It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and I wanted to use this occasion to talk about some false truths about motherhood and to uncover the reasons why so many women struggle through the early years of parenting.
I have sat with hundreds of women over the last couple of years, and these false truths I’m about to share with you, contribute to the enormous load that so many women struggle with.
We have bought into some truths about motherhood that simply aren’t true. They are making us really exhausted, keeping us in our overwhelm, and feelings of guilt and shame are stopping us from really exploring what a pleasure filled life can look like. So, what are these false truths?
False Truth #1
To be a good mother you need to sacrifice your life for your children.
It’s called “The Good Mother” syndrome and is the typical 1950’s housewife description. Women have sacrificed their life for their children for years because they believed that’s what they needed to do and never questioned it. Then in the 60’s and 70’s everything changed with the wave of feminism. Feminism empowered women to have it all. But what actually happened was that in addition to being a mother, women could also work, have their own business and say yes to more opportunities.
We were told that we could do it all. But no one mentioned what would happen to the caring responsibility of the children. What happened was that we just added mothering to a long list of to-dos. Mothering became another tick box that we needed to get done.
Now to be a good mother today you have to be able to not only be a domestic goddess, but you also have to work like you don’t have kids and parent like you don’t work, and often without a village around you for support.
Burnout, stress and anxiety started to become the norm and women soon realised that the idea of having it all would lead to burn out.
But that stopping and stepping back wasn’t an option because of the second false truth.
False truth #2
To be a successful woman you must be able to do it all and be superwoman and that our strength only comes from constantly pushing and being able to handle it all.
And when we have this belief running deep, we just keep going no matter what, feeling more and more depleted until something forces us to stop – we get sick or we simply break down. And then when we do finally stop, we feel like a failure. We feel guilt and shame that we couldn’t keep up and wonder why everyone else seems to manage it all and we can’t.
Before kids, my identity and self worth was completely wrapped up in my work. After having kids I had to completely rethink who I was but it took me almost 7 years to get to that point of realising that I wasn’t the same person I was before kids and I had to rediscover my new truth and reshape my identity as a woman and a mum.
False truth #3
Motherhood comes naturally and you will love every minute of it.
This was a core belief of mine before having kids. My expectations of motherhood of being effortlessly patient, nurturing and kind, thinking it would all come so naturally from a place deep inside was far from the harsh reality I faced as a new mother.
Motherhood did not come naturally to me and when I couldn’t breastfeed my boys, I thought I had failed. The guilt and shame robbed me of my motherhood joy.
We often have such high expectations of ourselves and we put ourselves under an enormous amount of pressure to perform every job to the best of our ability. So when we suddenly don’t meet those expectations, our world starts to crumble.
These false truths are stopping us from living a life that truly makes us happy.
The real truth is that everything in our lives works better when we prioritise ourselves and we’re thriving. We feel better when we have energy, when we’re nourishing ourselves, when we’re giving from the overflow of our cup rather than a half empty cup. When we give from the overflow, we give from a place of abundance rather than resentment.
When we look at the beliefs and expectations around motherhood, we can see why it’s so hard to be a mother in the modern world and how attached we are to these false truths.
To be a good mother, we actually need to constantly be filling our own cup and we can’t do that if we have this underlying belief that it’s selfish. We would never drive our car with no petrol in it, we are constantly refilling our car tanks. So why don’t we refill our own tanks on a more regular basis?
I hear from so many women who tell me that they are completely exhausted. They are struggling in their relationships and there is a distinct lack of joy and pleasure in their lives.
Many women I speak to don’t have the basic self-care fundamentals in place because their lives are so busy and moving at such a rapid speed that there is simply no time or capacity to even fit in the basics like nourishing food, regular movement, rest and good quality sleep.
Even though we know that everything feels better when we’re thriving, we don’t focus on those things because consciously or unconsciously we have been led to believe that there is no other way.
I have spent the last few years rediscovering and redefining my own truth. I realised it was not my fault that I felt this way and trying to be worthy, and this self-sacrificing behaviour, was not the answer. The truth I like to now live by is that to be a successful woman I need to rest and soften and not to feel guilt when I say no. To be a good mother I need to prioritise my own needs on a daily basis, and when I do then everything else in my life works so much better. My ability to parent and show up in my marriage, to be present in everything I do each day and to be grateful for it all. So, I go on girl’s weekends away, I go out for coffee with friends, I meditate, I laugh, I find pleasure in the simple things, I go for walks in nature, I spend the time making nourishing foods for myself (not just for the kids), I spend quality time with my husband, I move my body with exercises that feel good, and this year I am also taking myself off to a retreat for a whole week. Because at the end of the day, this is my life, I deserve to feel amazing and I choose to make the most of every moment.
I wonder what being a good mother and a successful woman means to you and how much these false truths influence your choices and the way you live your life?