By Jessica Fahrenholtz
Motherhood is natural, so it is supposed to come easy, right?
Before having children of my own, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be an excellent mother, but when the realities of postpartum and motherhood set in, all I felt was fear and doubt.
Pregnancy was rough, but I couldn't wait to hold my baby. I did everything by the book - no caffeine, no lunch meat - I wanted it all to go and be perfect. Then the day came for my baby to enter the world, and something unexpected happened.
When my daughter was placed in my arms, I didn't know what to do. This surprised me. Surely motherhood was a natural instinct, and I waited for those primal urges to guide me ... for hours, then days, then weeks, and then months... I waited, but all I felt was fear.
Was I holding her right? Was I making enough milk? Was I comforting her too much? I was giving motherhood my all, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was not good enough.
Becoming a mother is one of the most transformational journeys a woman can make, yet this transition from woman to mother is something we don't talk about or prepare for.
When a child is born, so too is a mother.
I felt unprepared for the postpartum period. No one told me about the emotional ups and downs ... about the doubt and fear that comes with being a mother. I expected parenting to be challenging, but I didn't know I would spend hours rocking my new baby and wondering What is wrong with me? Why am I struggling?
Motherhood seemed to come so easy to everyone around me, yet here I was, barely keeping it together. To me, that could mean only one thing; maybe I was a bad mom.
I wish I could say that I quickly found a solution to my insecurity as a mother, but it took another baby to realize I needed help. You see, I was raised in a home where we did not show our emotions. We did not ask for help because needing help was a sign of weakness, and crying was met with a sharp, "dry up!"
I knew I wanted to break that cycle with my children, but I found myself demonstrating precisely what I wanted to break. I was not asking for help despite feeling like I was drowning. I was also afraid to cry and share my emotions because I thought I would be labeled a bad mother.
Because I was holding it all in, to the outside world, I was fine; I was the perfect mother. Inside, however, I was withering away. My anxieties and fears about being the ideal mother were slowly but surely eating away at the lively and confident woman I once was.
As a teacher, I knew that the best way to enact change was to lead by example. I knew that If I wanted to raise my children differently, I had to create space for emotion in our home. I had to create an environment where asking for help and making mistakes were welcomed and respected. I had to create an atmosphere of self-love and acceptance.
How could I tell my children that they were enough, loved, and meant to do great things if I did not love myself and believe in my own self-worth? I knew the change had to start with me.
That meant loving myself. Every part. The stretch marks, the tears, the silly, and the angry. I needed to practice loving every part of me if my children were going to grow up doing the same. This would take action!
So, I started a new routine in our home. For me, it was beginning every morning by writing three things I am grateful for in my life. I try and make one of those things straightforward, the sun on my face or the breeze in my hair.
I also started ending each night by writing three things I did well that day. These two new habits took me only a few minutes, but their impact was incredible.
Within a week, my entire focus began to shift from I am not enough to I am so grateful for this time with my girls, and maybe I can do this.
I started to tackle my insecurities, which was a massive step in the right direction, but I wanted to take it a step further and give my children the tools to love and accept themselves no matter who they decided to be.
I searched for social-emotional resources that I could use at home and stumbled upon Generation Mindful. Their tools gave our family the peaceful and emotionally-supportive structure we needed to thrive.
Using the Time-In ToolKit from Generation Mindful, I created a calming corner in our home when my daughters were just one and two-years-old. Before they even understood the concepts or could read the words, we would sit in our calming corner, openly talk about our feelings, talk about what they meant, and how to handle them.
The calming corner gave me the gift of an open and honest dialogue with my children about the emotions I was taught to stuff down.
This free space to talk about our emotions is what I always wanted for my kids, but never having it myself, I didn't know where to start. The tools from Generation Mindful gave me everything I needed to set a positive change in motion for my entire family.
As the proud mother of a now thriving kindergartner and preschooler, I am grateful every morning for the peaceful and loving home we have built as a family. We are far from perfect, but we are learning together to trust our intuition and love ourselves for everything we are and everything we aren't.
It may have taken me a little longer than expected, but I now celebrate being a mother. I love myself, and although I am not perfect, I am enough!
****Jessica Fahrenholtz is a mother, educator and copywriter. She spent 5 years working as an elementary school teacher before having children of her own. She now uses her passion for education and her love of writing as an educational copywriter.
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