. Stop waiting for someone else to give you permission, or to jump in and rescue you. It might happen… but it probably won’t, because we aren’t living in a Disney princess movie. At least, we’re not living in the Disney movies we grew up with… Disney has definitely stepped up it’s game. We are now living in the era of Moana & Frozen… so actually, we are living in Disney movies but just not the ones where prince charming comes to rescue you. We’re living in the movie where it’s up to us to do what we know is right, go against what we are being told to do —(“Moana, stay on the ground now…stay away from the ocean”) — in this movie, it’s important to follow our Spirit, face the ego, and return the Heart! I could happily go on and on about the brilliance of Moana but again, my point is… claim your moment, here and now. Take some deep breaths. Enjoy yourself.
2. The second step is own your need to be needed. Face your fear of not being needed. When I began to do less, and let things “fall through the cracks” — like not stressing myself out over trying to remember to add eggs to the grocery list when it came to me at 11:30pm once I finally laid down in bed — I started to realize that a lot of what I freaked out about — the stuff that HAD to get done … would actually be fine. Yes, I had less control over what would happen when my partner stepped in to take care of meals… usually by taking our son across the street to whole foods or ordering dinner out… it wasn’t “ideal”, ordering out is a little more expensive and a little less healthy. But the point is… we do have choices. We will be more than ok, we will still be good even if we don’t have it all together. But I also started to feel afraid. I felt afraid of my partner finding me “useless”. I realized how badly I needed to be needed — to be the only one — to be the best one. I was terrified of not being “needed”. Again, I would say this is an instinct for survival. In the early days of human animal, if women weren’t needed by men, perhaps we faced the risk of being abandoned and left for dead in the cold or eaten by an animal.
In the year 2018, as I write this, women rarely face fatal risk on a daily basis. So step 2 — own your need to be needed — is about becoming aware of your human animal instinct to exhaust yourself in proving your value. Once you can realize that your value goes far beyond your ability to make sure the kitchen and bathroom are stocked, you can find a new freedom. My dear fellow mama, realize that your greatest value lies inherently in your being alive. Your value lies in you being you. You get to define your self worth, and the truth is that your heart, your being, who you are when you are in a state of pleasure, flow and inspiration… that is where your self worth flourishes. So own your human animal, and love it, with all your heart. Bring compassion to yourself, inquire about your fears and your needs. Get to know yourself. Allow your Spirit to take over and love to pour into you. Have you ever had one of those moments where life just works out even little things — like you find the exact type of mugs you were looking for at Goodwill when you were saving up to buy them full price somewhere else? And you think.. wow… maybe there is a God who loves me… do you think that this loving God really really wants you to have the right mugs? No! This loving God is working little miracles to remind you that you are loved! These little miracles happen when we allow ourselves to experience the love of the Divine. They are expressions of love — it has nothing to do with the mugs. Learning to let the love in will allow your human animal to relax, to feel safe, and let your human spirit take over. Your human spirit already knows you are needed on this planet, you don’t need to prove your worth by always being in control of every little thing. By owning your need to be needed, loving yourself through the fear, and letting go, you’ll get in touch with your true purpose and experience powerful freedom.
3. The third step is starting to say no. This is the process of being responsible while also holding your boundaries and getting your needs and desires met. This is where less mistakes happen, less things fall through the cracks because you are aware of your limits and you plan accordingly. For example, my 2.5 year old got into the fridge (because I didn’t lock it while I was cooking… which could lead to a spiral of internal criticism… “seriously, Kayla, how could you leave the fridge unlocked while you know that your child could easily get into the fridge and wreak havoc… that is so dumb…” but practicing step 1, I will not beat myself up for it! Instead I could think “F*** yes! I’m so awesome! Look at everything I am taking care of! I’m making breakfast for everyone! Oh! 2 year old got in the fridge! Life is pure chaos! Hilarious!)… anyway, my little one wanted to eat cherries (which require pits to be cut out of them). I was in the middle of cooking eggs, and making a smoothie, with bacon and sweet potatoes in the oven. I was hungry as I hadn’t eaten yet, and I was in the process of receiving lots of inspiration and ideas for this article and jumping between the kitchen and my computer to write them down! Ordinarily I would’ve taken a big breath and said “ok.” I would’ve added, “cut pits from cherries” to my mental to do list, my stress level and tension would tick up, and my twisted sense of “self worth” would go up too. Instead, I said — “if daddy is willing to take the pits out for you, you can have cherries.” He went to ask his dad, who was happy to cut the pits out. I wasn’t delegating “honey, will you please take the pits out of the cherries?”, which can feel sort of humiliating to me, as well as exhausting and infuriating (links to the story “why in hell do I have to manage EVERYTHING!?”). I was simply doing what I could in that moment to help my son. It didn’t take much energy to suggest to him that he could potentially get what he wants by asking his father. And then I LET MYSELF BE FREE to finish the cooking I was already doing. I didn’t get involved in controlling what his dad said to him about the cherries, or when or how or where he would or would not take the pits from the cherries. Internally, I set the boundary, I said “no” to the internal pressure to do 1 more thing.
Saying no is going to be an ongoing process, and it has to be. If you said yes to every single thing that presented itself to you to be done, you would be completely overwhelmed and insane… even if you said yes to half of the things… you would be overwhelmed and insane. Pause for a second — there is NO SHAME in being overwhelmed and insane my friends. Let’s just take a moment to own that. Say it with me “I’m overwhelmed and insane”. It’s okay to say that. It’s more than okay… it’s so freeing! When you are overwhelmed and feeling crazy, let yourself realize that you are overwhelmed and crazy. Stop pretending that everything is fine. Start getting real with yourself. This will enable you to get real with other people. And most likely, they will appreciate it. When you are honest with yourself about your limits, you can say no with humility and gentleness. Your no can be access to honesty, authenticity and intimacy in your relationships. It starts with saying no to your own impossible expectations of yourself.
Start today. Start right now. Think about everything that isn’t perfect in your life. Feel the guilt and the shame. Let it go. Exhale and say to your shame “good riddance.” Think about your mistakes and let yourself laugh. Let yourself celebrate how much you do, and how great you are. Be unapologetic about the imperfections.
Connect with your body, in this present moment, and notice if there is any fear that comes up when you let go of needing to be perfect. Are you afraid people won’t love you anymore if you don’t pretend you’ve got everything handled? Face your fear and own your need to be needed. Only by being aware of your need for control can you begin to let it go and choose divine love instead. For in the presence of divine love, the truth that all is well, and everything will be taken care of, and the awareness of what really matters prevails.
Sitting in divine love, you may notice the old ways of thinking and being sneak in. Start saying no. When your mind tells you “you’d better start the laundry right now” while you’re in the middle of feeding your child (which often at least for me involves reading a book to him while feeding him while also feeding myself so it’s really 3 things at once already happening) — just say no. Say to your laundry… “no. I will not make myself crazy over you. You are here to support me. You, clothing, exist so that my family and I can feel warm and stylish and good. Thank you for clothing us, and I will wash you later.” Use this affirmation: “there is plenty of time and space for everything that really matters today”. And then ask yourself “what really matters?” Start saying no to everything else, so that you can say yes to the love, the laughter and the light.
I also recorded a live video where I speak about these ideas, if you’d like to watch it, go here: https://youtu.be/RC0u9js1hN8