Studio 5 Family and Relationship Contributor Dr. Liz Hale weighs in.
We recently received a viewer e-mail, we thought many of you moms out there could relate to. It came from Emily. She writes:
“I had my first baby 4 ½ months ago, and haven’t been able to get my life back. I realize that having a child completely throws your life for a loop, and it’s a huge change. I love being a stay-at-home mom, but I feel as if my life is not the same emotionally. I do not have time to work out anymore, I am completely sleep deprived, there are some days I can’t even find the time to get in the shower until my husband gets home from work/school. I seem to have lost that “zest” for life I used to have. Do you have any advice?”
I admire her courage in asking this question! It’s become very clear in our society that it’s not popular for a woman to admit that parenting is challenging and that she doesn’t absolutely love every thing about this little creature all the time.
Here are three Mommy Traps to avoid:
THE TIME TRAP
Perhaps that is the most pervasive myth of our time – that we’re meant to be totally enjoying every moment and every minute of parenting. Bottom-line: it is one of hardest privileges there is. Becoming a mother is what many of us pined for while we dragged our dollies around with us as little girls. Now that real motherhood is here, it’s supposed to be the best thing that ever happened to us…and it very well may be…and it is relentlessly demanding. Sometimes just being able to call “it” what it is can be freeing.
No surprise that “time” is one of the main traps moms fall into. Who hasn’t heard about the family folklore where Grandma or Aunt Edna “never bought anything for herself!” She “always made sure the children had everything they ever needed and wanted, while she”….what’s the rest of that ‘story?’ “went without!” The common reaction? “What a wonderful mother!” We need to re-examine this saintly status myth. Here’s a new belief to adopt: Good mothers care for and respect themselves as part of effective and responsible parenting. Fill your reservoir so you can be proactive not reactive in parenting. Be at your best so you can give your best. Self-care is not self-serving – it serves the entire family.
THE GUILT TRAP
Guilt is a rather powerful emotion. Once you learn about guilt and the purpose it serves, it’ll ruin guilt for good! All behavior serves a purpose. When we can’t be all things to all people, or we lose our cool and toss a Sippy cup across the room or slam a bedroom door, or we leave town without the kids, we feel guilty. A long as we feel guilty….really guilty….we can still claim our “good mother” status. As long as I do what I do with guilt….I’m still a good mom. The cover-up starts with something like; “I know I’m a terrible mom;” or “I feel so bad about leaving the kids behind;” or “I feel guilty doing something or buying something for myself.” Feeling guilty saves face. It gives the term “Mother Superior” a whole new meaning. Next time you play the “guilt card,” ask yourself what you’re giving yourself permission to do or not do, and determine how it threatens your “status.” More importantly, do it anyway, and drop the guilt! (It’s misused, wasted energy.)
THE COMPARISON TRAP
It’s so easy to compare yourself to other moms and to other parents. We often read in parenting magazine, separate the deed from the doer; i.e., “I love you; it you’re behavior I dislike!: Yet we have a hard time separating our child’s deeds from ourselves. Be careful, not to take to much credit or too much blame for your own child. Babies don’t come into this world as lumps of clay that we can mold to our liking. Yet sometimes it feels as though you are the artist solely responsible for their creation. Yes, parents are incredibly influential but there are limits to their influence; other factors beyond us shape our children. Children are creative beings; they make their own decisions and interpretations of life. They experience life through their own lens.
When you can spare yourself from wasting energy on feeling like a “bad mom,” you have more creativity available to you to re-direct your child and focusing on the big picture of parenting; not this one day and time.
Additional Resource: “Breaking the Good Mom Myth” by Alyson Shafer
Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.