Oh friend, motherhood is so hard isn’t it? We’re in the trenches wiping faces and bottoms, cleaning up messes we didn’t make, and at the same time trying to keep up with every other thing going on in our lives. It’s exhausting and honestly can be down right isolating. About a year and a half ago, I started reading books that I now refer to as my curriculum (post on this to come). These books moved me so deeply and inspired lasting change in my life. Several of these books taught me how to show up a more present, fulfilled human and mother. I’m so excited to share some of the things I’ve learned with you by sharing five ways to embrace wholehearted motherhood today.
I will never forget the moment when my son started crawling. Up until then everything was slightly more predictable in that he went where I went because I put him there, once he started to crawl, then walk, then run, the game changed! It was as if I had to reinvent myself to adapt to his everchangingness. Just because most of these physical leaps are over by the time they hit elementary school does not mean the leaps are over, they just turn into a bit more complicated – psychological leaps.
After navigating through some hard moments with my son and feeling like I wasn’t reaching him on his level, I leaned into the reality that I don’t just want to survive motherhood, I want to really thrive. Our kids are being molded into the humans they will one day become, they are future mothers and fathers, business owners, teachers, lawyers, leaders, they are servants, and they are in our care. I love the quote, “if you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” And while it seems simple, it’s also profound. Because love isn’t always roses and telling someone 3 words, it’s also very much more than that. It’s learning, understanding, researching, guiding, and helping. It’s showing up. It’s knowing. WIth my own kids, I feel so overwhelmed at times that I’m so totally unqualified for this job, and at other times I feel specifically PICKED for these two souls.
So what is wholehearted motherhood anyway? Being wholehearted is bringing all of you to the table, the parts you’ve had to work on to show up as present and real. Being a wholehearted person is the absolute goal and as mothers we have a unique opportunity to steward the hearts in our care.
So, after reading four Brene Brown books and digging in to her research, as well as this book on the developing brain, I realized wow, if I’m going to teach my kids how to show up wholehearted then I have to show up that way too. Which means, I had to deal with a lot of internal negative thought patterns rolling around in my head – specifically around not being good enough. And while that phrase floats around a lot, I didn’t really understand how it applied to me. What I learned is that I use the “not good enough” script when I’m not sure if what I’m doing is making an impact, when I question my own worth, when something – everything seems especially hard. This would show up in ways I thought I could hide from the world, but they were seeping out. I was really caught up in a line of negativity, constantly in comparison, wondering what other people thought of me, my clothes, my car, my kids. And wow, that had to go, because not only was this a total waste of energy, it was also such an ineffective way to live. What this taught me to do was to look at my emotions – my reactions and really feel what was there and ask myself a few questions like, where did this feeling come from? why did it show up? what can I do with it now that I know it’s here? One thing led to the next and I saw this changing how I show up with my kids.
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Here are five ways you can embrace wholehearted motherhood today:
- Connect emotionally: This is especially useful with your kids too, instead of throwing out the “because I said so” line or telling your kids how to feel or how to act “we don’t act this way”, it’s up to you to engage the part of their brain that is firing on all cylinders. (Note: I do not claim to be an expert on the child brain, but I did read this book and it was especially useful on this subject)
So, here’s a way I would put this into practice. When my 7 year old son would get upset and on the verge of a tantrum I would first connect with him emotionally by just simply being present with him – I can tell you’re really upset. Then once he was more in control I can bring in left-brain lessons and discipline. We would talk about the problem and work through to find a solution together. For example, “I’m mad because she is taking my toys” – my response in sincerity and warmth, “It upsets me when someone takes something that isn’t mine too, what is something we could do to help you and your sister not feel left out?”
- Move it or Lose it: Another powerful tool is move it or lose it, when your child is especially upset or in a ornery mood, have them do 10 jumping jacks, or race them outside around the house, or time them running somewhere. This has an almost immediate impact on the child’s mood.
- Name it to tame it: Have your child describe to you what happened instead of telling the child how to feel. For example if your child falls down and scrapes her arm- she is crying, instead of saying, “it’s fine don’t cry”, try, “I saw you running and you tripped on the sidewalk, that must have really hurt, then what happened?” Allow your child to explain to you how it happened which engages the part of the brain that will help her make sense of the accident.
- Learn your own triggers: When your child is having a tantruming how do you talk to yourself? (Here we go again, she is always doing this, etc.) Once you are able to dig out how your thought patterns are surrounding your child’s behavior then ask yourself how effective is your typical response?
- Stay engaged: Now that you’ve really started to pay attention to your emotions and your children’s the key is to stay that way. Consistency over time is what will make the biggest difference in you & your child’s life. One thing that has been super impactful for me over the past year is learning to meditate. Meditation does not have to be spiritual its just simply a way to center yourself and return to the present. I use meditation to release and renew my mind to focus on the things that actually matter instead of what’s simply urgent. Here’s a simple way you can begin, when you are about to go to sleep at night close your eyes and put your hand on your chest, notice your breath, breathe fully in and fully out several times, count your breaths – count 1 on the in breath, 2 on the out, 3 on the in, 4 on the out, repeat until you get to 10, and then start over at 1. Once you’ve done this several times, notice how you feel. Do you feel more or less relaxed than when your first started? The next time you feel yourself losing your mind over a situation with your kids do this simple practice – put your hand on your heart and breathe. Return to the present.
One of the ways I was especially grateful to honor my motherhood was by wearing these special coordinating necklaces from my friend over at Sela Designs. It was special to wear these with my girl. Please check out their incredible mission where 100% of her profits are donated to charity.
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