As a therapist we have to be careful how much we disclose about ourselves, always checking in to see if why we are sharing it is for our own benefit or that of the client. But at times, it serves a clinically appropriate role, and I believe this is just that.
So—in full disclosure—I am a mama. And a therapist who works with women. In all walks of life, having chosen various paths and transitioning through milestones, like mama-hood. And what I have seen time and time again is the constant state of anxiety that is our mama-hood baseline for so many of us, myself included (again, with this whole self-disclosure thing).
NOTE: This is not an attempt to address postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression. That absolutely requires the attention it deserves including that of a licensed perinatal clinician and/or medical professional. (And again, staying true to myself, I see one. Hoping that that self-disclosure helps to normalize asking for help.)
I’m literally just talking about the constant state of mama-stress we ALL have the moments after we pee on the stick.
And then the nerves set in, the butterflies take flight, and our heart races. Because that’s just it. We’re in the race now. The best/perfect mama race.
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We fill up our amazon shopping carts with every single What to Expect book out there. We research every different kind of birthing option and parenting style possible, and we buy those books too. We join all the Mama-Facebook groups within a two-hour driving radius and begin to post. “So I am 15 weeks pregnant and . . .” We listen to every single podcast from celebrity hosts to IG influencers about how they parent, products they’ve bought, and how to raise the most “empathetic, kind, adventurous, confident (insert any positive adjective here)” kid.
And we get inundated. We get so many perspectives (too many). So many thoughtful, yet often overbearing, pieces of advice (too many). We have options, decisions to make, choices to live with, consequences to bear. Again, too many.
Personally, with more self-disclosing, I couldn’t handle it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the books. Every time I would browse one at the library, I’d immediately put it down. It’d scare me even before any of their advice was appropriate for the stage I was at in my pregnancy or parenting. But of course, I would pick up the next book. And without fail, it gave me a totally different approach/style/advice. Again, completely undermining what I had just read by another “expert,” and I was totally derailed.
Despite my hopes to find a parenting path through all my lousy attempts at research, I kept coming up empty-handed and even more, anxious.
How would I ever get this right? Because with every choice, there is a consequence. And I was avoiding messing this little being up with all I had.
And the Facebook groups and friends were really no different. I never got what I was looking for. It just added to my anxiety that somehow I was doing it all wrong. Because everyone has their own opinion, and in their eyes . . . they’re right.
More and more women came into my office, sat on the couch, and tears welled up in their eyes—so many of them had one thing very specific trait in common. They had stopped listening to themselves. They were so caught up in the race. The race to fit in, do it right, look put together, raise the perfect kid, say the right thing, discipline the best way—the list goes on. When I asked them why they believed in what they were so closely identified with, they had trouble answering it.
And that’s when I realized for myself that as a greater collective, we as mamas have stopped listening to ourselves. Our intuition. Our gut. Our hearts.
But herein lies the problem. We have too much external white noise that distracts us ultimately from ourselves. We need the quiet, the silence, the void (however incredibly uncomfortable it might be), to really check in and hear ourselves. Because mama, your body knew just what to do for 10 months as this little being grew inside you. And you have so much of the wisdom and insight to care for her or him outside you too. It’s how we have survived as long as we have as a human race. We just know. It’s kind of a mama thing.
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Yes, there is a time and place for science, research, “data that suggests . . .” etc., and I am forever grateful for the virtual communities that make feeling like you are not alone possible for so many.
If only we could limit our intake (hey, we put restrictions on our kids’ screen time), pay the research the weight it deserves, and balance it with our own intuition, then we might be on to something. Dare I even say, begin to feel good enough just as we are as mamas. Each on our own path, honoring that diversity is what makes us so rich.
After all, mama, good enough is ultimately all we need to be for our kids. Striving for perfection as a mama is a moving target and sets our children up to believe they should be perfect too. Let’s aim for good enough, practice some self-compassion, and remember that with a little practice, we might begin to trust ourselves as mamas.