By: Kelli Foulkrod, MS, LPA, RYT
This mother’s day, let’s unite and start a motherhood revolution! It’s time for women to start being honest about motherhood, to let go of the myths and beliefs handed down to us from previous generations, and to support one another instead of competing and judging.
As a perinatal psychotherapist, I have my finger on the pulse of new moms and the influence that our American culture has on the female’s expectations and contentment levels for the child rearing years. This is not a blame game, and I’m not here to attack our mother’s, our grandmothers, and our great grandmothers. These women did the best they could with the era they were living in, and the amount of oppression and silencing our female ancestors experienced to birth us into being was insurmountable. It seems though, that along the way, somewhere in between patriarchy and women’s liberation, women as a whole absorbed and perpetuated some dysfunctional core beliefs. There are four themes I have observed in these unspoken beliefs that need to be candidly examined, and gracefully laid to rest:
- You will love being a mom 100% of the time. Oh the mother’s guilt when we find ourselves dreading an extended amount of time in full on mothering mode (maternity leave, summer vacations, spring break). We tell ourselves we “should” always love spending time with our children and when we don’t we beat ourselves up. The truth is your relationship with your children is like any other human relationship. Sometimes you need breaks and distance from certain friendships or lovers. The same is true with our babies and kiddos who shine a light on our blind spots and show us where we need to heal. There are some days that those reminders are too poignant and we need a break from the relationship…and that is ok; totally natural and totally rational.
- You are weak if you ask for help. The roots of this one come from America’s sense of “rugged individualism” and every man for himself. It’s built into our psyche that if you are a strong independent woman, you don’t need to rely on anyone else. And that asking for help is a sign of weakness or inadequacy. It brings up all our dependency needs and makes us feel needy and vulnerable. So we suffer in silence. The truth is that humans are social creatures; we thrive on community and interdependence. On average in tribal cultures, it takes 4 people to adequately raise a baby into adolescence. Four! And here we are trying to do it with 2, sometimes 1, with the bulk of the responsibilities falling on the woman. No wonder we are perceived as angry, crazy women!
- Self-sacrifice is what motherhood is all about. Putting your needs last, makes for an unhappy and grumpy mama. 100% of self-sacrifice is called martyrdom and makes for a victim mentality; that is not something we want to teach our offspring. Yes, some of your needs fall by the wayside, especially in early mothering, but to consistently stifle your self-care and need for growth is actually teaching your children how to be subtly violent towards themselves. What we are up against when we take breaks, or put our needs first, is a mountain of mother’s guilt and shame and the screaming message that we are selfish.
- Your soul’s destiny is mothering. When we become a mother, there is a built in idea that mothering is our life’s purpose. It’s our duty, our responsibility to focus solely on children and our passions and dreams get put on the backburner. So a lot of women swallow their dreams or make excuses (sometimes even blaming their children for never manifesting their goals) to maintain the status quo. If a woman does take a leap and pursues her dreams, and this pursuit takes her away from her duties as a mother, the amount of conditioning and programming she experiences has the potential to shut down her efforts. It’s ok and actually feasible to have a bigger vision for your life, outside of mothering…it takes a village, asking for help, and processing shame to break through this old belief.