How would you describe your entry to the decade and view for your future? My hope is it’s bright for you and your family. That your days are filled with feelings and experiences that make your heart come alive and your soul sing. Where peace and enthusiasm co-exist and an excitement for what’s to come palpitates through your body.
This is my hope, but not my expectation. Time and experience remind me this wishful thinking is a vision tinted by rose-coloured glasses. I know mothers will cry and worries will rest heavy on their chests. This it seems, is an unwritten mandate after the arrival of one’s first born.
Yes, life’s going to bring challenges. This is a certain. Other challenges that have the potential to bring us to our knees however is not restricted to natural disasters, diagnosis or loss. But it’s a force so strong, it thwarts our happiness and success. EVERY. DAY.
The primary influence of our feelings of sadness, disappointment and guilt reside in the immensely high expectations we hold of ourselves, standards we’d never reserve for a friend. ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing an amazing job. You need to rest’ we’re likely to offer our dearest, but to ourselves? Oh no – this narrative would be much harsher. Cursing which depicts our inability, lack of discipline, ineptness and plain hopelessness meander through our minds, day after day, back and forward they go, swirling unconsciously until we conclude we mothers must be causing irreparable harm to our children. And the feelings of disappointment get stronger.
Have standards higher enough to inspire your growth,
but low enough to encourage your commitment.
I’m certain you have standards for yourself as a mother. Expectations of yourself you believe will best serve your children. I do too. Recently I failed to meet the ideal I hold for myself and wish to share the wise words I received via my friend’s response. In case your human-ness comes to the fore and you feel you’re not living up to who you want to be for your children, I hope you can remember her viewpoint.
While recounting an interaction in which I believe I didn’t respond as the best version of the mother I desire to be, I described it as feeling like an addict who fell off the wagon after 5 years off sobriety with my ‘sobriety being calm and non-reactivity in the face of triggers'. My friend did just as Brene Brown would encourage – she doused my potential-sitting-on-the-ledge shame with empathy and understanding. Part of her loving message read, ‘everyone has times they feel like they’ve fallen off the wagon … or are running alongside the wagon trying to get back on.’ Conjuring an image of me hobbling alongside a moving and rickety wagon, reaching my arms in one last and desperate attempt to hold on, put a turn in the corners of my mouth and left me feeling lighter in my heart. I messaged back with a wagon and running girl emoji before beginning my ‘work’ to consciously progress through the oh-so-familiar self-talk of mum-guilt.
I needed to return my focus to where I wanted it to reside; in love and gratitude for my family and friends, and to acknowledge my reflection and new actions from this moment on were what would matter. A practice I was oh so familiar with. You see, our focus has a significant impact on our thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions. For me to remain feeling bad, guilty or upset would mean my focus was on me. ‘I feel bad for reacting.’ ‘I wish I hadn’t done that.’ My ultimate goal is to balance personal reflection with outward focus on others, not to remain centred on myself.
“If we can share our story of shame with someone who responds with
empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive”
When you next 'fall off your wagon' of self-imposed expectations (not yelling, saying no to sugar, no-aimless scrolling – the list continues), strap on those shoes and get running girl! This human adventure of motherhood is going to provide you plenty of bumps and bruises along the way. Promise you’ll hoist yourself up, practice empathy and compassion for yourself and envision a future blended perfectly between personal growth and personal kindness.
Remember, you’re the holder of the torch. You have in your reach the power to illuminate and focus on the future you want to see in 2020.