Sunday, September 12, 2010

It takes a village....

When Hillary wrote It Takes A Village there was a collective nodding of heads across the country. Somehow we all know deep down that as terrific as we may be at parenting, there are huge benefits to allowing our children to be parented by others as well. Bringing other adults into the fold is good for the children, and good for the parent. Allowing others to help is especially good for the Mom, who even in the most egalitarian of households takes on the lions’ share of work in terms of parenting.

So why is it so hard to admit, Mamas, that we can use and have a right to help and support? What holds us back from asking for what we need? How would life be different for us if we learned to lean on others – even just a teeny bit?

The Mom Unto Herself

The moms I work with in my coaching practice, as well as many of my own friends and family, are remarkably consistent in their behaviors and mindset around going it alone. Several of the variations on this theme are:
  1. The SuperMommy complex. We believe we can wake before dawn, meditate, exercise, spend the day taking care of the children and/or working inside or outside the home, blog, tweet, eat well, be insightful, have quality time and get everyone to bed at a reasonable hour. We believe we can do this without developing fatigue, loss of libido or depression. Seriously, Moms, IT’S TOO MUCH. We are only human, after all.
  2. The lack of a reliable mirror. Mommying happens pretty much in a vacuum; very rarely do we hear “Great job!” or a “We’d like to publish your thoughts on that!” when we rise to a formidable parenting challenge. Instead, we do our thing solo and without recognition. Over time this leads to negative feelings about our accomplishments, and the sense that we aren’t doing anything worthwhile. So we do more and more, in an attempt to counterbalance these feelings of worthlessness.
  3. Deep down, we feel guilty about “just being Mom”. There are many of us who came to mommying after spending time in corporate America or logging long hours in the non-profit world. We know how to work hard, and we are used to it. When we become mamas, we substitute one challenging job for another. We take on whatever comes our way, believing that it’s a privilege to stay home with the children and we should be able to handle whatever comes our way.
Do you recognize yourself or your friends in the above descriptions? It seems to be somewhat of an epidemic!

Asking for What We Need

As women, we are conditioned to make nice and be agreeable; it’s much more socially acceptable to go along with the crowd than to stand up and be forceful. As a result, we have forgotten how to ask for what we want. We behave according to “shoulds” and “have tos”, which are externally generated thoughts and opinions, rather than slowing down and quietly asking ourselves, “What do I want?”

When we DO ask ourselves what we want in a heartfelt way, the answer that comes is authentic, wholesome and healing. It points out which needs aren’t being met, and opens us up to finding new ways to meet those needs. It’s the first step to finding our way to healthy parenting that’s healthy for the mommies as well as the kids.

So for all us moms trying and failing to do it all, our challenge is to slow down, take stock of what feels like it’s too much, and ask for help. In granting ourselves this small act of kindness, we appreciate ourselves for what we are, and demonstrate self-love and self-respect. Modelling these two traits for our kids is perhaps the most valuable lesson of all.

Where are you feeling overwhelmed, and like a hand would be extra appreciated right now? How can you invite others into your family dynamic in a way that supports you and benefits the children? What might open up for you, once you make way for some support with parenting?

Amy Kessel is a certified professional life coach and the owner of Mamamorphosis: Think Outside the LunchBox. She helps moms reclaim themselves as women, which in turn enables them to create passion-filled and purpose-led lives. Her private and group coaching, as well as her dynamic workshops, attract women at all stages of mommyhood, who have the same burning question: What's Next for Me?

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