Overcoming Mom Malaise

….and other feats of the modern day mom wanting to reconnect with her self 

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“I’m so busy making sure that everyone in my family is thriving, that I forgot to do it for myself!”

“I wish I could get my mojo back!”

I love my life! I love my kids! And they are my priority! But I feel like something is missing and that something is ME.”

 

Sound familiar? It’s not often discussed outside the covenant of mothers but there seems to be a degree of “Mom-Malaise” going around amongst us. As a mom who has “been there” and a life coach who specializes in the mom-space, I’m seeing this most often with intelligent, capable, loving mothers, privileged enough to devote themselves wholeheartedly to their kids but conflicted inside because they feel as if they’ve lost layers of themselves in the process. Now to be clear, it does not affect every mother; it’s not depression, nor is it even “unhappiness.” It’s more like a reoccurring discomfort or restlessness that can leave her feeling unlike her self.

That is, the version of her self that she misses most.

 

Mom Malaise:

It’s more like a frequent discomfort

or reoccurring restlessness

that leaves her feeling unlike her self.

That is, the version of her self

that she misses most.

 

In my coaching practice this is happening most commonly with mothers of tweens, teens and kids preparing to go off to college, with a predictable correlation to their kids’ natural, healthy, expected (but no less painful for mom) separation. The further away we perceive our kids to go, the more we’re faced with questions like:

“Who am I ?”

“What’s my relevancy”

“What’s my purpose?”

“What now?”

    Incredibly grateful for their fortunate circumstances (having a home, plenty of food, time to spend with their beloveds, etc.) some may find it difficult to admit that right along side all that gratitude and appreciation for their good lives and beautiful children can also exist a certain lack of personal fulfillment.

    “There are starving people on the planet….so much pain and suffering and I have so much. Who am I to want more?” they ask.

    “This is the life I asked for! Who am I to complain?

     

    How can I feel so fortunate for my life

    yet disconnected from my self

    at the same time?

     

    Accustomed to putting their families first, some may repress dreams to the point that they don’t know how to access them any longer. Or if they do remember their former aspirations, perhaps they busy themselves enough that self-actualization seems like an “impossible” feat unless human cloning gets FDA approval.

    And let’s face it, society has a long history of applauding women who sacrifice themselves for family, does it not? So it becomes very tempting to pour ourselves unilaterally into motherhood and to even feel quite good about it in the process.

    ….Until it does not feel so good.

    So what’s a mother to do when she craves more balance?  Wants to get her mojo back? How does she honor both herself and her family at the same time? How do some women pull it off?

    Well, it starts with giving ourselves permission to pull it off. We’ve all heard the Oxygen Mask on the Airplane example ad nauseum by now, right? “You have to replenish your own oxygen first before you can be of service to others? “ It’s an overused example, but it’s true.

    Study after study has been done on the theory that happiness is contagious, happiness is good for our health and beneficial for productivity, a sense of purpose leads to a longer, more meaningful life. But it doesn’t take a research report to understand that most humans are better suited to meet the demands of family when they are happy. (Anyone who’s ever taken a nap knows this!) So there must be other obstacles stopping mom from pulling down that Oxygen Mask and going after the self-care and fulfillment that she craves.

    The number one objection I hear from women in this position is that they believe there’s “not enough time” to pursue anything else, particularly something meaningful for themselves while juggling a family. And usually, they’re right. There’s not enough time if they keep their current schedules. Moms I meet are not lazy; they keep busy from day to night. (But as I’ll discuss below, there IS a way to pull it off.)

    But but but but…

    there’s not enough time!

    And and and ….

     

    Another obstacle: just as these busy moms feel pressure to self-sacrifice, there’s simultaneously pressure to “Be More!” It looks and sounds like this:

    Be more!

    Do more!

    Look Better!

    Age-Backwards!

    Eat Better!

    Write that book!

    Carpe Diem!

    Carp Tacos on homemade gluten-free non-GMO tortillas made from ancient artisanal maize with a side of pre-biotic cabbage slaw

    Downward Dog on a cliff in tiny yoga shorts and post it on Facebook! Intagram! Snapchat! Live Me!    (yes, there’s a new one to learn about.)

    #Slay. All. Day!

    The noise can be dizzying and the pressure from these two sides may feel like a societal vice grip. This is when many a mother will become inert and decide to take a seat on what I call “The Curb of Purgatory” – a very crowded space that sits right between the Self-Sacrifice House & the Pressure Palace. Not knowing which way to go since neither felt exactly right, I sat there on that curb for some time myself. Watching. Wondering. Wishing. Worrying. Wanting more but now knowing how to get it.

    “I miss that feeling of thriving! I have all of these pipe dreams about exciting endeavors I want to do on the side,  but then every time my kid gets the sniffles I think, Oh no…how could I possibly? Who would be there with the Klee-nex?!”

    – me, circa 2006

     

    This is the stage at which most of my clients come to see me. They know they want something different in their lives, but they may not know what just yet, or if they do—they don’t know how to get it while remaining devoted to their families. More often than not, they want to reconnect with their original self.

    This is an essential first step in a longer process of reestablishing authentic dreams, desires and goals tailored specifically for them. This also when I introduce clients to a process known as “Crowding Out.” I teach clients to “Crowd Out” that which is not serving them in life and repopulate their lives with “What does.” And the very first thing we crowd out? Limiting (untrue) beliefs like:

    • “I’m just a mom and that’s not enough
    • “I don’t deserve to ever put myself first”
    • “It’s impossible to pursue something for myself while remaining devoted to family”
    • “There’s not enough time”
    • “Nothing is worth doing unless it’s done fabulously well”

    I teach clients to “Crowd Out”

    that which is not serving them in life

    and repopulate their lives with “What does.”

    And the very first thing we crowd out?

    Limiting (untrue) beliefs

     

    (There’s more to the process than can fit in a paragraph, but — it works.) We all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s how we use them that counts. And just as important: being busy is not the same as being productive. And being productive is not the same as being fulfilled. Strategically utilizing our time and making it feel more meaningful is the key.

    The excitement starts here and this is when I see women coming alive, reconnecting with and showing their authentic selves again. It’s a very rewarding, exhilarating moment! It may cause them to feel raw and vulnerable but also incredibly liberating, expansive and filled with possibility.

     

    We all have the same 24 hours in a day.

    It’s how we use them that counts.

    And just as important:

    being busy is not the same

    as being productive.

    And being productive is not the same

    as being fulfilled.

    Strategically utilizing our time

    and making it feel more meaningful

    is the key.

     

    At this point we may also want to explore topics like:

    • Creating practices that encourage personal authenticity; discovering true desires, not imposter goals
    • Giving self permission to discover options (Hint: a decision to try something does not need to be a life–sentence; sometimes the right thing for a person can be a period of  exploration)
    • Establishing a growth mindset that allows the client more flexibility as she adjusts and pivots accordingly; making tweaks to her schedule, methods and life until she’s living the one she was meant for
    • Establishing goals -from baby steps to follow through and back again
    • Responding to friends and family who may be threatened by the client’s new growth
    • Learning to expect obstacles and establishing the internal tool kit to overcome them
    • Expecting a zig zag trajectory and foraging ahead (without getting carsick!)
    • Personalizing your Waze: Continually checking back in with internal compass to assess any needed navigation tweaks

     

    screen-shot-2016-04-22-at-3-40-02-pm-574x300
    Photo credit: Terry Anderson at Rodeo Realty

     

    As it turns out, there IS an Rx for Mom Malaise, and it starts with reconnecting with one’s authentic self in a committed way, and continually navigating from that honored place of truth. Every person is unique and on their own journey, but they do not need to make the trip alone.

    I meet my clients where they are, give them the tools to navigate through their path more adeptly, guiding them and applauding their successes along the way. For some that will mean helping them find more fulfillment in their daily life exactly as it is; for others that may mean carving out time for some exciting new endeavors that speak to their soul and/or striking a healthy balance between home and work. The possibilities are endless, but to get on the right path it starts with truth and the permission to honor it.

     

    Rx for Mom Malaise (and so many other conditions, really!):

    • giving ourselves permission to thrive

    • reconnecting with and honoring one’s authentic self

    • continually navigating from that place of truth

4 thoughts on “Overcoming Mom Malaise

    1. Thank you Cyndy! It really is a more universal theme than we give it credit I think. It happens to men and women as they transition out of their careers…. to spouses as they grieve losses of their significant others…. applicable to many scenarios where we might wonder about our new role and how that affects our changed identity or perception of ourselves. We are more alike than different in these ways. Since we are constantly changing, evolving, growing (let’s hope) so too does our self-assessments and identity. As with anything, it’s our ability to adapt that becomes so influential to outcome. This is why I love coming back to a “growth mindset” …it tends to make it more comfortable of a process. 🙂

  1. This was such a well executed article capturing all the finer points of being mom 101. 102, 103 and the advanced honors course of Who Can Kill Themselves the Hardest. I love your writing, love your blog, and your essentials of being a woman in general. Your views, studies and experiences offer such a refreshing and lighthearted view of a weighted dilemma we all face when embarking on the challenges of motherhood and identity. It is a wonderful world to be in but those of us with winged hearts, it proves quite challenging. Thank you for your words and wisdom, and always, your friendship. xx

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