Who is mothering you?

When so many of us are feeling like we’re only just surviving, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about mothering the mother.

Practical Parenting Commentator / September 24 2018

It’s easy to pamper a pregnant woman.

Her belly is a daily reminder of how much she is giving herself to the needs of her child - her body, mind and spirit are focused on the nourishment of another. And so we give to her easily.

We insist she rests. We acknowledge that she might need to do things differently. We fuss over her and we nurture her.

But once the baby is born and the child grows, the physical reminder of how much that mother is giving to her child is no longer there.

We don’t see how much she is still putting her child first.

Her thoughts go to what they need first.

Her actions centre around her family’s desires rather than her own.

Her body runs all day, her coffee goes cold as she prioritises others, her meal gets forgotten as she gets everything else done.

Who is looking after her now? Who is making sure she goes rests, she’s nurtured, and she’s fussed over?

For the most part, no-one.

We used to have a tribe of women around us, holding the baby, bringing the meals, doing it side-by-side. We used to have someone we could lean on when it became too tough - and we didn’t even have to ask. It was just assumed we would do it together. It was just assumed we didn’t have to get to breaking point.

As we mothered our babies, someone mothered us. And so it went. For generations.

Now, we’re all alone.

We don’t want to ask for help because somewhere along the line we’ve adopted the ridiculous notion that we have to do it all to be successful. We’ve accepted the lie that to let others help raise our children means we’ve failed. Why? Where did this come from? Surely our children - and our partners, sisters, brothers and colleagues - need us to be healthy, balanced and happy. Why do we believe we have to soldier on through the exhaustion on our own?

It’s time to break down that lie.

You are worthy of support, love and nourishment. Dinners dropped at your door, offers to babysit, a shoulder to cry on in the park. Not because you’re sick or because some tragedy has fallen on your family, but because you are raising the next generation.

But please don’t wait for someone else to start acknowledging this for you. Don’t wait for someone else to get the bright idea that you may like an afternoon off, or you may need help juggling things when one of your kids is sick. Our society just isn’t set up like that anymore.

You’re going to have to take some of this into your own hands. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. But going without, and soldiering on without it, is not an option.

We need you healthy and happy.

Here’s how:

Ask for what you need.

The harsh truth is everyone around you is so used to you just getting on with it, they won’t stop to think you might like some help. They think you’ve got it covered, mama - and it’s up to you to change that. Get clear on how you would like to be supported, whether it be one afternoon off a week to go to yoga or a date night once a month, and put it out there. You’re not complaining or begging - you’re just clearly stating this is what you need to be the best you can be.

Don’t know what you really need?

Yep - that’s common. When you’ve been running on adrenaline and putting everyone else first for so long, sometimes it’s hard to hear the whispers of your tired body telling you what you really need. Silence, and compassion, is the only way forward here, mama. Give yourself half an hour to sit down and write out how you’re really feeling, and play a little game with yourself. If I could have anything in the world right now, what would it be? And while a million dollars and a week at a silent retreat might come up, keep going. Underneath, the real gold is there.

Notice what is working.

Yes, it’s hard right now, but it’s also very easy to get stuck in the stories in your mind. Things like “it’s all up to me” and “nothing gets done unless I do it” means you will continue in your current stuck state. Try finding some of the things that are working in your life right now. Every single time one of your kids picks up their own shoes, notice it. Every single time your partner makes you a cuppa, or holds your hand, or asks how you really are, notice it. This not only starts to make you feel a little better, but it also means you’ve moved out of that ‘this is so hard!’ state of mind. Remember - what you focus on expands.

Mother yourself.

And on those tough days, try thinking of yourself as one of your children and ask what you really need. Just as when your child is tired or sick, you know exactly how to change your day to make sure they are OK, you’re no different. Change your plans, stay in your pjs, watch a movie with your little one. Or if that’s not possible, at least start with some nourishing food and a slower day.

No-one wins from this crazy pace we’re putting ourselves under. We need nourishment, support and a tribe around us. And as mamas, we must decide that this is our new normal. We must mother the mother.

Amy Taylor-Kabbaz is a writer, producer, speaker and mother to three young children. After more than a decade covering breaking news and current affairs for the ABC around the country, her 'traditional' career took an unexpected turn when she found herself lost, overwhelmed and diagnosed with a thyroid condition after the birth of her first daughter.