By Jodi Baretz
Wikipedia states: “Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.”
But day to day, we all know that Mom is a huge, complicated job, influenced by many factors. Mothers are the nurturers, caretakers, managers and glue of our families, and so much more.
Although our quest for perfectionism can feel justified in our community of overachievers, it would serve us well to accept that we are humans, not superheroes. We all make mistakes, endure tons of guilt, blame ourselves when our children hit a bump in the road; just like our mothers did before us. Relationships with our own mothers can be complicated as well. So, what if your Mother’s Day experience doesn’t fit on a Hallmark card? Here’s how I suggest you can give yourself the gift of a ‘mindful’ Mother’s Day.
Give yourself permission to not be perfect
Life is complicated for the modern mom. No matter what your children’s age, we all struggle with the same kinds of challenges. The mom’s in my mindfulness boot camp groups, as well as my clients, seem to express the same themes. Some common ones are: feeling like they are being pulled in so many different directions, struggling to get to-do lists done, not enjoying the moment… because their minds are usually thinking about the next one. In addition, they want to find meaning, purpose, and balance, all while trying to be the perfect mom. Ditch the perfectionistic mindset, you have a lot on your plate, and it will all get done eventually.
“Put the oxygen mask on yourself, before you put it on someone else.”
Filling up our own cup first is an essential ingredient to being a good mother. If we are run down, stressed, always trying to be perfect, we are not able to be the best mother we can be.
One thing at a time
Often we do not slow down enough to realize how chaotic our lives have become. We are so busy multi-tasking (which we think is something to be proud of), that we can sometimes stop doing anything well because we are constantly breaking our attention going from task to task. While I do realize multi-tasking is part of the job description, focusing on one task at a time makes us more effective, and decreases stress and anxiety.
Try a bit of self-compassion
In addition to self-care, self-compassion is something we, as mothers, neglect to practice. It is much easier and natural to beat ourselves up over everything from not cooking dinner to our child’s less than perfect behavior. Life happens. #%&! happens. Every mother goes through this. It’s part of the journey.
Try and tame the negative inner critic that berates you for your shortcomings. We all try to do the best we can, but despite our tireless efforts, we can’t guarantee to anyone ever that everything will run smoothly. We will always have moments when we freak out on our kids, and circumstances will arise that lead us to neglect certain tasks.
Our kids will struggle–and that’s ok because that is how they will learn and grow. So, when you hear that critical voice talking in your head, acknowledge that it’s there and then show yourself some compassion and stop paying attention to it. Instead, focus on all the good and positive things–the wonderful job you do as a loving, caring mom.
Cut your own mom some slack
Take a look at your relationship with your own mother, and show her some compassion as well. When you are little, your mom’s the center of the universe. The moment you realize she is simply human, and lacks the superpowers you thought she did, can be difficult to reconcile. You put her on a pedestal and it turns out she’s a flawed human being…just like you. There is something scary and humbling in realizing that. Accepting your mother for who she is, imperfections and all, will lead to a better relationship–you can’t change her anyway. Celebrate the good.
So if you struggle as a mother, or struggle with your mother, you are not alone. Parental relationships are complicated. D.W. Winnicott coined the notion of the “good enough mother,” which means that her failure to adapt to every need of the child helps them adapt to external realities. So, let’s honor all aspects of the journey and embrace imperfection as the Hallmark of motherhood. Happy Mother’s Day!
Jodi Baretz, LCSW, CHHC, is a psychotherapist, mindfulness and holistic health coach at The Center for Health and Healing in Mount Kisco. She is the founder of the program and author of Mindfulness is the New Skinny, and a speaker on mindfulness. She lives in Millwood with her husband and two teenage boys, Visit jodibaretz.com and join her this summer for meditation by the lake.