Is Self-Care the Answer When Motherhood Sucks?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the time in my life where everything seemed to suck.

Parenting was depleting all my resources,  I felt in over my head on a daily basis.

My marriage was bookended with resentment on both sides, I knew we were both so lost and angry.

I felt restless and unproductive most every day, all the tasks of day to day life frustrated me.  

My heart was filled with anxiety, entitlement and frustration.

There was no out. I was a mess.

What is the advice you give to a mom in this spot?

You might say, go do things you love, or find your passion, or take care of you, or get some counselling.  (I think counselling is always a good idea. )

But perhaps getting so focussed on your passions and self-care won’t really help you to engage the situation right in front of you.

When I look back on those years, I say I was lost. But really I was just angry that my life didn’t look how I wanted it to. I hadn’t lost myself or forgotten to take care of myself. Rather, I was expending all my energy to make a statement that this isn’t the life I wanted to have. I didn’t want this life. This isn’t what marriage and motherhood should be

I built myself into a silo where everyone could witness my suffering. My marriage is strained, my kids are tough, I haven’t slept in years and we are all living off toast.

Martyrdom is the easiest place to be when things are tough because it tells the world that you are suffering because of your circumstances. You don’t need to take responsibility for it.

There is that saying ‘if you can’t change your circumstances then change your mind’.  Your circumstances can’t be solely to blame for suffering, you are also responsible for your mindset. So why do we end up in a mindset that allows a state of suffering? I think it is about our relationship to how we handle ‘suffering’. 

For some, we cannot accept a life where we suffer.

I should not have to endure sleeplessness.

I should not have to endure restlessness.

I should not have to endure dishes (again), laundry (again), cooking (again)

I should not have to endure dry seasons in my marriage.

I should not have to endure the relentless and irrational demands of toddlers and babies.

I should feel happy! Why am I not happy?

We think we need to be happy 100 percent of the time. When we don’t ‘feel happy’ we think something is wrong with our lives (cue the martyrdom) or wrong with us (cue the depression)

For some, it is that we don’t know how to endure the suffering, so we put ourselves as martyrs and wait for the circumstances to change rather than for us to change.

We don’t know how to endure suffering with a mindset that allows us to accept it and power through it. We haven’t used our grit, or most importantly – contentment.

There will be hardships, there will be suffering, there will be seasons where we want to shut down or numb the difficulties. What are the things we turn to that make us feel great, but also pull us out of the life we are in? Drinking, more work, more exercise, more projects, more shopping, more to-do lists, overparenting, more social media?

Self-care and hobbies are two of my favourite things – like ever! But I don’t think they have refreshed me or helped me grow until I properly addressed the suffering that I was in. These things are vital to a vibrant, passionate life, but when we look to it as the solution, perhaps it skips the hard work of putting back together our broken heart.

I did find myself turning to self-care and hobbies. Even with two small kids 16 months apart I made time for writing, doing yoga, doing the moms30for30, trying new creative hobbies, having a glass of wine each night, listening to more podcasts, opening another online platform. I enjoyed it, I would have urged you to do it too. But when I look back I see that it was a distraction. 

I needed to work on my thoughts before I could work on my actions. I needed working on my thoughts to be my main goal and self-care to be the support to that. It couldn’t be the other way around. 

There is a certain power that confirmation bias can have over our lives. If we are thinking that life sucks, that will be all we see. If we think that things are tough but they are also beautiful too, we will see that.  You will find what you are looking for.

Maybe the advice I would give myself four years ago is to stop.

Stop looking for justification that I’m correct.

Stop looking for ways to confirm my suffering.

Stop digging this pit of helplessness I can’t see my way out of.  

Stop trying to distract myself with other things that will ‘bring me joy’.

Stop telling myself I am incapable of handling the life before me.

Stop putting pressure on others to affirm that I am valued in motherhood

Stop making so many conditions on how things ought to be in order for me to be happy.

And start something new.

Start looking for those little perfect moments amongst the daily hardships.

Start appreciating the ways my husband is showing up for our family.

Start saying sorry for pushing him away.

Start finding ways to forgive him and bring him close.

Start enjoying my kids instead of being so angry at how hard motherhood is.

Start letting myself be wrong and vulnerable.

Start looking for those simple precious ways that my life is the exact opposite of suffering.

Start taking responsibility for my attitude.

Start valuing what I bring to my family and my friends instead of pouting about all the ways I tell myself I’m failing.

Start practising contentment, and letting myself feel joy even when I’m not satisfied

What set me free from my suffering was going through it. Through God’s grace, I found more grit and contentment in me that was not lost to martyrdom. I found forgiveness and acceptance in the hard seasons of life I was fighting so hard to change.

If you are in a place of suffering and you feel lost and overwhelmed. I urge you to dig a little deeper into understanding what you are fighting for. Because there is a warrior woman inside each of our hearts and she knows how to fight – with silence, with martyrdom, with anger, with excuses, with checklists – she knows how to stand her ground. Just make sure she’s fighting for the right thing.

Need life coaching? I offer life coaching at a fabulous rate for my fellow busy moms who want to get unstuck and life live on purpose.

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