A Mother’s Rights #9: You have the right to not always be your best self.

As the saying goes, only you can be you. I love that. Our problem often lies in thinking that we need to be the best version of ourselves every moment of every day. The standards that most of us try to live by as women are 100% ridiculous and will drive us right into feelings of inadequacy, anger, and self-doubt.

 

 

you have the right to not always be your best self

 

 

For most of us, our problem is not that we just don’t try hard enough to be good parents. It’s that we think we must be perfect or our kids will be forever messed up and it will be our fault.

Living up to impossible standards is what drives us into a panic attack trying to choose between organic or conventional blueberries. Expecting that you will never yell at your kids, wear dirty clothes, let your kids watch TV for 5 hours, serve Cheerios for dinner, have a messy house, wear the same underwear two days in a row, put in 50% at work, eat a whole pizza by yourself, have B.O., do some really half-assed parenting, not read the newsletters from school, leave the beds unmade, ignore your vacuum, blow off yoga, or WHATEVER you think is unacceptable and less than your best- expecting that you will never do those things is unrealistic.

You are a human person.

Anxiety often arrives when the expectations we have for ourselves become so limiting that we are squeezed into a tiny box of how we think we should be acting in order to be “good enough.” Your best is good enough. Your worst is probably also good enough too, if you have a conscience, a moral compass and you love your kids (and you’re not Cersei Lannister.)

Consider offering your best to your child for 30 minutes and letting yourself be at 60% awesome for the rest of the day. What would that feel like? Or redefining what “best self” actually means. Or loosening the grip on nighttime nursing your 18 month old so that YOU can get some sleep. Maybe it doesn’t mean picking organic blueberries at a farm with your children even though you were sick the day before with diarrhea. Maybe it means you call Grandma to watch the kids so you can lay in bed and treat yourself with the kindness you deserve.

Most likely, you are doing a great job. It’s fine. And fine is usually good enough. And there is nothing wrong with good enough. In fact, it might be healthy for your kids to see your humanity and your the beauty in imperfection. Every day does not have to be a gold medal day. Just enjoy your green participation ribbon and get this t-shirt.

 

A Mother’s Rights #8: You have the right to explore who you are now.

Whew.

This could be 18 posts, not just the one. But I’ll try to keep it short. If you need more about how important it is to honor yourself and your journey and to find a way to fucking own it, you can find more here and here. And go to Oprah.com.

Here it is in a nutshell. You are important. Motherhood is transformational. You have a right to know who you are.

 

you have the right to explore who you are

 

Motherhood is as much about self-discovery as it is about discovering your children and the world through new eyes. As the spiritual guru Rajneesh said:

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

And that is you.

You may find yourself thinking new thoughts, feeling unsatisfied in relationships, wanting to leave a job behind, hoping to go to school, wanting more sex or not caring about things you used to think were essential: religion, fashion, status, whatever.

To mildly put it, keeping up with who you are improves your quality of life. You have every right to explore your feelings, thoughts, sensations, body, preferences, regrets, longings, nuances, hopes, and passions.

If self-exploration is new to you, future posts will include ways to help you get started. Or check out the services I offer to work with me.

A Mother’s Rights #7: You have the right to listen to your music.

My  husband and I are open to many different genres of music including: hip-hop, reggae, country, bluegrass, jazz, folk, rock, blues, musical theater, soul, world, funk…the list goes on.

My children, however, have managed to find genres that neither of us can stand to listen to for more than 20 seconds…a kind of mash of experimental electronica and video game music that makes your ears bleed.

Early childhood can be brutal for finding tolerable music. But if you are a music lover as I am, your soul needs your music from time to time to keep the inner fire that music lights burning. It heals the soul.

 

you have the right to listen to your music

 

When I was growing up, my dad was constantly wearing massive 80’s style bright yellow headphones like these tuned to a.m. radio for whatever sports game he could find. Constantly may be an understatement. In the car, at my sports meets and games, school events, family picnics, at home. If the headphones were less conspicuous I am 100% positive he would have worn them to church. He wore them not just to listen to what he wanted, but to block out the world.

I wasn’t a fan of those headphones. I swore I would never block my kids out while I was with them- the equivalent of being adjacent to them but not really with them at all. This with-you/not-with-you is rampant now that everyone has a GD computer in their hands all day.

However. There is value in taking time to build a little corner of the world for yourself, including listening to your music, throughout the day because so much of your time is spent in service to others. Taking a few minutes to listen to some tunes will not hurt your kids, especially if you tell them in what you are doing and why.

Sometimes you can find time away from them to listen, or they may want in on your tunes. That is so delicious when your kids love your music. But if they’re not there yet, give yourself permission to put some earbuds in and say this:

“Mommy’s taking a little break. I’m going to listen to my favorite song so I have a little more fuel in my tank.”

It’s ok to do this.

And for kids’ music that is so enjoyable it may become a fave of yours, check these out:

They Might Be Giants
Jerry Garcia and David Grisman
Okee Dokee Brothers
Roy Handy and the Moonshot
Any Putumayo Kids CD
Smithsonian Folkways Children’s Music Collection (if you like old-timey stuff)

 

 

A Mother’s Rights #6: You have the right to exercise every day.

 

There’s an author named Candace Pert who wrote a book called, “Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind.”  I love, love, love this concept. It makes so much sense! All things that happen in your life and the way you feel about the things that happen are stored in your body and mind. Our bodies have intelligence and preferences. They are not separate from our existence but integrally a part of how we interpret and process the world, including our inner world. To keep those energies and emotions and thoughts fluid and flowing, we must move our bodies if we can.

 

 

you have the right to exercise every day

 

 

Bodies love exercise. They need it.

But no two bodies are the same. I know my body is not the same as Charlize Theron’s body.  Pretty sure about that one. Not the same as my husband’s or my kids’. There are exercises that feel good to me that may not feel good to them. There are different kinds of movement that used to feel good before I had children that don’t feel as good now.

It’s ok to meet yourself wherever you’re at and find something that feels good to you now. This is all about asking the very important question:

What does your body want now?

And finding a way to get it.  Is walking around the block exercise? Yes. Yoga? Playing catch with your kid? Climbing up the playground slide? Dance party with your baby? Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

We often sneak ourselves into a corner by thinking that exercise only counts if you’re at the gym or in cute workout clothes or it lasts for at least an hour and your kids aren’t there. If we set aside the mind for a moment and pay attention to the body, you may get some clues about what your cells really need. Maybe soft flowing dance, maybe wind sprints, maybe 50 squats before you sit to pee, maybe a little movement every day or maybe something big 2 times a week.

It may be a 10 minute postnatal core strengthening focus (this one has modifications for diastasis recti) so you feel like your insides aren’t that delicious pudding dessert your aunt makes. Or 15 minutes of tai chi during naptime to calm your emotions and re-center.  It could be an hourlong hike if your kids will sit in a stroller or wagon or be happy in a carrier. Like these guys occasionally would:

 

P1010405.jpg

 

 

Awwwwwwwww.  Those walks were crucial to my body’s health and well-being whether they lasted 5 minutes or 45 minutes. So bend over and try to touch your toes every now and then for God’s sake. Your body sooooo needs you to.

 

Podcast Episode 2: Birthing in the 70’s Interview: Part 2

 

grow

 

Did your mom or grandma have access to birthing balls and acupressure for labor? Did she have a chance to sit around and chat with mom groups about what life was like after giving birth? Do you think her pediatrician or gynie (as my mom would say) checked in about how nursing was going?  If they were laboring in the U.S., most likely not!

La Leche League started in 1956 and the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners was not founded until 1985. Postpartum Support International was founded in 1987.  So how did moms back then get what they needed when there were not a lot of resources available beyond advice from family and friends? What were things like when Western medicine docs hadn’t yet caught up to the importance of women’s mental/emotional/spiritual and physical health care needs before during and after birthing?

Did your mother or grandmother have support? What kind of support did she have?

You will never know unless you ask. Women’s stories need to be shared, so if you haven’t yet heard the story of your birth or your mother’s birth, I highly encourage you to ask.

Talking to my mom about her birthing experience has given me a deep sense of appreciation for what I went through birthing my own kids. The resources, doulas, midwives, books, groups and available support that I had access to: those things did not exist for many women in 1970, including my mom. I learned where I may have gotten my passion for hearing and encouraging stories about major life events (As she shares in this episode, I was listening to stories like that as a baby in a baby carrier!)

In Part 2 of my mom’s interview, we pick up the story with my mom talking about how her life path changed after having babies and experiencing some postpartum depression- namely, entering a doctoral program and studying how new moms feel about being moms.

Isolation and connection, search for community (1:30)
Can a pregnant woman fit into a desk made for them (3:15)
Do mothers of young children value themselves and their work? (3:45)
Always bring coffee and donuts if you want people to show up (4:30)
Women working outside of the home viewed themselves differently than stay-at-home moms (6:00)
Being a mom has a job description and value (6:45)
The importance of new moms connecting with other new moms (8:00)
Modern birth centers vs being knocked out and laying on a gurney (9:00)
Steak and champagne after c-section (11:00)
Rapid fire questions (12:50)

 

 

 

Podcast Episode 1: Birthing in the 70’s Interview: Part 1

 

grow

 

In this episode I interview my mother! She agreed to be my first guest and to talk about her experience of pregnancy and birthing in the 70’s. I highly, highly recommend talking to your mother or an elder you are close to about their birthing experience. We share so  much and some women have NEVER TOLD THESE STORIES. Give them a chance to. So much is different these days and yet so much is the same. It’s a fascinating look at the common bonds that having babies create across generations.

And Thank God for her and for the women who blazed a trail so we now have things like lactation consultants and pelvic floor PT’s and paternity leave and birthing options.

There’s a 4 minute intro where I am rambling on about my mom and what’s to come. Ramble, ramble, ramble. And to break things down, Part 1 includes these points:

Was family helpful in preparing for birth? (9:25)
Reality of labor pain hits: “I don’t want to do this anymore” (11:00)
My mom says the “f” word and my dad makes an interesting choice (12:10)
Here was my Ok, stop moment. The baby was not in the room when she woke up from her birthing sleep (13:00)
Nursing troubles (14:20)
Dr. Spock recommends (16:50)
Postpartum depression and who’s checking in with mom (18:00)
Mother-in-Law on night duty (21:00)

 

 

Part 2 will be posted soon!