Generations of women have been raised in a paradoxical culture. On one hand, we’re encouraged to achieve at the highest levels. On the other, we’re still held to traditional female roles at home.
If you have a mother, you probably have a mother wound, especially if you’re a woman. The mother wound is defined as:
"Unintentional pain passed down between generations of women caused by living in a patriarchal culture that oppresses women."
Makes sense to me. On one hand, being a woman is amazing and I am so proud and grateful for how much progress women have made over time. On the other hand, I feel there is an unspoken expectation that women should continue to fulfill traditional female roles at home.
Meaning that, if you work, you’re probably clocking in for a “second shift” when you get home.
The second shift is exactly what it sounds like, another shift of work after work, mainly focused on caregiving and housework. Unpaid. The estimate is that the second shift equates to women working a full extra month every year.
Not convinced? Here are some recent stats to back it up:
- 54% of women assume all or most of the housework in their homes, compared to 22% of men
- If women have children, they are 5.5x more likely to take on housework responsibilities
- Even if women bring in the majority of the income, they are still 3.5x more likely to perform all or most of the household tasks than their male counterparts.
I’m personally guilty of pulling a second shift, and overtime, it’s made me resentful and overwhelmed.
So why do we do it? And what can we do about it?
Due to social pressures and cultural expectations, we often end up embodying gender stereotypes to become “a good mother” or “a good wife.”
This can manifest in a lot of ways such as:
- people pleasing
- lacking boundaries
- never feeling good enough
If our own mothers didn’t challenge those social pressures and expectations, they unintentionally passed them down to us.
That, my friends, is the mother wound.
As a child, I was in awe of how much my mother did. She ran a successful business, was always home to make dinner, had an active social life, and looked fabulous doing it all. In a lot of ways she did "do it all” so of course I grew up believing that I could too.
Turns out "doing it all” is possible, but only on the surface. Unless you have the financial means to outsource housework and caretaking or forgo working all together, I guarantee you don’t feel like you’re doing it all. You probably feel like you’re always failing at something.
Simply put, “doing it all” is unrealistic and overwhelming.
Women willingly “lean in” to get ahead but eventually we just burn out. Even Sheryl Sandberg, responsible for the Lean In movement seems to be experiencing that as of late.
What can we do about it?
Ideally, our culture would “lean in” to women and mothers instead of the other way around. After the recent Great Recession when women disproportionately left the workforce, we've seen many companies respond with more flexible work schedules. Unfortunately, a two-year pandemic didn't completely rewrite centuries old gender norms.
So yes, demand change at your companies, lobby government, and educate your children.
Blame your culture, however please don’t be a victim to it.
Instead be a model for your daughters and begin to heal your mother wound by mothering yourself.
- Put yourself first
- Practice positive self-talk
- Stop comparing yourself to others
- Be OK with not being OK
- Set boundaries
- Give yourself permission to rest
That might look like working with a therapist. I studied psychology and read a lot of self help books. I also worked with a mindset coach and learned how to meditate regularly. And of course, I supplement with CBD to calm my nervous system and help keep me present.
Bottom line, change starts from within.
Keep in mind that the social rules that we live by are man made. Your real truth lies within. Get quiet, listen, respect, and most importantly, nourish your own needs above all else.
And know that, as woman, we are in this together.
Note: The mother wound also stems from having a mother that struggled with mental illness, addiction, abuse or other circumstances that did not allow her to be fully present.