Alexandra Hughes is founder of calmjoyfulmom.com and host to the Clear Mind | Present Mama Challenge – a free 5 day challenge that helps mothers to ditch overwhelm so they can free themselves up to breath, nurture relationships and be present doing what they love with those they love. She is mother to 3 littles, wife to an ever-traveling husband and CEO and manager for her family household of fabulous five.
(Photo: Beltway Bambinos smallest Bambini)
Last week, a friend of a friend announced her pregnancy. She is 43 years old and has been trying to get pregnant for quite some time. Everyone is delighted for her. Delighted and on guard. My friend’s friend didn’t jump on the baby bandwagon with everyone else. She has only seen motherhood from the outside. And if she is anything like I was when everyone else was getting pregnant and I was looking on, she knows her experience will be different. It will be easier. Her little one will be better behaved. She won’t have to give up quite so much. And of course, she’s thrilled. Nobody wants to burst her bubble. To tell her about the sleeplessness, the exhaustion, the confusion, the frustration, the isolation. To mention the dramatic shifts in one’s identity, the transformation in the romantic relationship– it all seems too cruel. Besides, if she is anything like me, she wouldn’t believe it. So we stand next to our pregnant friends and hold their hands as they learn by doing. Just the way our friends stood by when we started our own motherhood journeys.
Before I became a mother I was a self-made woman on a mission to stay strong, accomplished and to succeed. I have always been a passionate person. But hey, I managed my passions well. I was organized, did power yoga and considered myself a relatively chilled out keep-it-together kind of person.
Then I became a Mom.
And when motherhood came, it chewed me up, swallowed me whole and then spit me out as some new unrecognizable, mad, crazy, woman. In the beginning I didn’t really think much would change, so I kept living at full speed. High stress became the flavor of the day. The weight of responsibility for young lives, my lack of freedom, my ever confused identity, my altered relationship with the man I loved, the isolation from friends and social events that had been such an active part of my life – these drove me to the brink of insanity. It was the confusion, the exhaustion, the frustration, the resentment, the overwhelm of it all.
And the guilt of not getting it right. (Oh the guilt!)
Today my experience and research tell me that these are all feelings shared by mothers around the world.
The myth. The romantic myth that motherhood is blissful.
It did not take very long for that myth to come crashing down on my sanity and self-confidence – both as a stay-at-home Mom and as a working Mom. As a stay-at-home Mom I questioned who I was and I regretted my financial dependence. (What of my commitment to feminism and all those working Moms out there?) I missed adults and their rational, reliable world. My brain was melting and my beautiful wardrobe gathering dust. Worst of all, I hated feeling busy all the time, constantly asking myself: “but what are you actually doing?” I yearned to feel accomplished, to have something, anything, in my realm of control. So I went back to work. It would be better that way. The financial burden would lessen. My mind would be challenged. I’d have adults to talk to. I’d come home happy and fulfilled. I’d yell less.
But here’s what actually happened when I went back to work:
Life became a guilt-plagued balancing act. A box ticking repetitive groundhog day. Every day. Rush. Get the kids ready. Get myself ready (sort of). Drop them off. Go to work. Leave work. Pick the kids up. Get the kids down. Finish work. Drop dead for the night. Start all over again.
So as both a stay-at-home Mom and as a working Mom, I was miserable, stressed, overwhelmed and completely disconnected from myself and my family.
Interactions with those I loved were anything but calm, because I’d lost my cool (myself!) along the way. All the “small stuff” (which really represented bigger stuff) was getting to me and I was losing it. My poor kids! So when baby number three made his appearance he brought along with him a moment of awakening. Maternity leave with baby number three shone a mirror on what I had become. My high-strung-hamster-wheel-guilt-plagued lifestyle was getting in the way of the most important moments and relationships in my life.
My reactions to life’s Mom-stress were explosive and my connections with those I loved, unhealthy. Overwhelm and stress had taken over. And I had turned into a hot head monster Mom. Not only was I modelling crap emotional intelligence…but my kids were getting to know this crazy woman who I didn’t even recognize as their Mama. These were moments I would never get back.
So I stopped.
I started to learn to stay calm and enjoy the ride. I effectively relearned motherhood.
And throughout this journey – through my own personal experience and my coaching work with hundreds of mothers – I unearthed 5 key (yet surprising!) bad mental habits that feed a well-meaning mother’s overwhelm and stress. These habits unite many busy city Mamas. They cross the divide between the stay-at-home mother and the working mother; the divide between the Mama with one and the mother with 4; the mothers with supportive partners and those going solo. These bad, self-debilitating habits have been adopted by many mothers. And as with any habit, they too can be broken.
Here they are:
- The Too Nice Syndrome
- And an addiction to Go-go-going.
If any of this resonates with you, know first, that you are not alone. But more importantly, know that there is support to help you ditch these habits and stop missing out on those marvelous motherhood moments (because they are there, just hiding behind the habit shadows).
Part of my work as a Mom Coach and Mentor is about dispelling the motherhood-is-bliss myth. It’s about telling the truth about this epic journey – the good, the bad and the ugly. And the other part of my work is, of course, to lift Mamas up so they can navigate the mess and stress in a way that helps them find the calm, the joy in the everyday routine.
Click here to read more about these nasty mom-stress habits and how to remedy them. You can download a pdf printable that can help you to support yourself to shift these mindset habits. You can also sign up for my Calm Mom Toolkit which has many other free resources to help you get to that motherhood place you know you deserve to be.