“Tough as a mother.”
“The toughest job in the world.”
“It is the greatest thing and the hardest thing.”
These phrases are commonly used to describe motherhood...and they are right. Motherhood tests our strength in every way possible - physically, emotionally, spiritually. Depression and anxiety rates in women are on the rise, more so in developed westernized cultures than in developing nations.
Why are those of us in developed countries, with all the 'things', the luxuries, the comforts, more prone to depression and anxiety? While there are a number of theories on this, the main one involves the proverbial 'village', or more specifically the disappearance of the village in Western society. In poorer countries and regions people function more like a team - they are in close contact with their neighbours and they rely on them. They help each other. In the absence of material possessions, they have community. Those of us who live in more Westernized regions actually have less meaningful contact with our neighbours. We may spend a lot of time around other people, but we aren’t engaging with them in meaningful ways. We go to a grocery store full of people, but we don’t talk to any of them. We are surrounded by people, but we aren’t contributing to each other’s wellbeing.
As women and mothers, we (Janis and Jenny) have lived this reality, both reaching a point where we were tired, overwhelmed, cranky and wanting more… no… knowing that there had to be more. Recognizing the need for change we forged full steam ahead to create more connection, more contentment, more inner peace...more of all the things necessary to become the best versions of ourselves. And we know this mission isn’t just for us alone. This kind of work is ever present. You don’t just wake up one day changed. It is work and the work is ongoing.
One of the biggest 'a-ha' moments for both of us has been to acknowledge that one indeed cannot pour from an empty cup. Here are some of the practices we are working on to help fill our buckets so that we in turn can give of ourselves without becoming drained and resentful:
1. FIND YOUR VILLAGE
It seems that because we have access to all 'the things' (a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs) we need for a comfortable life we feel as though we don’t have to rely on other to help us. In this, the concept of the village has been abandoned. Historically, the village allowed for support in terms of trading food and goods, but more importantly, there was a ton of interaction - meaningful interaction. Did you know one of the biggest predictors of how long you will live is based on your close personal relationships and social integration? Not diet and exercise (though those are of course important) - social contact. So find that village…or if you can’t find one, then make your own!! Connect with those around you who are in similar seasons of life. Have mommy coffee dates. Take turns babysitting for each other. Help each other out - take someone a meal when they are having a busy week, drop off some ear plugs and wine when you know your fellow momma is sleeping training their baby, do unto others as you would like done to you (it’s the golden rule for a reason!). Not only will having a village make you feel good, it is actually good for you and your longevity.
2. LEAVE YOUR HOUSE
Get outside!! Staying indoors is easy. As a couple of homebodies, we LOVE to be in our comfort zone. And home is, well, comfortable. No need to get dressed, no need to wash our hair - and that, my friends, is comfort! Having said this, getting outside is so, so important for your mental health. The act of being outdoors has many documented benefits, such has the ability to lessen feelings of stress and anxiety. So get outside! You can keep it simple, your back yard or a walk around the block will do. Not only will the fresh air de-stress you, your kids can burn off steam. Basically, everyone wins.
3. FIND GRATITUDE
In a world of go-go-go it can be really hard to appreciate the little things. Try this simple exercise: before you go to bed each day, think of five things from that day that you are grateful for. They can be as simple as “I’m grateful for the fact that my 2 year old let me change her diaper without screaming”. Here’s the trick: each day, you need to pick five different gratitudes. At first, it’s difficult. But then it gets easier, and eventually you will be able to, at any moment, rattle off five gratitudes. The cool thing is, you will also start to appreciate the little things as they are happening. Studies have shown that if you adopt this practice for a month, your baseline level of optimism will improve.
4. AFFIRM YOUR TRUTH
Affirmations are powerful. Affirmations are statements, or declarations that you use to help change your mindset. By repeating an affirmation, you are training your brain to challenge and overcome self-limiting beliefs. You know the phrase “fake it till you make it”? It’s like that. We all create stories about ourselves: “I’m a bad mom”, “I never get things done on time”, “I can’t do this” etc. These are all “self-limiting beliefs”. And as long as we believe them, they are true. Using positive affirmations can help you to re-write those limiting beliefs and turn them into uplifting ones. For example, if “I’m a bad mom” plays in your head, an affirmation like “I am a caring, heart-lead mother” can help to shift your perception. It will feel odd at first, but repeating that affirmation to yourself throughout the day will slowly shift your belief about yourself. One way to get started with affirmations is to repeat your affirmation every time you look in the mirror. Or every time you hear that negative self talk start looping in your head stop it and replace that thought with your positive affirmation. “Be it ‘till you see it” is the more positive spin on “fake it till you make it”. Affirmations are very powerful tools. We love the Love Powered affirmation cards! These are a great way to integrate positive affirmations into your daily life. We have the “littles” versions of these cards. They may be geared towards kids, but these are messages we, as moms, need to hear as well.
5. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Remember - self care is NOT selfish!! What you do to recharge and be the best version of yourself is going to vary on an individual basis. Maybe you need to exercise daily, meditate, or get your morning cup of coffee in while it’s still hot. Whatever it is - do it! Make it a priority! No one is going to make you a priority for yourself - this is one is on you. Have a look at your calendar. Are you scheduled in there? Or is it full of activities for your kids? Slot yourself in there momma!! Book a dinner with some friends, schedule your workout times, coordinate with your partner or a friend so that you can take an hour to go do something alone. If you commit it to paper, you are way more likely to follow through with it. Whatever your 'cup filling' activity is - do it! You are worthy of it!!
Here’s the bottom line. We don’t need to survive in motherhood - we need to thrive in it! It takes work - a whole lot of work - but it is worth it. YOU are worth it!!
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Meet the Authors
Janis and Jenny met years before starting their families, when they both worked as Registered Nurses in the Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital. Over the past 6 years they have welcomed 6 babies into their lives (Janis has 4 littles aged 6, 4, 2 and 1 and Jenny has 2 daughters aged 5 and 2). Amongst the chaos of raising babies, working in the hospital and running home-based businesses, they recognized the need (not only in their personal lives, but within the motherhood community at large) to shift back to the village mentality. So, Janis and Jenny set out to create a virtual tribe to empower moms around the globe by advocating self-care, encouraging dreams to be chased, and ultimately by being real and raw as they share their motherhood moments. Modern Momma Tribe’s mission is to aid mommas in surviving this journey with both sanity and souls intact.