113. Why you aren’t thriving in motherhood (stress and surviving)

There is a quote ‘don’t just survive in motherhood, thrive in it’

When I first heard this quote I really hated it.  I was home with three kids under four and very aware of how I was NOT thriving and felt like I wasn’t even surviving. 

I resented this notion I had to be thriving. 

What I thought thriving in motherhood had to look like

  • cute home, always clean
  • healthy home-cooked meals, everyone likes them 
  • well dressed, kids are happy, I’m training for a marathon
  • I also have a successful side hustle

It felt very far away from where I was


Over the years I have learned that there are some very important hurdles to ‘thriving in motherhood’

I will be sharing the four reasons we aren’t thriving in motherhood in the upcoming Mom on Purpose Bootcamp. If you want to do the work with me and set a great foundation for going from surviving to thriving then save your spot right here. 

enjoying motherhood on purpose

One big reason we aren’t thriving in motherhood

You cannot thrive when you feel like you are not surviving. That is to say, when you are in a stress response you cannot thrive and live mindfully and into your higher values

This is a reason I really had to learn the science of and pay attention to its truth in my own life. 


What causes us to stress?

A stress response occurs when your brain when you 1. perceive a threat and 2. feel incapable of dealing with it. 

You don’t have to consciously and actively view something as a threat – as long as your brain subconsciously registers it, it will activate a stress response. 


The reason why we experience overwhelm

In this episode, I’m sharing a recent week I had in parenting that became very overwhelming. Overwhelm happens when we don’t deal with the little things and they pile up to something that feels too big. 

Often when we are doing this, we also start to see a lot of overwhelm in all the areas of our life. It spirals. 


The stress response highjacks our intentional living

Science tells us that when we are in a stress state we are flooded with stress hormones and using a different part of our brain (the amygdala) that makes decisions to deal with the stress at the moment. We are not using our more logical, long-term planning part of the brain (pre-frontal cortex). 


We get stressed about being stressed

A problem a lot of us face, especially moms is that we stigmatize stress. We think it means we are wrong and so we get stressed about experiencing stress. 

It is important to pay attention to what we really perceive as a threat and what makes us feel incapable of dealing with the problem. 


If you want to work on SURVIVING, so you can move towards THRIVING. Here are some steps you can take. 

  1. Challenge what it looks like to ‘THRIVE’ in motherhood 
  2. Pay attention to your relationship to stress right now
  3. Sit and ask yourself these questions
    • What feels a threat to you, what triggers your stress?
    • What feels like your needs aren’t being met?
    • What feels like you are capable?
    • What feels like your needs are being met?


If you want support on addressing the stress in your life, check out my coaching packages or join me for two days at the Mom on Purpose Bootcamp. 

You can find me on Instagram and in the Simple on Purpose Facebook community group. 

episode 113. why you aren't thriving in motherhood

Full transcript 

Welcome to the Simple on Purpose Podcast.

I am here to help you simplify your home, your heart and your life. Because for many of us, our lives are busy, our brains are heavy, our hearts are weary, our homes feel cluttered, our relationships feel strained, and things just feel overwhelming.

So I want to help you declutter the things that don’t belong, that don’t serve you. So you can make space for what you crave, and what’s going to bring you passion and purpose in your life.

So friends, you got to remember the decluttering process means getting messy, going through the clutter, and I want to do some of that with you.

Today, I want to talk about the saying, don’t just survive motherhood, thrive in it. And I used to hate this thing. If you’ve listened to this podcast, or you know me at all, you’ve heard this before. And I’m gonna say it again, just to give you some context of where was at when I first heard this thing. I was at home with all three kids under the age of four. Really, actually, though, my hardest stage of parenting was when my second child came 16 months from her older brother.

And I heard this saying and I was just very aware that I felt like I was surviving. I felt like there was a lot of pressure to thrive that felt so far away from where I was, because when I thought about thriving, I thought it was like my home is the cutest. It’s clean all the time. There’s no laundry mountain in my basement. I have home cooked meals every day that people actually enjoy. I’ve got my hair did, I’ve got a white t shirt on that’s clean. And maybe we just got back from a family bike ride where nobody stopped mid path to cry that their brother kept passing on them. And maybe I’m training for a marathon and I wake up early. And I do devotionals and I go on the treadmill. Plus, also, I’m a successful mompreneur, who isn’t working in a robe questioning everything that she does for a solid week, every month. So I really had a chip on my shoulder about this idea of thriving. I hated the cliche quotes, like be awesome today. Because my life did not feel awesome.

And yes, I was a blogger, I was writing. But I would not have called myself a mompreneur. Because I thought that was a really unrealistic pressure for moms to do it all at home, and then exhaust themselves building up this epic money making empire.

All in all, I just really resented the notion of thriving, but I realized that I concocted this definition for myself on what I thought people expected thriving to be, rather than what I wanted thriving to look like. So they’re different. One feels energizing, and one feels exhausting.

There are four reasons that I feel we have trouble thriving and motherhood, I’m going to teach those in my upcoming mom on purpose boot camp, held the third, the fourth week in April, April 22, and 23rd. This is going to be two days. The first day we’re going to talk about how parenting on autopilot always leads to defeat frustration, we’ll talk about stress negative emotions, negative self talk what to do about it. And then the next day, we’re going to talk about enjoying it on purpose, enjoying your kids enjoying motherhood, getting rooted into being the awesome mum you are. So on both of those days, I’ll do an hour of live teaching and an hour of coaching. And this is going to be intensive, it’s going to change how you show up in motherhood. So this is a topic you think you want to work on. And maybe you’re someone who’s like, I can do a course on it. But I know I won’t finish a course. Or maybe you’re someone who’s kind of interested in coaching with me, but you’re on the fence, then this boot camp, it’s the ideal way to get the work done to learn new tools to get new ideas, and get coaching support from me in the most affordable way. So that’s in the show notes, check that out if you’re interested or go to life on purpose academy.ca.

But the reasons were not thriving. I think there’s one big reason I want to talk about today that gets overlooked and it’s a reason I didn’t understand for years. And you know, I probably wouldn’t even have given it much stock. And then I learned the science behind it and I saw it play out in my life. So you’re probably going to feel the same. If you hang with me while I unpack this. Let’s talk about it.

The notion that you cannot thrive if you feel like you’re struggling to survive. Another way of putting this is when we are stressed when our body is in a stress state. We cannot be mindful and make intentional decisions about how we want to live our lives.

Last year I was running the life on purpose Academy membership and that was a monthly program where I would teach a monthly topic and we would have weekly group coaching calls. One of the very first topics I covered was stress and stress is something that I really researched. I took a lot of personal data from my own life, I’m kind of a professional stressor.

Stress happens when you feel when you perceive a threat plus also you feel unable to deal with it. So it’s like the milk spilled, I can wipe it up, I can deal with it. The threat is this the milk spilled, I can deal with it. Versus feeling unable to deal with it would be the milk spilled, the toddler’s yelling in the highchair. I haven’t eaten lunch, yet I’m hungry, the baby needs to go down for a nap. I don’t feel capable of dealing with this stress mode will kick in. And the thing to pay attention to here is to feeling like you cannot deal with it, you’re not capable of handling it.

So it was spring break these past couple of weeks. And the last week of spring break when it’s me and the kids all at home. I had this like real stressful experience. So right now, my two sons who are six and just 10.  I’m watching them, they’re learning how to navigate their relationship where they can play together and have fun without turning everything into a competition and a battle. Which is just a nice way of saying they’re frenemies. And I’m trying to guide them through this.

But also what was happening was I wasn’t really paying attention to feeding myself really well, which sounds silly, but I’m mostly grain free. I have an autoimmune thyroid condition. And if I am not really paying attention to how I nourish myself, the symptoms really start to show up.

So as the week at home with the kids started, I was really excited, I was throwing out ideas on what we could do together. But the weather was iffy like it snowed here in Canada, and the orders in our province really didn’t leave much open. And the kids weren’t always excited about my ideas that we should do. I really just had a lot of hopes for the weekend.

I ended up feeling like we were stuck at home just cycling through snacks and sibling Spats and asking what we should do today, feeling really overwhelmed by it all. And of course, there’s all the little things to write. But by the end of the week, I kind of just shut down. I was feeling depressed. And the week it just wasn’t this fun, engaging experience. I hoped it should be. I was snapping at the kids, I was short with them because they were kind of feeling gross too. I was snapping at my husband. And finally my husband called me out on it. Thank you Conor, he was like, something’s up with you. You need to tell me about it. And we can work it out. Or you need to go and take some time. So I went in took some time, I sat in the tub.

And I just stopped and thought, Why do I feel so gross? I realized I was feeling shame and how I was treating my family. I was feeling disappointed that I had all these kind of hopes around how this break would be and it just wasn’t what I wanted.

While also realizing that some of my expectations were kind of unrealistic. I had this expectation that everything had to really be this wonderful experience. But it turned out what we did instead playing Monopoly and watching movies together and going for walks. They will they loved that. I also realized I really wasn’t meeting my own personal needs. So when Connor asked me to do something like he wanted to go to the gym one night, I just mentally hit this brick wall, I felt like my needs aren’t being met, I can’t give more of myself. And I just noticed that I started to feel overwhelmed by it all, all of the areas of my life, I could see that I wasn’t thriving at home, or with my health or work with work or my marriage. I just had this filter on and all I was seeing was negative and everything just spiraled.

So I was overwhelmed. And if you experience overwhelm, the reason why we often get into a place of overwhelm is because we let things pile up, rather than address them along the way. Because if I could look back at these lists of things that were were making me feel gross, then I could see that these are all things I could have dealt with one by one if I stopped and paid attention.

But the fact is, I spent the week feeling like there was a threat and my threats were versions of people will be unhappy, I’m going to do this wrong, I won’t get any time to myself. My needs aren’t being met, and I also felt incapable of dealing with it. I just don’t know what to do with them. I’m doing it wrong. I’m not being a very good mom, I just need a break. I was definitely in a stress state.

Every time your brain even subconsciously senses a threat and feels unable to deal with it. your nervous system will put you into a stress state. The major hormones that we learn about that are related to stress are adrenaline and cortisol. And cortisol is flooding through your body when a stress response kicks in. It’s a messenger, telling your body to shut down what it doesn’t need. And prepare for action faster heart rate faster breathing conserve energy for action.

In a really great book that I’ve read called tame your anxiety by Loretta Bruning. She says cortisol, the stress hormone can even be triggered by feeling exhaustion, feeling helpless, feeling stuck, it kind of makes sense. It just elaborates the point that your brain needs to feel like your needs are met. You can serve I’ve, before you can chase any higher purpose that you can thrive. And I heard this for a while I, I heard it, but I didn’t really see it in my own life until I started paying attention. Because the science tells us when we are in a stress state, flooded with stress hormones, we’re using a different part of our brain, the amygdala, which is reactive and making key to decisions to just stop the threat, avoid the danger. This is the part of brain that we’re using. We’re not using our prefrontal cortex, which allows for long term planning, and mindfulness and rational thought.

And you can really see this in your kids. So if if you have a kid, like my youngest, who spends a lot of time in red zone, like anger, and oh, fury, you know, in that moment, they will not be reasoned with, they will not make good decisions. But when they are calm, and you can come back to the situation later, when you’re both calm, you can talk to them about what happened. It’s like talking to a whole different kid. They can reflect on it, maybe they show remorse over it. They can problem solve what they want to do with it. And it’s just a whole different experience. They can’t do that in the moment. Isn’t that so telling? Like we are the same.

But we’re all going around beating ourselves up that we’re Bad Moms, because we’re yelling, we’re being reactive. We’re just looking for a break. But ask yourself, Am I operating from a stress response right now? Do I feel like I’m not surviving? Do I feel like my needs aren’t being met? Because then it just makes sense.

It makes sense that we’re not Zen and peaceful and mindful and being the quote, Mom, we want to be all of that has been hijacked by stress brain. And stress is something that we have a negative connotation about. I know I personally had a negative view of it over the years because our society stigmatizes stress. If you feel stressed, you’re doing it wrong. And then we get stressed about being stressed. And I call this doubling down, doubling down on the stress when we feel shame. And now we have the stress problem, we have to self plus also the things that make us stressed.

But the stress response, really, it was designed to help us to prolong our lives to keep us safe. It’s a primal reaction, right? But now we live in this modern world where dangers and threats are not bears, where fight flight or freeze would probably save our lives.

But we have this modern world where we have perceived threats, like I’m not being good enough, I could be embarrassed, I might be left out, I won’t be able to have my freedom, I won’t be able to perform or be successful, I might be on the spot. I might not be prepared.

Kelly McGonigal has written the upside of stress. And she explains that we have all trained ourselves with the help of our culture and upbringing to view stress as a threat. And that triggers our sympathetic nervous system, we get that typical fight flight or freeze. However, what she explains is our brain has another path we can learn. We can shift our view of stress, not as a threat, but as a challenge. And it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system. And the body cues up a whole different reaction of hormones that actually get us energized and focused on handling the issue.

Can you think of people who seem to be energized in a crisis almost? Or can you think of people who are in a situation and they’ve just, they’re in it, they’re dealing with it, and you might look back and be like, that looks really unfun? I would not want to deal with that at all. Because when we feel like we’re capable, or that this threat isn’t really going to hurt me, then we can go into a challenge response.

And I can think of this like with dinner cooking dinner, when I don’t have an idea for dinner. I don’t really have any ingredients in the house. Maybe I really have to go grocery shopping. I am like mystery challenge. What can I possibly come up with? It’s like on chopped, where they’re like you have a yam some old lentils and brown banana and leftover popcorn. What will she make? That’s me in the kitchen. I don’t view it as this big stressful thing. But I do view other things as a threat as something to be really stressed about. And when I don’t feel capable or the threat feels really real. Like let’s say I’m we’re driving together and the kids are loud in the back. And I’m trying to Google a gluten-free menu to see where we can stop and eat. And I just want to make it stop already. So I’m really digging into this topic because I want you to connect the dots like I did, that it just makes sense that you aren’t quote unquote thriving.

Because when you feel overwhelmed in your own kitchen, and you’re like taking off your sock to wipe the spilled milk because you haven’t folded the laundry mountain growing in your basement. It just makes sense that you aren’t going to be like how can I be really mindful and live up to my higher values right now, like your brain is hijacked by a stress response. All you’re thinking is make it stop find a rest area to pull over and recharge. You cannot thrive when you feel like you are in survival mode.

And moms everywhere are also beating themselves up that they aren’t thriving more I call to women who will come to me and be like, “it’s so ridiculous, I just need help making a meal plan, like what is even wrong with me, I can’t do this” or women who just want more purpose in any areas of their life. And I hear a lot of women who are saying, “I feel like I’m just putting out fires, I never make progress to what I really want. I’m just like circling around managing my day to day life”, I just want you to give yourself a break, like, just stop for a minute you are in a stress state, your physical body is overrun by stress hormones, your brain is sending all of its information and signals to the part of the brain that deals with stress.

And you’re going to be making decisions from that area of your brain. The only work your brain is doing is to survive. This isn’t the time where your brain is going to be like, Hmm, let’s make some meal plans. Let’s think about what health goals I have, what long term goals do I have? How can I create positive habits? How can I motivate myself? What do I need to be more mindful of what are my personal values in motherhood? Like it just makes sense that you’re not there.

And let’s even go back to the image of what I thought it looked like to thrive in motherhood, the home happy kids, all of the areas of my life are being managed, everything feels effortless. And first of all, it’s challenge how much of this is real? And how much of this is projected comparison from what I tell myself it needs to look like. And my encouragement if you are thinking about this, and you have this big notion about what it looks like to thrive in your life, not to throw it out the window not to feel defeated, not to feel like it’s not available to you. But to just pick one area, one area, you want to focus on your life. And I teach this in the course the life on purpose roadmap, and the workbook the life on purpose workbook, the nine areas of our life that we have to pay attention to just getting started in one, one area, what does it look to thrive there.

Then get mindful about your relationship to stress right now, you might even want to sit down for five minutes, give yourself five minutes, a pen and a paper and write down some notes. What feels like a threat to you what triggers your stress? What makes you feel like your needs are not being met? versus also what makes you feel like you are meeting your needs? What makes you feel capable? What makes you feel incapable? One question that I’ve learned to ask myself when I feel on the edge emotionally, also known as the yellow zone in our house, is what do I need right now. And clearly all last week, I didn’t ask that to myself. But if I did, I would have given myself more pause, I would have nourished myself, I would have put less pressure on myself, I would have met more of my own needs, I would have found ways to be more present and positive and done the work on that.

So I want to leave you with two things that I teach about stress. The first is the goal isn’t to build a life without stress, stress is inevitable. Rather, the goal is to be really mindful of the triggers and really build the skills of being feeling capable of handling it.

The other thing is to pay attention to how you cope. I didn’t even cover this in what we talked about today. But we can add even more drama and stress to our lives when we turn to coping mechanisms that actually make our overall life and health worse.

And I just want you to come back to giving yourself some grace, give yourself a break. If you feel like it’s hard to thrive, you probably feel like your needs aren’t being met right now. Like it’s hard to even survive. So it just makes sense that this is the work you have to do right now. If this is something that you want support on, check out my life coaching packages reach out to me and if you think that the mom on purpose boot camp is where you want to get started, I definitely recommend that you join that soon. I am going to close the doors when it gets to full so there will be limited availability. If you have questions about it. You can find me on Instagram at simple on purpose.ca or in the simple on purpose community Facebook group. I am always in one of those two places for your comments, thoughts and questions. I would love to hear from you. And I would love to see you in the mall on purpose boot camp if that is something that you are ready for and interested in. Have a great week friends

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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