Thursday, April 16, 2009

being gentle with ourselves

A very dear friend of mine called me last night crying from her van. After a difficult day at work, she found herself in tears, wondering why she couldn't get her life together, why was it so hard when others make it look so easy. As someone who is highly accomplished, competent and brilliant, life with three children ( 11 months, 3 and 4 1/2), living in a new community away from family and trying to find some ground to stand on was just becoming too much. So last night she allowed herself to crumble.

It got me to thinking about our unrealistic expectations of ourselves as mothers. After the first wave of feminism, we were free to "have it all." We could have a career, have a family and a sex life and do it all with style. As young girls growing up, we learn that the whole world is there for us, all we have to do is reach out and grab it.

While I am so happy that I don't have to be shackled to the stove bare foot and pregnant, I often question this idea of us being "Super Moms" or worse "Yummy Mummy." Is it really possible to give 100% to our families, work and ourselves? What is realistic for us to expect of ourselves? And who are we trying to impress? Ourselves, each other?

My friend said to me last night, "I'm accomplished in so many places in my life, and now I can't even get my laundry folded, what is wrong with me?" My heart went out to her because I have been in that same place myself, many times. The truth is, we are not meant to be mothering on our own. As a species we have evolved to live in tribes and care for each others young. We need the support of the whole community to make parenting work.

Somewhere along the line we put mothers in homes by themselves, removed their support systems and told them that they not only needed to keep the house clean, the children well behaved, the husband happy and content in all respects, we also could have a career and somehow keep it all in balance. Is this realistic or are we stretched too far? Do we need to be more open about what we give up, at least for a time, when we have our children? Is that bad? What does surrender really look like? How can we be gentle with ourselves and embrace What Is in the moment instead of looking to the past or expecting things in the future?

If the experience of pregnancy and birth transforms us, then why do we expect to remain the same? much to think about, I'll have more tomorrow.

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