115. A Controlling mom, or a capable mom?

I was a controlling mom. I turned on the NO switch and said no to my kids, to my husband, to myself. But this need to control everything came from one very specific belief I had about myself: that I was not a capable mom (or a capable person, for the most part)

We all like the feeling of being in control, but it can lead us to act in ways we don’t like and it cuts us off from developing the skills of feeling capable. 

Because the more we fight for control, the more reduce the practice and sense of capability in ourselves. 


when motherhood isn't what you envisioned it to be

A Self-Professed Controlling Mom

In this episode, I shared how, two kids in, I was becoming very reliant on CONTROL. I found myself controlling all the people and all the situations because I really didn’t feel capable as a mother

I said no to my kids, to my husband, and to myself. And I had everything wound up so tight. 

For me, the solution to move out of this was turning to my village to help me pull out of my comfort zone, get out of my house and DO stuff with my kids. 

However, I still noticed that as I said YES more and did more, that I was still looking to control the what and the how and the little details. 

I really had to unhook myself from the deep belief that “IF I HAVE CONTROL, things will go well and easy – and if I don’t have control then I am doing it wrong”


Being proactive vs being controlling 

Making plans and being prepared is so proactive and important. 

In my home, we have lots of preparation and structure. We have meal plans (see the video in the Facebook group on meal planning tips), weekly rhythms, daily routines, daily plans etc. 

We rely on these preparations and plans to make our life easier. 

It is important to be proactive but watch for when it crosses over to being controlling – when we NEED things to go to plan for our sanity. 

Building up capability

We want to feel like we are in control because it makes us FEEL capable. But it doesn’t always actually make us more capable of HANDLING life.

This can be the middle ground where plans and control support our lives and help us stay proactive – but we also start building up the skills of feeling and being capable of ‘figuring it out’. 


How we act when we are trying to control

When we are in a constant need of control, we start to act in ways we don’t really love to be. We are hovering, stressing, nagging, worrying. It becomes really unfun and we are develop a controlling persona 


What we don’t feel capable of handling

Something we might not feel capable of handling daily things. Like, broken strollers, kid tantrums, making meals with missing ingredients, etc. 

But for many of us, it goes deeper. We don’t feel capable of handling the discomfort of things like a messy home, conflict with others, relying on others, other people’s negative emotions. 

Letting go of what we CANNOT control

So much of this involves turning our attention and stance towards what IS in control. Which is always ourselves. 

We cannot control others and the climate and the economy and the situations we encounter in life. But we can control how we think about them and how we show up. 


Feeling more capable

When we work on feeling more capable we acknowledge that:

  • we are not in total control of all the circumstances and people
  • we let go of all or nothing thinking and start to see other options on dealing with things
  • we can step into quiet confidence that we can deal with it, whatever it looks like
  • we make room for life to happen
  • we quiet down the stress response in our daily life (as Episode 113 explains, feeling incapable can trigger the stress response)


Seeing control and capability through a faith lens

This isn’t about US being the answer and the plan being The Thing that saves us. It is about having TRUST in something bigger. Where is your trust?

For me, that is trust in God that he has got this. I shared a story of how I let go of trying to control my crying baby because I felt the assurance that God’s hand was in my parenting and in her life.


The Mom on Purpose Bootcamp

This two-day bootcamp will lay the foundation that takes you out of the cycle of surviving. We will put pen to paper and develop a plan for what you want intentional motherhood to look like for you in the season ahead. 

The Mom on Purpose Bootcamp details are right here. 


a controlling mom or a capable mom

Full episode transcript

Welcome to the simple on purpose podcast. If you are new here, welcome. I am Shawna, I am a cheese lover, a kitchen dancer, a trained life coach. And I recently finished my diploma in cognitive behavioral therapy. But most importantly, I am a mom of three kids living in small town Canada.

To just give you the essence of simple on purpose in a nutshell, over six years ago, I learned about decluttering. And I realized I had permission to get rid of this stuff in my house that I didn’t want or didn’t need or didn’t use. And so I went down to my basement of shame, and I decluttered it. And there was a lot of ugly crying, there was a lot of emotion, I was overwhelmed by all of what I was seeing in front of me, because it made me realize how complacent I was with my life. And as I went through that process of going through what I wanted, and getting rid of what I didn’t want, I realized, I don’t want to be complacent anymore, I want to take action that gets me where I want to go. I want to do all of the things that I just always make excuses for, I want to be healthier, I want to be more calm, I want to be more fun. Ultimately, I felt like I wanted to take responsibility in my life. In my marriage, in my home. In my motherhood, I wanted to live on purpose, simple on purpose. That’s where it comes from.

And these past few episodes, I’ve been talking about being a mom on purpose. All of this is on my brain right now. Because I’m preparing the lessons for the mom on purpose boot camp, April 22, and 23rd, which is still open, if you are looking to be really, really intentional in your motherhood, and you want to get the frustration and the resentment and the power struggles out of the way so that you can be intentional in your motherhood, then I hope you will join us for the mom on purpose boot camp.

Today I want to talk about control. Because this is one common thing I coach moms on all women and some men control. And I think a lot of us know that we naturally want to be in control. It feels good, it feels necessary even.

And I realized my reliance on control and my need for control most when I was two kids in and you’ve heard me say my first two kids were 16 months apart. My first baby was pretty easy going kind of figured it out along the way. My second, she had reflux, she cried a lot, she would only sleep on me for naps. And they were 20 minute naps. And I was constantly like to my husband, don’t leave me alone with these kids.

I didn’t want to do things were like things with them that would feel out of control. Somehow I didn’t want to go on outings with them, like alone or like without my husband, like, my toddler will need snacks and I’ll be nursing the baby and then the toddler will be everywhere. And the baby’s gonna be crying and like need a nap. And I just felt so overwhelmed by the life I was trying to live that I was trying to do everything How was I going to do it?

So I just stopped doing things.

I turned on the no switch I call it I turned on the no switch, which most of us turn on for our toddlers, we just get so used to saying no, because they are like engaging with a level of danger that their brain doesn’t comprehend yet.

But I turned on the no switch, I turned it on to my kids. If something felt like complicated or exhausting, not we’re not going to do it.

I turned on the no switch to my husband, like, Please don’t leave me alone with these kids unless it’s nap time and only during nap time. And not that we don’t check in with each other on when we can do things on and like support each other and make a plan. But I was just fueled by anxiety.

I was also saying no to me, like I wasn’t letting myself try things, new hobbies or any hobbies at all. I wouldn’t even let myself cook a recipe that felt complicated. So I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the dishes and all of the details because the kids are going to need me. Like I wouldn’t do home projects, just so many things I was saying no to.

And I really started to develop the sense of this is who I am. I’m not adaptable.  – I’m not spontaneous. I need a plan, I need to have two to three business days heads up for anything anyone wants to do. Okay, and I still say this to some of my friends if they want to make a plan for me, I’m like, give me two to three business days.

So I am working on this. It shows up less than my parenting though and more in my work life now.

But I was in a state where I was controlling everything I had wound us all up so tight. And all of this came from a very specific belief that I had about myself. And it took me a while to see it. And that belief was I didn’t think I was capable.

I was turning to controlling all of these things because I didn’t feel capable.

I didn’t feel capable of being out with my kids. I wouldn’t about in handling them. I didn’t feel capable of being alone with them really, I didn’t feel capable of parenting well, of handling home and the chores. I just didn’t feel capable of it.

And for me, that was about eight years ago, because my middle child eight now, and my story looks a lot like really turning to my village. I have great moms in my life. And they were doing stuff with their kids. And thankfully, they took me along for the ride.

Despite all of my excuses. They kind of called me out on it, showed up at my door, put a kid in a stroller and got me out.

They were the extra hands at the park, when they had a diaper that I forgot to bring.

They were the extra hands holding a car seat with my baby in it. Well, I peeled my toddler off the parking lot at school because he didn’t want to leave strong start.

They were a place for me to have coffee and just get out of the house because I was isolating myself at home alone, living off of toast and protein bars.

They brought over soup they stayed for the weekend. They just helped me. Mostly I’m talking about my little sister and my mom, bestie Sophie, but you know, my village has extended beyond that over the years. And I’m so grateful to have moms to do life alongside with. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.

Because here’s the thing that I also noticed, as I started to do more and say yes, more, I was learning that it was still hard. Because now I was trying to control how we did things, what we did when we did and things wouldn’t work out all the time.


So really, I kept putting myself in the situation where I had to wrestle myself away from the belief that if I have control, things will go well and easy. And if I don’t have control, then I’m doing it wrong. I had to see that controlling everything wasn’t the answer control wasn’t going to save me. If you listen to the previous episode about being a mom on purpose. I said that control is something that we hyper focus on when we don’t feel capable of handling the difficulties, controls how we prevent the difficulties, how we step ahead of them and prevent them from happening.

Now hear me say this. I am all for being proactive. Like a lot of what I share and what I teach is about doing the things that make your life easier. I’m all for planning things, preparing things, setting yourself up for success. We do this a lot.

We have weekly meal plans, we budget big trips, like when I go out for the day I pack the snacks and the band aids in the water, we have routines, we have rhythms for our week, we have routines for our day, we do all of this to make our lives easier, great, right. But we can also start to live under the illusion that we are in control. We can have a false sense of security in the schedules and rules and checklists that everyone has to follow.

But we’re not in control of it. That’s the hard part. When an expense comes up, when our husband eats the leftover chicken that we were going to use for lunch, when we’re out and a tire goes flat or someone gets injured, or a kid just jumped into the car when we drove to the park and they show up with no shoes on. And now there’s one kid crying at the park who forgot their shoes or when someone doesn’t sleep according to schedule. We are trying to control all of these things all of the time. But things still happen. We’re not a control, I want to have control. It makes me feel secure. We just want to control the circumstances and people around us in some way.

Like, think about being out with your family. We want them to be happy so that we can be happy. We want things to go to plan so that we can feel like we know what’s going to happen. There’s comfort and predictability, we know what’s going to be expected of us. We want to feel like we’re in control because it makes us feel capable. But it doesn’t actually make us more capable of handling life. Because when an opportunity comes up to practice being capable, we just slap a whole lot of plans and conditions and rules on it.

And they coach a lot of mums who see how they are trying to control the things that they don’t feel capable of handling. And it’s not just handling like the day to day things that are going to come up like a flat stroller tire when you’re out for a walk or forgetting to pack everyone socks and underwear on their family trip or a kid meltdown in public or having to take your kid to the hospital because they fell off the couch and cut their forehead on the fireplace. Maybe these are real life examples.

We spend a lot of energy trying to prevent those things from happening. Sometimes it makes us act in ways we don’t really want to act in like we’re trying to control everything. We’re checking the stroller tires, we’re controlling the route we take where maybe we’re interrogating small children on if they have to go to the bathroom and Are you sure and do you have to go now because we don’t want to deal with an accident where you know, putting snacks in their faces so they don’t get hangry we’re yelling at them. Be careful, slow down, put your head on be happy.

Like we’re just hovering and stressing and starting to show up day to day with this controlling persona. But we need to let our kids run at playgrounds and get dirty and get out with our friends. We need to Not have our husbands follow all of the rules that we have for them. We don’t need to live and die by our routines and our plans. And our checklists like that is the answer.

And I say this with full acknowledgement that there are areas of my life that I really struggle to give up control, and to just enjoy the process of planning, but not needing it for my sanity. So like I am here with you.

I will also say, though, that as I paid attention to this, over the years, I’ve learned that I am very capable, like I can fashion a band aid out of Kleenex and electrical tape, when we’re on the go, if we need it, I can ask my friends to watch my kid. Well, I take another toddler who’s tantruming aside to help them, I can have people I call on so I can take one kid to the ER again, like, these things have actually happened. So I’m learning by doing that I am capable of handling the problems, I can deal with them when they happen.

But I think the harder thing for me to feel capable of and I think a lot of women is the discomfort, the feelings we don’t want to feel, we kind of set ourselves up to control these things. So we don’t have to feel like I can control the house and the chores. Because I don’t feel capable that I can still show up kind and peacefully in my home when it’s not as clean as I want.

And so many moms that I coach, they don’t feel capable of handling their kids on happiness or tantrums. So they control what they say they control what others say and do around their kid, they control the whole environment around their kid, because they’re afraid to set them off.

Maybe you’re someone who wants to control your money, you don’t feel capable of unpredictable finances.

Or you maybe want to control relationships, what you say what others think all in an effort to avoid conflict because you don’t feel capable of handling conflict. When we don’t feel capable of handling conflict. When we view conflict as an inherently bad thing. We are going to take a lot of steps to control the people in the environment around so we structure a situation where conflict doesn’t pop up.

Or maybe you’re controlling your personal needs or your family’s needs because you don’t feel capable of relying on others.

And I think a lot of us can relate to the notion of trying to control others around us to stay happy, be happy to get happy, maybe even punishing people for feeling angry or sad or upset, because we don’t feel capable of sitting with their uncomfortable emotions.

And I do think it’s fair to say here that there’s a range on one end, we’re trying to be proactive, we’re trying to stay in the positive flow. On the other end, we rely on control on the plan on the systems on the attitudes of others, to the point where we need control to the point where it’s our way of being and we’re stuck in this track of control, it’s us versus them, it becomes really unfun.

But we cling to it because there’s this deep part of us that really believes we need it. We need it to be safe, we needed to avoid these problems. We need it because we have relied on it so wholly that now we can’t see a world where we are capable. We have traded in developing a sense of capability, like I’ll figure it out –  for a sense of control, which is I’ve got it figured out. Now everything needs to go according to plan.

And the plan becomes the thing to protect and focus on and nurture.

And like I said we have agency over our lives. And it’s proactive to make plans and prepare. But we also have to see past that we have to hold it a bit more loosely, we have to get to a place where we start to sink into the reality that we are not in total control.

We’re not in control of the situations that might happen in our lives. We’re not in control of what our kids feel, or when they decide to have a tantrum or what playground equipment they are going to decide to try and jump off of at any whim. We’re not in control of what our husbands think or what they do or don’t do or what a coworker or friend thinks about us. We’re not in control of microorganisms causing a global pandemic and what happens to our job security and our kids schooling.

And when we can see that we can stop making that the fight, we can stop the nagging, we can stop trying to make everything and everyone fit into our plan and system. We can let them off the hook. We can step down from an offensive stance and we can start to turn inward to where we actually do have full control. We have control over what we choose to think about this we can move from resentful to resolved. We can let go of the victim mentality we can step into empowerment. We can stop spinning and anxiety in this worst case scenario and catastrophizing and we can step into building up our capability.

And I don’t say this to just think great thoughts and it will all be great. We have to work our way there. But deciding to do it is putting yourself in the driver’s seat. For real like this is taking over control. This is our actual power because feeling capable, oh man, that’s this good feeling. Like we all like the feeling of being in control. But to feel capable, that’s empowering. Because feeling capable it trust that things aren’t all or nothing. There’s not just plan A, or plan B, there’s Plan C all the way through Zed. Feeling capable, is having that quiet confidence that we’re going to get through it. Whatever it looks like, feeling capable, doesn’t need to have the plan go perfect, it makes room for life to happen. And feeling capable. It also reduces the stress response. If you listen to Episode 113 on why aren’t thriving. Stress happens when you perceive a threat. And then in ability to deal with it. So feeling capable is building up your capability, your ability to deal with it.

And I also think of this through a faith lens as well. And if you’re a Christian, maybe this is going in the back of your mind. Feeling capable isn’t all about pride, it isn’t all about thinking, you have all the answers. It’s not about making yourself the answer, or making the plan that thing that saves you. It’s not about having your kids and your spouse in all of the conditions follow all of these rules that won’t save you.

If you are a Christian, you know that this sense of capability is rooted in trust. Doesn’t it just all come back to trust? Where do you put your trust in? If you’re a Christian like me, your trust is in God, like God has got this.

When I was spending hours with that crying baby who had reflux, and I was with her every night trying to get her to sleep, and she’d be crying. And I was praying every night like, what do I do to make it stop and I was getting mad at God and I was mad at myself. And one night, I heard him whisper to me, I got this. My grace covers everything. And now I look back on those really hard years of motherhood and marriage. And I wouldn’t do it all over again for what’s on the other side of that. Because he has a plan to make things work for your good in his glory. He’s in the details. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do all things, hard things, easy things, scary things, uncomfortable things.

And I think there’s so much more to dig into here, when it comes to what we’re trying to control how that impacts our lives and families and how we can move towards building up a sense of capability. But I wanted to put this contrast in your mind, I wanted to put this contrast of Am I wrestling for control? or am I working on developing my capability? which  one am I chasing right now?

And ultimately, they’re both, they both feel like they’re going to get you what you want. But capability feels so much more empowering. It just comes with a lot more risk and discomfort.

And I really wanted to share this because this is a theme I experience in my own life. And it’s something I’m coaching other moms and women on too because it does show up in a lot of different areas of our life, not just motherhood.

If you’ve been thinking about coaching with me, if you want to get really intentional in your motherhood, then I hope you’ll take advantage of the mom on purpose boot camp. This is two days, or I’m going to teach you just so darn much like everything you would be learning. If you were in a full coaching program with me, I’m going to lay out the foundation for moving past that surviving stage of yelling and being frustrated and overwhelmed and restless into the intentional stage of being the mum you want to be. So it’s going to be a workshop style. It’s like taking a course. But in real time, there’s going to be time for you to put pen to paper and you’re going to walk away from that with steps that you’re going to take this season. With work you can come back to when things feel hard when things feel frustrating, you’re going to have things to come back to that are going to help you I’m going to give you tools on all of that. I’m going to take q&a and we’re going to coach as we go.

This is probably the last time I’ll be sharing this on the podcast because it is happening in a couple of weeks. So if you have thought about coaching with me, this two day boot camp is less than half of working with me for my current three month coaching program that I offer. If you’re interested I hope I’ll see you there we go live next week. I think I said two weeks but I’m I haven’t looked at the calendar today. So it is next week the 22nd and 23rd I hope that you will book your spot we go live next week. Go to the life on purpose academy.ca

Alright friends, have a great week.



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