This is a mother-to-mother post. If you’re not a mom, if you have never felt overwhelmed, if you have never gotten mad at solicitations, if you have never built resentment at the lack of appreciation, this post is not for you. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t find anything useful here, or a newfound appreciation for what mothers go through.
I’ve been a mother for 12 years, I have 3 kids, a husband, a family-in-law, and often , I feel like I’m the one supposed to make it all work. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you’d just stop doing it all? Would your kids wear only dirty clothes and eat grilled cheese? Would everybody stop loving you? What would you even do with your time?
Feeling overwhelmed right now? No stress! Download the PDF version of this article and read it when you feel refreshed!
The Guilt About Me-Time
This morning, I decided to start my yoga routine again after a 6 months break. I didn’t wake up an hour before dawn to do it, I didn’t ask anyone if it would be all right for me to take a moment for myself. No, I grabbed my mat, I put on my yoga clothes and I went to greet the morning sun to do my practice.
And it made me feel so good about myself that I wanted to share this with you today. Because this freedom didn’t happen overnight: I used to put myself last. I’m sure you know the feeling:
- “After breakfast, I’ll do this”
- “When the kids are dressed I’ll do that”
- “After home-school, I’ll take a moment for this”
- “After lunch is cleaned up, I’ll definitely do that”
- “After, after, after, …”.
Then, it’s night time already, and you’re tired and go to bed. I know. I’ve Been there, and I’ve done that. I even wrote a post about the perfect mother a while ago. I put a lot of thought into this, trying to figure out why I couldn’t put myself first, from time to time, and here is what I found out: I felt like I had to deserve that time, and that I was never doing enough to deserve it.
“Guilt always comes in hiding”
-Sylviane Giampino, child psychologist
Feeling like you have to deserve your me-time, feeling like you’re not “doing enough”, or “good enough” has two roots: vanity and judgments. You don’t like those words? I know, they don’t sound good, do they?
Mother Guilt: Vanity And Judgments
I really don’t like vanity. This is not something I thought I could find in me. I would actually praise my non-conceited nature. But one day, I realized that I would comment on everything my husband was saying to my kids, and I would second-guess his decisions a lot (in front of the children!).
I felt bad about it and it got me thinking, why was I doing that? When the answer came, it was not one I enjoyed finding: I thought I knew better. I thought that my babies, coming from my belly, to which I was connected couldn’t get anything better than me. Vanity.
The first step to free ourselves from our mother’s guilt is to understand and accept that our children’s well-being, education, happiness, and balance don’t depend on us only.
As for judgments, becoming a mother feels like becoming a public object. Everybody seems to think they have a say in your life and behavior.
It starts when you’re pregnant “did you have a glass of wine?”, continues at childbirth “you don’t want to give birth in a hospital?”, and lasts your whole life “you let your child play outside with this weather?”, “you let him talk to you that way?”, “you home-school them?”. We are so used to being judged that in the end, we don’t even need others anymore. We internalize and judge ourselves with mysterious but very high standards.
The second step to free ourselves from our mother’s guilt is to raise our awareness of this latent guilt and take some distance.
Taking Care Of Oneself And Self-Worth
We know that our well-being depends on how we can give ourselves kindness and care, but it seems there is a step between “knowing” and “acting” that we just can’t take. According to Robert Neuburger, a French psychiatrist, taking care of oneself isn’t just about oneself for oneself only. He explains that a human being cannot exist by themselves, without the Other. As a consequence, we don’t take care of ourselves for ourselves’ sake but for the eyes of others.
Strange? Think about it. When are the moments of your life when you took the least care of yourself? When you were doubting your worth? Not feeling important enough? Hoping that somebody else would maybe feel the gap?
“Self-worth is a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect”.
We evaluate our abilities and performance, and give ourselves a self-worth score. That explains why mothers with little self-worth feel like they always need to do more. Author Stephanie Jade Wong came up with a list of things that don’t (and shouldn’t) determine your self-worth:
- Your To-Do List
- Your Job
- Your Age
- Your Appearance
- Other People
- How Far You Can Run
- Your Grades
- The Number of Friends You Have
- Your Relationship Status
- The Money (or Lack Thereof) in the Bank
- Things You Like
- Anything or Anyone But Yourself
I like this list. So tell me, are you guilty of determining your self-worth on the wrong criteria?
I used to measure myself by my to-do list: the more I’d do in a day, the prouder I’d be. Until I got exhausted and felt terrible for not being able to cross everything off my list anymore.
I would also beat myself up if I had a goal (that’s number 7) and couldn’t meet it. I would tell myself: “I’ll go to yoga classes every day for 30 days”, but maybe one day I’d feel too tired, and then I’d beat myself because I couldn’t even keep up with my goal.
Those are very unhealthy ways of deciding on your worth. You are more than material actions and results.
Let’s see if you take care of yourself. Here are some basics that everyone should do in order to feel good and healthy.
- Eating well
- Slowing down
If you’re not doing one or several of those, ask yourself: why? Is it because you think you don’t deserve it? Or do you believe that you cannot do those because of another very good reason?
When We Have All The Good Reasons Not To
Here come our old friends: the limiting beliefs. For those who are not familiar with them, the Encarta dictionary defines “belief” as the “acceptance by the mind that something is true or real, often underpinned by an emotional or spiritual sense of certainty.”
In clear, you believing something doesn’t mean this thing is true. And when this belief keeps you from happiness, harmony, self-development, it is a limiting belief. In this case, limiting beliefs could be:
- Resting is for lazy people
- Taking care of oneself is a waste of time
- Taking me-time is selfish
- Putting me first is pretentious
- Motherhood is about sacrifice
Those limiting beliefs aren’t your thoughts. You learned them growing up. Through your education, your parents’ example, your personal experiences,…
I used to be a little envious and judgmental towards women who would go to yoga classes, shop, or get a massage. In other words: being nice to themselves. How could they do it? Where did they find the time?
I had 3 kids, a job, a house, and a husband… But if I was being honest with myself, my education told me that it was not right to do those things. I grew up in a blue-collar workers/farmers family were working hard and then some was the rule. The girls with nice make-up were only picture in magazines to me.
With time, work, and self-love, I’ve come to peace with my education and my family culture. They might not understand me when I tell them that I take yoga classes and read 2 hours a day, but they still love me.
The most common thing I hear is “I don’t have time”. If that’s what you think, you can try and find the belief behind it, then deconstruct it to keep its negative influence away.
Some will say “I do not deserve such expenses”, “it’s not a message that will make me happier”, … This is aggressiveness toward oneself. Taking care of yourself is self-love. And I’ll never stress this enough:
“Children learn through imitation most. The way you treat yourself is the way they’ll treat themselves as grown-ups”
You might find guilt again on your path: allowing yourself something that your parents denied for themselves. But that will break a pattern and free yourself as well as your children!
Now, let’s see how you could practice growing your me-time.
Confidential: A Guide To Grow Your Guilt-Free Me-Time
Now that you understand where the guilt and the excuses come from, you can consider having some me-time! If you’re ready for it, here are a few steps shared by Diane Ballonad Rolland on her website “Zen and organized” that you will love:
- Take a step back
Look at your daily life, how are you organized? Where do you spend energy in vain? When are you not needed?
- Reflect on your organization
Who’s doing what? What is necessary and what is not? Are you doing everything? Why? (This is a good moment to spot limiting beliefs!)
- Lighten your calendar and simplify
What is essential in your life and what is not? Make your life more simple and get some time back.
- Free up time for yourself
Instead of doing yet another chore after finishing this one, do something you love.
- Slow down
Are you running? Are you using the word “quickly” a lot? Always being in a hurry can be an unhealthy protection mechanism.
- Set boundaries
Learn to set boundaries and have them respected. Learn to say no and to delegate, the world won’t end because you have an hour break.
- Learn to unwind
What makes you feel good? Where and how can you unwind? Identify those moments and make them parts of your life.
- Recharge your batteries
Rest! Deal with your fatigue and energy. You know yourself, start to respect yourself.
Download your guide to your own guilt-free time!
As I write this, I realize how my life changed over the past years. From doing-it-all and being exhausted (but somehow proud of my sacrifice) to slowing down, respecting myself, and learning to trust my husband and kids. Everyone wins from respecting yourself, not just you!
For one thing, my children are growing more autonomous every day, and not in a mom-doesn’t-take-care-of-us-anymore way but in a mom-finally-trusts-us way.
One last example? I used to loathe my husband for enjoying a beer on the balcony while I was running around. Until I noted to myself that he didn’t ask for me to do all those things.
Now we take the time to play backgammon every day before making dinner together. The children love to come around and watch us. We show them harmony and love, instead of an angry mumbling mom in the kitchen and a lonely dad on the balcony!
Who can relate 😉 ?
Thanks for reading this article! As always, I hope it gave you some line of thoughts to explore as well as ideas to act and create a positive change in your life.
Don’t let the inspiration fades and take action right away:
I wish you all the best with your kids, always remember that we all do the best we can at a given moment and don’t judge yourself harshly. Be confident and listen to your intuition. If what you do comes from a place of love, then you’re on the right path.
See you next week for another exciting article!
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