Guest Blog Post:
Gwen Paulson, LCSW
Therapist, Owner Mindful Mama LLC
There’s no Mama Medal. There’s no award for how long you breastfed, how clean your house is, how much you did in a day, no medal for how little sleep you got or have been getting in a streak of time, how few showers you take, how little time you have to yourself, or the last time you remember having ‘me time.’ There’s no medal for doing it all or parenting in a certain way. No one gets a mom award for staying at home, working from home, or working outside the home. No one gets a mom award for breast or bottle feeding.
Yet this is sometimes how we treat motherhood, as though there’s one ‘right’ way to do it and that it’s a competition. Most often the competition is with ourselves. We can push ourselves to the brink and insist we can do it all. “I’m running off 5 hours of collective sleep but I’ve gotta sweep, vacuum, do the laundry, make 3 healthy meals for my family, nurse when the baby’s awake, and I’m going to get all this stuff done in between feedings and activity time.” Does that plan for the day sound familiar? Do you feel yourself tense up and gear into go-mode just reading it? It’s an exhausting expectation. And even when we get it all done, even when all the boxes are checked, sometimes it still doesn’t feel like enough. “Did I spend enough time with my baby? Am I engaging them enough? Am I nursing too much or not enough? Did I really do all that I could do today? I could have also made the bed or washed the carpets.” When we think we haven’t done enough we can doubt ourselves as a mom and feel like a failure. It’s hard to keep showing up for an exhausting list of ‘to do’s’ when you believe you’re not meeting the expectations of motherhood. It’s hard to be vulnerable and ask for help when you think it equates to not measuring up as a mom.
There’s definitely no mom award for doing it all yourself.
Let’s say for a moment that there is; there is a golden mom trophy out there for you to earn. What would it feel like to get that award? Not what would you need to do to get it, but what would it feel like if you got it? Would you feel proud? Accomplished? Capable, relieved, confident, relaxed? Probably pretty fantastic, right? You deserve to feel those fantastic feelings without overwhelming yourself to get to an award that doesn’t exist.
I’d like to invite you to shift from thinking about what you didn’t do in a day to what you did do. And if you’re really feeling spunky, I’d even invite you to give yourself a medal, in your preferred form, for what you’ve done up to this point in your journey. I’m not talking about some monumental achievement. If you’ve done the laundry, it made it to the dryer in the same day, and it got folded, and even put away, I don’t know about you but I’m counting that as at least 3 medals right there! Every single time you feed your baby – however they’re currently feeding- mama medal for nourishing that baby and/or kids. Every book read, every coo, every meltdown that you survived- mama medal. Oh, and while you’re at it, don’t forget that taking care of yourself is part of taking care of the family as well. Took a nap when you could – mama medal, took a shower – mama medal, put make up on today, finished a project, talked to someone you love – mama medal, mama medal, mama medal. You get the idea!
I’m not suggesting that it’s a simple process to shift your thinking. I do hope to encourage you to give yourself credit for all you do and are doing on a daily basis and to remind you that you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Ask someone for help – mama medal.