Motherhood changes us. When we become moms, we become something stronger, more resilient, more beautiful than what we were before. This change happens in much the same way that iron ore is turned into steel. We’re depurated in the intense heat of our experiences as mothers - like learning to cope with little sleep, making hard decisions about going back to work, caring for and worrying about sick children. The choices that we make as mothers - in service to our children and families - shape us powerfully and often painfully, like a hammer to hot metal. We are not the same as we were before.
But often this process burns off too much of our old selves.
Years ago when my boys were very little, Bill and I struggled in our marriage. I was one big prickly bundle of resentment and unhappiness. In dedicating my time and energy on the tasks and responsibilities of motherhood, I lost my touchstone to who I was before children. The meaning and purpose that inspired my life had become narrow and focused almost entirely on my family. I gave out much more than I provided to myself and so my energetic and spiritual cupboard was bare.
Bill and I met regularly with a counselor to help us find ways to stay married - and become happily married. Our sessions helped me to realize that my constricted Good Mom definition didn’t leave me any room for activities that fulfilled me outside of work and family, like daydreaming, reading, thrift store shopping, crafting, writing, dancing. How could I justify time for such frivolous pursuits when I should be working, when I should be caring for my children, when I should be cleaning and organizing and fixing and managing the endless lists of what needed to be done?
My mom clients tell me the same thing: that they feel guilty paying for childcare - or asking their spouses to take care of the kids - in order to create downtime, especially if what's happening during that time doesn’t make money.
“Sometimes the hardest part of the journey is believing you’re worthy of the trip.”
But what I've learned is that being a good mom isn’t just about parenting. It’s the full spectrum of your life, of which motherhood is a slice. It’s hard to have patience with your children if you aren’t patient with yourself. Can you fully feel joy if you deny yourself what brings you happiness for the sake of always being there for your kids? Take a moment to imagine a conversation with your mom during which she said something along the lines of "I always wanted to go back to school but my first priority was always you kids so I never did." Would you feel relieved and happy that she focused all of her precious time and energy on you or would you feel sad and slightly ashamed that she gave up on her dreams because that’s what “good moms” do?
Having an abundant life means that there is room for work and play, seriousness and frivolity, doing and dreaming.
I want my boys to see that I am continually creating a life that is interesting, mindful, and full of joy. I want them to watch me make challenging decisions on how I prioritize my time for work, family, and play. I want them to notice that I take care of myself by going to my dance classes, spending time with girlfriends, making time for my acupuncture appointments, enjoying dates with their dad, achieving my goals. I want them to know that feeding the love of learning doesn't stop once college is completed. I want them to understand that my commitment to myself only increases my love and energy that I share with them.
Just like Superman was sent to Earth to “bring hope to mankind for a better future,” we Moms of Steel do the same. We show our daughters and sons what being a good mom looks like - it looks like love growing from the inside out.
Certified life coach and mommy mentor Kathleen Harper gives mothers practical tools to help them forge the raw materials of their lives in beautiful ways. She talks with moms in one-on-one sessions, leads a monthly group called Saturday Sanctuary, and gives presentations to new parent support groups and mothers' groups. If you're interested in finding out more or scheduling a free 30-minute (non-salesy) sample session, please fill out this form.
I'm a mother of two incredible boys, wife to Bill White of Happy Baby Signs, author of the books The Well-Crafted Mom and Signs of a Happy Baby, and an intuitive life coach. I like to blog about my adventures with my family and the life lessons I'm learning along the way. I hope you'll join me on this journey.
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