How stress is ruining your motherhood
It’s not breaking news that motherhood can be stressful.
There are endless blogs, articles and even books musing on the challenges of having children.
In our workshops mothers often talk about how motherhood wasn’t what they thought it would be. That it was harder, more boring and more stressful than they had ever imagined.
What is stress anyway?
The strange thing is that while we throw the word stress around, few of us stop to examine what we really mean by that little word.
What's really interesting?
Research shows that it’s not actually the big events that really wear us down.
Bereavements, relationship breakdowns and even moving house all score highly on the stress scale but, depending on our perspective, these times of adversity can actually serve to move us forward in our lives.
Research shows that people who are able to connect with others and maintain a sense of control even in traumatic situations tend to have an increased rate of recovery and suffer fewer long-term negative impacts than those who feel isolated or helpless.
The difference is in our perception, we know that these significant events are meant to make us feel a certain way. The predictably stressful nature of these events allow us to prepare and even feel better about reaching out for help.
These big stressors become crossroads in our lives, shaping who we become.
It’s the everyday stressors that mount their attack unnoticed, sneaking outside of your consciousness and jabbing away at your poor overwhelmed brain.
It’s the tenth argument with your toddler, remembering the bills or rushing to work in a traffic jam.
We sense that these situations are not particularly pleasant but due to their frequency and normality they get brushed under the emotional carpet. We think that we just have to ‘deal with them’ as if admitting their challenge would somehow expose us as weak.
Our bodies do their best to signal the increasing distress. The regular bouts of eczema and IBS, the spotty skin and sleepless nights serve as our own personal check engine light but so few of us stop to look at what’s really going on under the hood.
Until it really becomes too much.
We get really sick, we feel the dread of true depression creeping over us or a hazy sense of detachment from the world around us.
We cast around for a situation to blame it on, often landing on those closest. Relationships strain and creak under the pressure when the irony is that it is in connection and relationships we might find the most solace.
This is where conscious choice comes in.
So much of our daily lives are lived on autopilot and parenting is no different. Rather than choosing the kind of parent we want to be, often we replay our own childhood experiences - for better or worse.
We allow our relationships with our children to become eroded only glimpsing the joy that they could bring when we lift our heads long enough from the fog.
We lose perspective on the developmental normality of the behaviour we find challenging.
Without mindful reflection, motherhood can become joyless and stressful.
Only when we find ourselves quaking with anger as our toddler throws a toy or our tween chats back to us do we question whether this is the way we wish to be.
I paint a worst-case scenario here, hopefully, most of us suffer from this parental ennui only some of the time but the fact remains that if we could learn to parent from a place of consciousness and connection we could unlock so much more of the rewards that we envisioned motherhood would bring.
How to escape the cycle?
After all, if every night feels like a race to the finish-line of bedtime what are we really achieving on our motherhood journey?
Clearing away the clutter of overscheduling from your daily life as much as possible.
Asking for help if you have access to it. Even if that feels difficult.
For a mother of multiple children or children under the age of 5, even an hour of peace can be enough to find a little realignment.
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It's hard to accept that sometimes we do a better job of mothering when we get a break from it.
How you chose to spend the time is up to you.
Organising it so you don't just spend it on housework or grocery shopping is ideal.
Practicing mindfulness, going for a walk or seeing a friend can all serve to fill our empty cup.
Truth is, sometimes self-care isn't fluffy. Sometimes it means making really hard decisions like changing jobs or reducing hours to meet the needs of both you and your family right now.
For many families this isn't a financial possibility but making these decisions consciously allows us to own what we really want out of motherhood.
The truth is that there's no one-size fits all solution.
The needs of you and your family are totally dependant on your current circumstances. What works for one family won't work for another.
The key is just in stopping to really think about it.
Only when we step back and consciously take a look at the bigger picture can we begin to make the little daily shifts that lead to more fulfilment.
Take a look under the hood.