My ethos around working with mothers is about holding space for them, their feelings and their needs so they can feel emotionally supported. Why? Because I firmly believe mothers need mothering.
The Toughest Job
Although there are moments of joy, pride and happiness, being a mother is an incredibly difficult job. Alongside all the good bits, there are moments of despair, hopelessness, and feelings of failure. The current generation of mothers are under more pressure than ever before – working, running a home and often caring for elderly relatives as well as small children.
Becoming a mother, whether it’s for the first time or the fifth, can bring up many emotions, overwhelm being one of them. It can also be a time when we feel isolated and alone, like we are drowning in the demands placed on us.
Mothering After Trauma
Another reason I believe mothers need extra care and support is because many of us have experienced our own traumatic life events prior to becoming parents. Motherhood is hard enough on its own, but it’s even harder when you’ve navigating trauma alongside everything else.
For me, becoming a mother brought my childhood traumas to the surface. Getting through the day can feel emotionally draining when you’re working hard to meet everyone else’s needs but also learning how to meet your own because you weren’t shown how to do this when you were a child. This is why I’ve been working through my trauma in therapy. Having time for myself with my own therapist to explore my triggers and feelings has been so beneficial. I know that working on healing my wounds from the past is helping me become a better person, both for myself and my children.
Self-Care Tips and Strategies for Mums
- Learn to Accept Help
Whether practical or emotional, we all need help sometimes. Learning to lean on other people can be hard if you haven’t had someone to lean on in the past or you’ve been let down. If this is the case for you, be gentle with yourself. It will take time, but learning to accept help will benefit you by allowing you to share the burden of parenthood with others.
- Validate Your Feelings and Experiences
Whatever feelings motherhood brings up for you, they are important and valid. They deserve to be felt, heard and understood. Emotional validation is a powerful tool, whether you do it for yourself or find someone else to listen without trying to change or challenge your feelings.
Validating your own feelings and experiences might look like saying something like this to yourself: ‘Of course you are feeling overwhelmed and depleted, you’re dealing with your children alongside past experiences that are still affecting you now. No wonder you still feel anxious or angry or scared about these current situations when this is what you went through in your early life’.
Close friends, baby groups or Family Centres can be a great source of support. Meeting like-minded mothers who are experiencing similar challenges can help you feel validated. This isn’t always the case, and sometimes you can be unintentionally invalidated in these settings, but sharing your experiences should help you feel less alone in your struggles.
- Find a Therapist Who Understands Childhood Trauma and Motherhood
Ideally, you want someone who is trained and experienced in helping mothers mother themselves as well as their children. Personally, I would recommend Schema Therapy for people who are still being affected by things that happened to them in their childhood, especially if these past experiences are feeding into unhelpful patterns and behaviours. You may need some help and support in identifying where these patterns come from, what motivates them and how you can create new patterns that will allow you to live a more meaningful life.
More on Unhelpful Patterns
One example of an unhelpful pattern you may have learned in your early life which could be causing you issues now is people pleasing. People pleasing is where we submit to the feelings, needs and views of other people and suppress our own. Often, we do this because we fear rejection or abandonment, or some kind of punishment or criticism. This can be linked back to childhood. It is often said that people pleasers were once parent pleasers. In other words, it’s a learned behaviour.
People pleasing may have helped you in your early life. It may have enabled you to have your needs met and helped you survive. When you submitted to others, you may have received love, care and attention, positively reinforcing your behaviour.
However, in your adult life, when you become a parent, you find you need to say no to something. For example, a night out with a friend because your baby is unwell. As you prepare to contact your friend, you are suddenly met with a surge of panic about what they might say, what they might think of you or how your relationship will be affected by you saying no. This can lead to lots of big feelings, indicating your inner child has been triggered.
You may notice a pattern in your adult life of situations like this where your needs, feelings and opinions are being asked for, but you just don’t have the confidence to express them. You fear the consequences of doing so, even though you may logically know nothing bad is going to happen. There is an intense feeling inside of you telling you otherwise. Often, that intense feeling is what you focus on, leading you to give in and supress your own wants or needs.
Constant people pleasing in your adult life can lead to feelings of shame, self-blame, anger towards yourself and anger towards other people. This can really affect your day-to-day life. Therapy is a space for you to explore these patterns and validate why they’ve developed, but also make meaningful changes. For example, learning that your voice, your needs, your feelings and opinions are important, and won’t be met with the abandonment or rejection you fear as a result of your childhood experiences.
Find Out More
I’m passionate about supporting mums and mums-to-be on their journey to and through motherhood. My work is guided by the belief that one of the best things we can do as parents is prioritise our own mental health, work through issues, and heal from trauma. Not only do we deserve to experience emotional wellness ourselves, we also have the power to reduce the impact of our problems on our children. If you’re interested in working with me, you can book a free consultation here. I also share lots of tips and advice via Instagram.