We go into motherhood with an expectation about the type of mother we will be but with so many variables at play, our reality is often very different. When we find ourselves struggling we begin to doubt our ability as a mother.
When battling a restless bub at sleep time to loosing our cool with a relentless toddler, our mind can start spitting out some pretty convincing and horrible stories about how we are failing at motherhood. Some of these thoughts might sound familiar to you:
- I’m a bad mum
- Why do i find motherhood so hard?
- Every other mum knows what she’s doing, why don’t i?
- I wish mothering came more naturally to me
- My kids deserve a better mum
When our inner critic takes over it can be really hard to shake the feeling that we’re failing.
But the thing is, we aren’t failing. It’s the stories we tell ourselves about what it means to be a good mother that are failing us.
The Good Mother Story
We have accumulated these stories from the time we were little girls. Throughout our lives we watch the mothers around us (including those depicted in movies and tv shows) and we learn what society deems to be good/best/right when it comes to mothering and that’s how our “good mother” story develops.
These stories and beliefs are stored so deep within our subconscious that many of us are unaware of the power they have over us.
Here are just some of the stories we carry about what it means to be a good mum:
- A good mother always puts her family first
- A good mother can juggle it all effortlessly
- A good mother is confident and has all the answers
- A good mother never loses her temper
So whenever we find ourselves doing something contrary to that belief, our mind tells us we are failing or a bad mother and we end up in a vicious cycle of self doubt, criticism and never feeling like we are enough.
Are your mothering goals attainable?
The problem with this story that so many of us carry is that it is unattainable and incredibly damaging to our mental health and overall motherhood experience. When i was struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, a huge contributing factor was my internal story about what it meant to be a good mother. What i was trying to live upto was an impossible ideal that was crippling me mentally, effecting my children and stripping the magic out of my motherhood experience.
Yes motherhood requires an incredible amount of selflessness and patience but it doesn’t require perfection despite what we’ve been told.
What’s your good mother story?
Next time you are experiencing feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy instead of allowing them to consume you, get curious and find the underlying belief that it is contributing to these feelings. Ask yourself these three questions:
- What do I believe it means to be a good mother?
- Where did this story come from?
- Is it serving me?
If the stories you tell yourself about what it means to be a good mother aren’t serving you and you’d like to create a new narrative that feels empowering, achievable and authentic to you, ask yourself these three questions:
- What are the top qualities I want to embody as a mother?
- How often do I currently embody these qualities?
- What needs to change in order for me to embody these qualities?
The key here is to be honest and realistic. Aiming for perfection is an unattainable goal that will continue to add to those feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy. It has also been proven to be unhelpful to our children when we don’t display the full range of human emotions and teach them how to repair when we make a mistake.
The Take Away
So when the feelings of failure begin to show up rather than allowing them to drag you down into a sea of guilt, shame and failure; stop and begin examining them and ask yourself: Am I living within my own values and embodying the qualities important to me or am I trying to live up to an outdated, unachievable standard set by someone else?