Those who care about you aren't looking for you to be perfect. They want you to be happy, fulfilled, and living a life of joy.
Does the thought of mothering yourself make feel you uncomfortable?
Well, you’re not alone.
Many women feel guilty about self care and here's why...
As women, we are socialized at a young age to give to others. To be a “good girl” and put the needs of everyone else first. We are raised to be care takers and nurturers who are self-effacing, passive, and accommodating.
So much so that when we become mothers, we willingly take on something known as the "second shift" or the approximately 21 hrs of additional work per week (!) caring for our children and households.
Most working moms (approx 86% of them) work the "second shift" and handle the majority of family and household responsibilities.
Why? Because it’s what we saw modeled by our mothers and grandmothers as well as in the media. The issue? Often men aren’t even aware it’s happening.
Because the “second shift” includes mostly invisible work like anticipating, planning, organizing, and preparing family activities and appointments. It also includes providing ongoing emotional support for children and aging parents.
The “second shift” is made up of many small tasks that seem doable on their own, but when stacked together, as they always are, add up to an incredibly daunting list.
And what’s worse, women are expected to be “perfect” doing it all. Millions of marketing dollars are spent on us every year celebrating and idolizing the “perfect” woman, wife, and mother.
Perfect bodies, perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect house, perfect meals, perfect marriage, perfect children.
Sadly, studies show that by the age of six, more than one third of seven to 10 year old girls believe their appearance matters more than their intelligence.
Meanwhile women make up 50% of the work force and two-thirds of us are the primary breadwinners for our families.
So here we are trying to achieve “perfection” at home while balancing demanding careers and providing financially for our families.
I’m exhausted just writing about it.
And it’s because it’s entirely TOO much.
The standards women are held to are impossible, unrealistic, and unfair.
Yet...we wear our exhaustion, resentment, and overwhelm as a badge of honor? Somehow we have become devoted martyrs for a culture that devalues our work and simultaneously expects us to do more.
We feel bad because we give until we’re empty while simultaneously feeling bad because we never feel like we’re giving enough.
So it’s no surprise that women are 2x as stressed as men suffering disproportionally from anxiety and other stress related health conditions.
Well friends, here is your wake-up call.
The perfect women, wife, or mother simply doesn’t exist. It’s an ideal made up. By men.
Read that again.
This idea of perfection was created by the patriarchy and it is perpetuated by capitalism. The idea of perfection does nothing to serve the needs of women.
- It only creates comparison and competition among us.
- It only creates never-ending feelings of inadequacy and failure.
- It leads to burnout and breakdown.
So why do we buy into it?
Because our mothers and grandmothers did and our culture has deeply ingrained it into our psyche.
As women fought to enter the workforce, the expectations for us in the home and as mothers did not shift to accommodate this massive societal change.
Photo credit @fairplaylife
I believe we’ve reached a breaking point and the only answer is for us to begin to mother ourselves. Why? Because change ALWAYS starts within.
You can't expect decade old traditions and social structures to end overnight. It requires each of us to take our power back in order to slowly create a shift and a new reality in which we aren't required to completely drain ourselves in order to meet cultural expectations of being "a good mother."
So here’s how to mother yourself:
STEP 1: LET GO.
Let go of social expectations and norms of perfection. Put an end to the story that women should and can “do it all.”
Because we can’t. It’s physically, emotionally, and spiritually impossible.
Let go of the voice in your head that says:
“Good moms fight overwhelmedness and win. Good moms can handle even more and still be strong.”
- Motherwhelmed by Beth Berry
Rewrite that story.
Recognize overwhelm not as not doing enough, but as doing too much.
Recognize overwhelm as a sign that you’ve drained your reserves and that you’re running on empty.
And when you’re running on empty, you have nothing left to give others but your resentment, anxiety, and reactivity.
Ask yourself what is the worst that would happen if you didn’t seek to achieve the model of perfection? By ignoring the alluring shiny object that is cultural approval, might you begin to notice and celebrate more of what makes you, YOU?
Instead of perfection and productivity, seek gratitude and self-compassion.
- Focus on what you are doing for your family rather than what you are not.
- Focus on the love you provide rather than the size of your thighs, your ability to meal plan, or maintain spotless kitchen floors.
- Focus on your individuality, special gifts, and unique contributions to this world.
Because guess what? You are already doing your best. You already are enough. No one who cares for you actually wants or needs you to be perfect. They want you to be happy, fulfilled, and living a life of joy.
Rewrite your story to one that makes you feel enough just as you are.
2. Slow Down
As you unwrite this story of perfection and achievement, you must slow down. You must step off the treadmill of productivity and unsubscribe to grind culture.
Understand that your constant state of “doing” is actually less efficient, less impactful, and detrimental to your health.
“Very far from ‘having it all’, a work-worshipping paradigm actually asks you to sacrifice almost everything else—including how you regard your own mind, heart, and soul—for a depth of validation that comes from way outside yourself. ‘I work therefore I am.’
-Dr Stephanie Dowrick, Phd
By slowing down, you’re better able to:
- Question the stories you’ve been told about how you “should” be or what you should value.
- Create the space to reconnect to yourself and remember your own wants and dreams.
- Begin to peel your embedded fingernails off the steering wheel of life and realize that you won’t crash if you relax a little bit and sit back in your chair.
You begin to realize that your stress and anxiety isn’t actually holding anything together, but only serving to make you miserable.
No surprise, one of my favorite ways to slow down is with Moment CBD mints. They are my go-to off-ramp from grind culture and stress. They gently awaken my senses and calm my body, giving me the much needed space to remember what I really want out of life.
Slowing down moves your body from a constant state of survival and flight or fight to one of rest. And when you begin to rest, you can finally begin to thrive.
I am not talking about sleeping here. I’m talking about showing yourself grace.
As you rewrite your story and begin to slow down, this step feels the most indulgent and therefore the most uncomfortable.
This step requires you to just BE. To not just slow down, but stop all together.
It can be downright scary to stop after years of going.
But guess what happens? Nothing falls apart when you stop. And better yet, things slowly get better.
By stopping, you give yourself the time to listen, imagine, and connect to what’s most important. You give your body and your mind the opportunity to recharge from a life that is built to drain you.
“Let your entire being slowly begin to shift. Get lost in rest. Pull up the blankets, search for softness, and be open to the ways rest will surprise and calm you.”
– Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey
In order to rest, you will need to...
Create new boundaries for yourself that put an end to over-extending yourself. This means saying NO to additional responsibilities, commitments, or relationships that don’t serve you.
Ask for help instead of constantly shouldering the burden by yourself. Say goodbye to being the victim and martyr. Create a new story for your life in which everyone participates equally in childcare and housework. Check out Fairplay Life, an amazing resource on how to start the conversation.
Recalibrate what good enough looks like. Are your expectations even realistic or attainable. What is more valuable to you? Happiness or perfection?
When you put yourself first you’re able to show up more fully for those who need you.
When you’re rested, you’re not longer operating form a place of lack or scarcity, but of abundance. When you’re rested you can easily replace resentment with joy because you can give easily from a place of fullness rather than emptiness.
Resting can look a lot of different ways and I’ve written about them here and here.
Bottom line, it doesn’t need to take a lot of time, money, or effort. Even a conscious breath counts as long as you’re doing it for you.
So let’s quickly summarize.
Why is mothering yourself important?
Because we live in a paradoxical society that holds us to unrealistic and unattainable standards at work and at home. Adhering to those standards only leads to burnout and stress. Whereas making the brave decision to put yourself first allows you to experience more joy and give to others from a place of abundance rather than lack. Bottom line, when you mother yourself, you’re able to mother each other better.
How do you mother yourself?
- By letting go of stories that say you must give until you collapse.
- By slowing down and unsubscribing to grind culture altogether
- By resting to allow yourself to recharge, reconnect, and show up as a better you.
Remember that we're in this together, but change has to start with you. Because it's only when we make the choice to mother ourselves that we can begin to imagine a society that places equal value on the second shift, celebrates and upholds a more realistic and healthy image of women, and acknowledges the importance of rest in uncovering our full female potential.