The Truth About Gratitude in Motherhood

We are told to be so grateful, to cherish every moment, to love every single inch of motherhood. Babies don’t keep, and soon they will be walking. The toddler years fly by. Suddenly they will be off to school and driving and staying out late and heading off to college. We are told they will be all grown up in a blink. In some moments, this sounds like great news. But mostly we just feel it looming over us, like a scary, unfamiliar event that is about to happen, one that we know is coming but can’t begin to prepare for.

So we try to cherish it all, every moment. And then milk gets spilled on the new couch, we find marker on the wall and we realize we’ve been walking around all day with spit-up in our hair. We showered yesterday and probably weren’t going to get another one in today, so this is very bad news.

None of these are the moments we would like to cherish. And the ability to find gratitude here may completely lost on us. We are perfectly ok with these moments flying by.

But there is something very important to remember about gratitude in motherhood: this is a journey, and without the downs, we wouldn’t fully appreciate the ups. And these little ones who are on this ride with us, they are figuring it all out for the first time. They are looking to us for guidance to help them shape their lens of the world. How will they react to situations? How will they see others? How will the respond when life gets hard? How will the celebrate the beautiful moments? We are helping them to shape this in everything we do.

So celebrate the happy moments, cherish those times when motherhood is easy and beautiful. Then breathe deeply and embrace the hard times too. Find the learnings in them, find the chance to show your child something new, something important. Teach your child how to navigate both sides of this world with grace and gratitude. What an amazing gift to give them.

The Primal Fears of Motherhood

The human condition is part of our journey. Our ability to recognize fear in our body, mind, and intuition is rooted in our DNA. Our ability to respond to fear is optional. Fears can show up wearing different masks but can generally be reduced to three primal fears. Which of the following show up for you?

Fear of not being loved (community and connectedness)

Also known as fear of rejection or being judged. Feeling connected is a primal need. Take other mammals and even our ancestors as an example; traveling together is safer. We are stronger together. We have more skills, strengths, and support when we belong to something greater. That is, when we can negotiate through conflict and disagreements. Fear in this area can surface when our sense of belonging is threatened. For mothers, this might show up as judgement from communities, family members, other mothers.

Fear of lack of purpose (profession and higher purpose)

Bringing life into the world illumines the primal sense of purpose in a whole light.  As mothers there is a new sense of responsibility when your little one depends on you for everything. Fear of not fulfilling your divine life’s purpose for new mothers can translate to fear of your professional identity on hold. Your higher purpose may shift during the transition into motherhood. In general, with transition brings fear of the unknown.

Fear of dying (baby is thriving, survival needs met)

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our most basic survival-based needs must be met in order to ascend to higher goals and aspirations. If we are concerned with where we live, eat, sleep, or if our safety is compromised we cannot act, speak, or think from a place of love. It’s stressful being an adult responsible for the needs of your children. The stress of sustaining life and providing clean, safe space might look different in modern day world than in primordial times.

So, what’s the antidote for fear?

Connect to the love you have for yourself and your baby.  Share your fears and bring them out of the shadows. Fear itself serves a purpose. It can teach us about ourselves and help us to grow. When we expose our deepest fears they no longer have the power to control our thoughts and actions. Use your tools. Whether it be meditation, yoga, dancing, breathing, singing, painting... The more we create with wild abandon, the less room fear has to occupy our subconscious.  

Fighting Fear and Finding Joy

I am the mother of a human child. This is really very complicated at times. It is so heartbreakingly beautiful and difficult in the same moment. On top of this, she is changing ALL THE TIME. She is impossible to organize and keep clean. She follows the rules and then breaks them all every day. 

Living with this little human child means that there are moments of such joy that I can hardly believe I am this lucky to be her mother. She holds my face when I sing to her and we laugh and kiss each other. Time stands still and it is perfect. The thing is, there is this voice of fear that creeps up inside too often during these moments. It says things like, "what if something ever happens to her?" Darn you fear! This was a perfectly golden moment until you poked your little head into it. 

I used to think this is just what it means to be a mother, that one can hardly enjoy a perfect moment with your child without being completely gripped by fear. But recently I heard some beautiful and challenging words from the researcher and storyteller, Dr. Brené Brown. She said that in all her years of intensive research, gathering stories of people's lives and listening to them in their most vulnerable truth-telling, she has found that JOY is the single most difficult emotion to experience. She talks about this very human tendency, that as soon as joy creeps in, we are sabotaged by fear. She believes that it takes the utmost courage to show up in our lives and practice joy. 

Whoa! What?!? This completely floored me and also made total sense. The experience of true joy is so absolutely vulnerable and so out of my own control. It is a call to utmost presence in the moment. I realized that too often I let fear pull me right out of the joy. I do not want this kind of fear in my life. 

What if the greatest gift we can give our child is our joy? What if our total presence and delight in them at any given moment is the thing that will help them feel known, safe and give them courage to expand and grow? I know that for me, I would like to choose more joy than fear.

I guess raising a human child requires a human mother. There's nothing more human than being vulnerable, letting myself be alive and truly experience joy.  

The Emotions of Motherhood: the highs AND the lows

Some things you cannot go around or over. You must go through. Some things you must let wash over you so you can truly release them. Let yourself feel all of the feels. In fact, embrace them, don’t run from them. Sit with your tears and let them turn to sobs if they need to. Feel your disappointment and don’t talk yourself out of it. It’s ok. Look at your fears. Turn them over in your mind and sift through them. What are they really? Go deeper. Sadness and grief, without them how would we truly understand the gift of the good times. Feel the opposites. Allow yourself to experience the highs and lows, soak in the moments in between.

It’s so easy to shut out the bad and to turn away from struggle. But as much as the happy times in motherhood make up our lives, as much as the joys become our defining moments, the hard times do as well. Don’t run, don’t hide, don’t ignore or shut out. These are real. And this is living.

This week allow yourself to feel emotions as they come up, the hard ones too. Let them be real. Let them wash over you so you can truly let them go.