Guest Post: Comparing In Motherhood
Before I gave birth to my son, I thought I had it figured out. Baby would come along, and I would continue to be myself (after all, I’m not just a mum!), and that really nothing much would change. I had the appropriate tools and strategies. I could implement them and still feel totally, authentically, ‘me’ in motherhood. All I needed to do was hold on to all the things that made me, me (my job, my husband, my hobbies, my friends, my family, my likes/dislikes). Surely that would do it?
Eh, no. It seems not. Instead, motherhood has been about stripping back. It is not about holding on to myself with the grip of an Ironwoman, but rather looking at it and reflecting on what I can let go. It’s the opposite of what I thought: if you hold on tight enough, for long enough, it’ll all come good and you will feel like you again. Instead, holding on so tight that you are heading for a shoulder dislocation could indicate that maybe you are fighting it too much, and maybe you need to release it.
So, what’s stopping me from letting go? I’ve been struggling to figure it out. But I think it comes down to two fear-based thought processes: comparison and it’s ugly sister what will people think?
Let’s take comparison first. One of the most dangerous things we do when we become mothers is compare ourselves to our pre-baby versions, and strive to get back there. I used to sleep 8 hours minimum, spend 3 hours a day on self-care, do my hair, wear make-up, exercise 4 times a week, and strive for excellence in my work. Now, I feel like I am back to the sleep-deprived basics: food (or lack of), sleep (or lack of), health and well-being (or lack of, with a constantly sick baby). The gap between pre-baby me and current me feels so huge that it feels like failure a lot of the time. But it’s not failure; it’s change. It’s not forever; it will change again. But when I compare myself, and maybe when you do too, it strips away all the joy from the current moment because it feels lacking (you’re lacking, your life is lacking). You can’t be joyous, if you are driven by the fear of not being good enough.
This is where the ugly sister what people think comes in. When you are in a place where fear is driving your behaviour, you can find yourself looking externally for validation that you are ‘doing a good job.’ But guess what? It doesn’t work. For me, it has the opposite effect. It makes me feel less authentically myself. For example, I am pretty liberal parent. My son gets covered in dirt, I encourage him to be curious and explore. But I’ve noticed recently as he’s started interacting with new babies that I’ve been stifling his movement and interaction with new people because I worry what they will think of me as a mother of a ‘feral’ child, or of my son for being ‘boisterous.’ He’s neither feral or boisterous; he’s a 14 month old. I’m doing it because I don’t want to be thought of as a bad mum or my son a bad baby.
So, what is the antidote to these nasty fears? I’ve got only one tool that has been working consistently, and it is a single question:
“What would I do right now if I was being kind to myself?”
I’ve been working with this question for around 4 months. It’s brought up varied answers: say no, stand up for myself, talk to my best friend, drink a cup of tea, sit alone in the quiet, write, go to yoga, finally book that massage I’ve needed for 9 months, or ask for what I need from my husband/family/friends. The constant result?
Me feeling more like me.
More authentically me in motherhood, life and work.
Join me on the Gold Coast, Australia on 10th May 2018 to connect with your authenticity in motherhood.
So much love,
Dr Amanda McCullough is a life coach, award-winning scientist, health professional and speaker at Not Just Mum. She coaches intelligent, brave and honest women through the transition from passionate career woman to motherhood and back again. A move to Australia in 2014, her two uteruses and her expertise in behavior change and women’s leadership led her to create Not Just Mum where she offers one-to-one consults and coaching series to support women to maintain their sanity and identity in this challenging and joy-filled time of life. Her next in-person workshop will take place on the Gold Coast on 10th May 2018.
You can find Amanda at www.notjustmum.com.au