Self-Compassion: the Missing Piece in Motherhood

[Note: Fathers play an essential and extremely important role in their children’s lives and their families and I recognize that, however this particular article is written to the mothers.] I often listen to podcasts and interviews, and have repeatedly noticed themes over the last several years among podcasts for mothers.  The themes are “mom guilt”, overwhelm, comparison and the way moms increasingly report they often feel like they are going at it alone - in isolation.  This was the case before COVID-19 hit and schools shut down and much of social interactions as we knew it, and so now it is only increasingly more this way.  For many in Western and modern society, it is no longer “a village” that raises a child, it often falls on the two parents, and many times mostly the mother, to perform and carry out childrearing, household tasks and family obligations.  The single most important action you can take to combat the guilt, isolation and overwhelm is to change the way you treat yourself and act with self-compassion.  Yes, self-compassion.  You heard me. It’s not to read your hundredth parenting book or blog, organize your schedule better, working on patience and being less reactive, feeding your kids only the healthiest food and limiting screen time, but self-compassion.  For yourself.  Because what we know is that the vast majority of us mothers are doing our best.  We want the very best for our children and it is not the trying part that is missing.  We are doing the work and more.  The problem is the way we are so hard and judgmental of ourselves and so much quicker to see our missteps and shortcomings than the way we are showing up every day and doing the best we can at the hardest job ever.  Oh, and yeah, an important reminder - we are doing all of this as humans.  We are very much human and flawed and sometimes quick to be irritable, impatient, anxious, distracted, reactive.  We are not superpowered creatures who are immune to the weight of these burdens and the difficulties of the human experience, even as so much of media and culture paints mothers as the ‘do it all, multitasking, sacrificial supermom’. Most women raising tiny (and eventually big) humans are most certainly heroic and they do do it all, but it is not with ease, without struggle and without costs: costs to mental health, physical health, emotional, spiritual and intellectual health.  Taking care of other people without asking for help or having support from others leaves sparse time for yourself and these areas of overall health and wellbeing that are key to you being able to take care of others.  So when you have a misstep, you lose your cool and snap at your kids, respond in a way that is not your ‘best self’ – first remind yourself that you are human, you are working so very hard at this, your heart is good and mistakes are teaching opportunities where you can model and show your kids the power of slowing down, owning your mistakes, apologizing, and trying it again a different way.  Repeat forever. This process is not a one-time event, it may need to happen multiple times a day or week, but self-compassion is critical.  Also, please challenge and call B.S. on the guilt that comes up when you can’t attend every event at your kids’ schools because you have to work (pre-school shutdown!), don’t have patience for one more explanation or help with your kids homework or virtual schooling, or you make a quick dinner or pick something up because you are committed to working out and improving your physical health, or you ask someone for help because you really can’t do it all all the time.  You deserve and need time to pursue YOUR dreams and work towards your goals, and carving out time and space for this is essential to a healthy fulfilling life.  You will be setting a great example for your kids that encompasses hard work, prioritizing self AND others, and compassion. I founded Love Story Therapy with the passion for offering individuals, couples, families and parents support and guidance as they navigate this journey of life and love as people, partners, parents, and humans in a healthier, more compassionate and connected way.  Please reach out if you would like to know more about the ways individual, couples or family therapy can support and guide you on this journey!  Most of all, I want you to know you are not alone.  Keep showing up for yourself, so you can keep showing up for those you love!