For the last couple of weeks I have been consciously aware of a particular rhetoric amongst my fellow mamas friends, seemingly innocent conversations that revolve around the typical stresses and strains of motherhood. However, as I began to unpick the narrative I realised the tone is that of discontent. I realised I am surrounded by mothers that are collectively devaluing themselves. We are allowing our sense of well being to deteriorate and potentially even dehumanising ourselves to the point that were impairing our own growth and development.
If we consider Maslow’s hierarchy of need (based on his 1943 paper ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’) at the very bottom of the pile is our physiological needs, which consist of oxygen, water, food, warmth and sleep. Now, if you strip your life back layer by layer can you honestly say that you are providing yourself with these basic needs? Are you that mama that contemplates over her child’s packed lunch ensuring it covers a varied and balanced diet and then doesn’t take lunch for herself? Are you that mama that wraps your child up in hats, gloves and snuggly boots then sits on the sidelines freezing because you forgot your coat. Or better still, you didn’t think the price tag for the sheepskin lined, winter warmer was justified so you went without? Are you that mama who bathes her sweetheart, sings them lullabies and tucks them into bed only to stay up way beyond midnight as a sacred vow to reclaim “me time!” Thus leaving you overtired, ragged and absolutely not, ready to face a new day?
I recently sat amidst a circle time in a toddler group and rather than “checking in” and saying “hello, and how are you today!” to the kids, we addressed the mums instead. As we reached and sang the repetitive phrases to each woman, not one of them knew how to respond. Some awkwardly said, ‘what me?’ and others didn’t even bother to answer. ‘Yes Mama’, I am asking YOU how you are today? Not your son, not your husband, not you great auntie or the old lady down the road that had a fall last week, I am asking you, because believe it or not, you matter.
How many mums post-partum (myself fully included) are overspilling with emotion because they are unhappy with their bodies, they’ve gained weight, lost hair, developed breakouts yet are sitting night after night wallowing in the intensity of their feelings whilst binge eating a packet of digestive biscuits? Why are we favouring social media highlights reels over reading a good book, learning a new skill or communicating with the spouse that is next to us and desperate for the connection that demonstrates something other than loss. How much of our precious time and energy are we using to degrade ourselves, belittle and even ridicule the very essence of who we are, how many times have you said, “I am ‘just’ a mum!”
Motherhood, with all its intricacies, with its rawness and its exhausting reality, has clouded are ability to value ourselves. The lower our self value sinks, the more elaborate our self destructive patterns become but the value that you place on yourself is the only type of worth you can control.
So here is some advice to myself, and to you.
Don’t measure your own worth by comparing yourself to others, remember that we live in a world, where people give highlighted glimmers, these are not standards to hold your self accountable to. Concentrate on what is meaningful and important to you and your family and strive to seek balance from there.
Be committed to developing yourself, dare to explore all the different sides of who you are.We are multifaceted and we have so much more to give than meets the eye. You need to allow yourself opportunities to thrive not just survive.
Take extreme care of your physical well-being, realise and appreciate the absolute gift that you have with your own body. Knowledge is a powerful tool so if, (like me) you struggle to prioritise eating well and exercising, commit to reading widely on the subject and take time to absorb the statistics and the advice. Once you are well equipped with information you can figure out an optimum plan that will suit your needs and lifestyle.
Honour your emotional well being and start by taking time to consider what your deepest values truly are, how you wish to live your life and the kind of person you want to show up as in the world. Carefully curate the spaces around you so that your environment mirrors your values and within that, be mindful of the people you allow into those spaces and thus into your life. We are so easily influenced and if we can value ourselves we will put distance between the things and people who have a negative impact.
Mamas, it really is time, time to give yourself what you truly deserve, your children need that strong foundation that guides them in every aspect of their lives. We want to raise healthy, inspired humans that value themselves and live purposeful lives. That begins Mama, with you. They need to see that inner fire, the fuel that lights you up. If we cannot even fathom our basic physiological needs then how do we come close to the self actualisation that Maslow describes, the desire to become the most that we can be. It’s your time.