So motherhood is hard. But it’s also amazing!
It’s a time of new identity, new connection, new love and new responsibility that can be both incredible and overwhelming at the same time. There are so many things to do and learn about your new role (most of which aren’t in any of the textbooks) … and it can leave you feeling lost or stuck in the process without any good guidance on where to go next.
There is so much focus on your baby and keeping them safe and healthy and cared for…but what about the mother?
Doesn’t she also need to be safe and healthy and nurtured in this time too?
The new identity of motherhood can feel so foreign and, well….new. It is truly a transformational time in our lives. It changes the way we see ourselves and how we view our place in the world.
One of the unspoken transformations during this time is own healing from past wounds. This can be an intense process that many new mothers don’t know how to navigate (…especially when we believe our focus should be solely on our babe and ignore any of our own ‘stuff’ that arises). Even as your little one grows, if you haven’t addressed what arose upon becoming a new mum, these wounds don’t disappear, they simply hide in the shadows waiting to arise again.
This is what I want every mum to know: You have permission to take care of yourself (as well as your family) during this time.
Focusing on your own healing allows you to emerge stronger than before, with more joy and gratitude for this phase of life. Your healing is encouraged so you can become a better mother for your children AND yourself!
What happens when you forgo your healing as a mother? Well, there is a cost involved…and not just financially…
So what happens when mothers are supported through their own healing transformation?
Well, this is where the true magic happens…and it is so worth it!
The physical, emotional, and spiritual cost of not tending to your own needs
As a mother, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in pouring everything you have into your little one that at the end of the day, you don’t know who you are without them. Your children becomes an extension of you. Your identity, your thoughts and your feelings all become dependant on how your little one is.
…here’s a quick reminder, mama.
You are not your child. Your child is not you.
You are still a separate human being, as you were before.
Trust me, when I say that I get it! The struggle was real for me too.
I used to be a very independent woman before having kids…
Going where I wanted, when I wanted. Everything would be on my terms. But after having my firstborn, I felt as though I’d lost that freedom. She had complete control over me and life was now on her terms. I’d lost myself.
I recall a family getaway when my daughter was a year old – we had an amazing day out together at a small truffle festival. I’d let down the protective wall which I put up as a new mum and I felt that sense of joy and freedom that I used to possess, return.
On our way home, I had a pang of overwhelming guilt for dropping the persona of ‘the protector’ and allowing myself to be in that state of bliss… because as a new mum, “I should be solely focusing on my daughter, not my own happiness”.
Reflecting on that now, I feel sad for that version of me because I know my daughter loved her carefree mother who was able to lose herself in the moment. She was free and invoking play, joy and pleasure. My daughter was just as loved and safe at that moment as any other time she was with me – she didn’t need me as the ‘steely protector’ – but the big difference in that space was that I was also safe and loved by me.
Relationships will change…
Whether this is temporary or permanent is up to you.
The resounding theme I hear from new mothers is the abrupt change in the dynamics of the relationship with your partner. They go from being your lover and your entire world to simply being a caretaker of the child you created together.
Sounds sexy doesn’t it…eep!
It’s so easy to stop seeing each other for who you are. Deep connection is lost and you feel like two strangers. Not friends…and definitely not lovers.
It can feel as though your previously rock-steady relationship is simply abandoned. No more time spent together as ‘just the two of you’ and you begin to wonder whether you’ll ever get that back.
It is possible to regain this…but it requires work. And for many couples, it never quite goes back to the way it was.
Conscious effort is required.
Resentment is real…
How many times have you caught yourself thinking ‘they will never understand how easy they’ve got it!’.
“…being able to just every day wake up and peacefully eat breakfast, only get yourself in the car, listen to your own music and not have anyone ask you 3000 questions on your drive, then you’ll get to work and be able to go to the toilet without someone watching you, etc”
Resentment is such an easy state to fall into as soon as your partner complains about something or feels frustrated taking on one of the myriad of duties that you typically do in day-to-day life.
Even if they’re the most incredibly dedicated and supported partner in the entire world; it’s so easy to fall into this martyr pattern and self-deprecating shame spiral.
Burnout does happen…
And it has a sneaky way of creeping up. So many mothers feel the need to do it all to ‘prove their worth’ and capability in their new role.
But doing it all inevitably leads to sickness and burnout. As does, not being able to reflect upon or openly speak about what you’re going through. Bottling up and pushing down emotions or challenges only results in them exploding out at the most inconvenient of times!
Physical health, mental health and emotional health – it’s all connected…
The physical change is one of the most profound aspects of becoming a mother (but not in the way you might expect). For women who were particularly stringent with their exercise and food regime before having kids, and saw this as being intertwined with their identity, can really struggle with this loss of their former self.
Suddenly being unable to go for a run, or create a nourishing meal (because the only running you’re doing is from dancing to soccer to every other kid’s activity) can feel like the end of the world.
But it’s not…it’s just a new chapter.
Mental health suffers when physical health and emotional wellbeing are ignored…
The gut-brain connection is real! Happy hormones are created in the gut and these play an incredibly important role in our mental health. If our gut is unhealthy, then this impacts our mental health which makes it harder to get up and move your body. It is a viscous cycle.
You can’t get back this time…
When you’re in the thick of it, it’s easy to simply want to skip past the overwhelm and get to the ‘good part’. The days can seem tough, but they don’t have to. You don’t have to wish them away, because when you look back, you’ll wish that you were able to fully appreciate this time more.
The tough thing with time is that you can’t get it back. You can try to make up for lost time, but there’s something so special about the early days when your kid’s are so little that can’t be made up for; so I’m all about appreciating the precious moments whilst they are there in front of you instead of living with the regret.
What if, instead of mourning this new stage of life as a ‘loss of your old identity, we simply view it as blooming into our next stage of evolution?
Why mothers don’t focus on their healing
There is a myriad of reasons why women put their own healing way down on the priority list but there are a few common themes that arise.
Not believing they are worthy or deserving of having their own needs being met is one I see so often. As women we are conditioned by society to be caretakers – this is their first and foremost role in life – which means that mums often put themselves last when it comes to attending appointments, taking some quiet ‘me’ time for self-care or even making sure they eat healthily. With limited mental capacity after operating on minimal, broken sleep; feeling empowered to break out of this conditioning and trying to stand in a world that is pushing back, is very difficult.
New mums are often too tired to focus on self-development or even think about their own needs. They live in survival mode so it is more than understandable that they will put themselves last!
Add to this, it’s hard to find time to focus on your own healing when you’re constantly feeding someone else, changing nappies and trying to work your way through a never-ending pile of tiny washing. It feels selfish and indulgent.
Fast-forward to the age when your little one starts school – you’re no longer in survival mode but there’s a whole new set of reasons why you’re putting off focusing on yourself.
Focusing on your healing involves being present and focused…something which is difficult when your attention is being pulled elsewhere. So, then comes the burden of having someone else care for your little one for a short period whilst you just focus on you.
Many of the older generation and society still see caring for your kids as ‘your job and responsibility’ and not to be passed off as a burden onto someone else…and so quickly puts a damper on any attempt to create the space necessary to do ‘the work’.
Part of the collective wounding of patriarchal society and the generational mother wound is to suffer and struggle through early motherhood is a rite of passage. They had to suffer, and so you must too!
It’s no wonder with all these obstacles that women are up again that they struggle with any attempt of self-development or healing. It all just becomes too inconvenient and far easier to miss out. It’s easier to deal with your own disappointment rather than deal with that of other people.
…but remember the cost that this comes at!
How self-development can help you be a more present and effective parent
When you are feeling more centred, grounded and confident in yourself, this naturally overflows into your relationship with your child(ren). You are be better equipped to deal with the challenges that come up (because they do arise!) and be more present for them.
A mother who is healed and working on herself is a powerful force – she becomes a solid foundation for her children to build their lives upon. They learn that it is safe to feel their feelings, to trust and be secure in relationships. They see a model of how to navigate the world with grace and resilience.
When we focus on our own healing we become more emotionally available for our children; they can sense the difference in us. We are no longer distracted by our own inner turmoil but rather present and attentive to their needs.
Our children need us to be whole, healed mothers – it is one of the most important things we could ever give them!
How you can nurture and heal yourself as a mother
You have to take care of yourself first before being able to look after anyone else – this is an often missed, yet vital piece in the ‘mother puzzle’! In order for mums to get out of survival mode so they can thrive again, it’s necessary for them to focus on self-development and self-care. This doesn’t mean giving up your role as a mum or even putting yourself last…it just means looking at what you need right now and working towards getting those needs met.
There are many ways that you can nurture and heal yourself as a mother.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Make time for yourself every day, even if it’s just five minutes. During this time, do something that brings you joy, such as reading your favourite book, taking a bath or listening to music.
- Connect with other mothers who can support and encourage you on your journey. There is nothing like talking to someone who understands what you’re going through!
- Seek professional help if needed. Sometimes we need an objective outsider to help us navigate our way through difficult times.
- Find activities that allow you to connect with your inner child, such as painting, dancing or playing outdoors. These activities help us to remember that we are more than just mothers and there is a whole new world out there, full of life and wonder.
- Involve your children in activities with you: the process of doing something together unites the two of you in an intimate way! It’s also nice to share new experiences with them when they get older.
There are so many ways for new mums to nurture themselves – it all begins with taking one step at a time towards wholeness…regardless how small or large each step may be.
Remember, even if you can only manage five minutes of self care per day, this will go a long way to helping you heal as a mother!
Getting started on your healing journey
So, if you’re feeling like you’re ‘falling behind’ or that you should be doing more as a mum, know that this is completely normal! It is time to let go of those ideals and just be where you are.
There is no right or wrong way to mother – every woman and child is unique. Trust your intuition and let go of the guilt!
Trauma (and trauma can be something small or big) isn’t something that just goes away, although it can be healed! It must be worked through over time; like peeling off multiple layers until we reach our core self again…and then bringing everything back together piece-by-piece.
As mothers, we are often told how incredibly strong we are…and how we’re expected to keep going no matter what. This can be incredibly isolating and lonely, especially when you’re a new mum and struggling with your own inner turmoil.
The truth is: We Are Strong! But we need the space to heal ourselves in order for this strength to flourish and grow once again…and so our children will benefit from it too x