Anxiously, she is waiting for my verdict. She just told me, how terribly wrong things went last night.
Her three day old son cried and cried and she didn’t know what to do. Eventually she panicked and ran outside the bedroom, yelling at her husband that she couldn’t do this, so he better found a solution…
She is deeply ashamed about her reaction. So she sits and waits until I label her as ‘unfit mother’ – she obviously thinks about herself as a very bad mom.
I look at her and see her sadness, her grief. I feel her inner judgment about herself, together with guilt and shame about her behavior.
It was very sensible of you to walk away from your crying baby when your emotions were too strong to handle.
I tell her that she did the right thing by creating a time out for herself. The sound of our babies ongoing and inconsolable crying can drive us crazy.
- We feel helpless and inadequate.
- We think it is our fault.
- We don’t want our babies to suffer.
- We feel that we letting our children down, by not understanding what they need.
- We tend to blame ourselves, feeling stupid, unfit for raising a child, a bad mom.
She looks at me in disbelief. She thought I would scold her for her behavior, but instead of reprimanding her for her actions, I applaud her for running from her crying son!
She is so convinced about her own bad mom status that she tries to talk me into believing her. I give her enough time and space to tell me all her bad traits and insufficient actions of the past 3 days and nights. Not because I share her harsh vision about her own motherhood, but because I need to know where she is hurting the most, what emotions and feelings she strongly rejects within herself.
Being a maternity nurse for more than a decade, I know a thing or two about talking to upset new moms about their emotions. And I learned along the way that listening to their personal stories helps them to start clearing things up.
You cannot clear emotions before you admit to yourself that you’re feeling these emotions!
After a while, she stops speaking. She doesn’t know what to say anymore and starts crying softly, almost silently. I invite her to let all the tears she has within her come out, not fight the urge to cry. She answers me that this is a ridiculous plan; she will be crying for at least two weeks if she lets herself go! I disagree with her, and tell her why:
Unshed tears can cause an emotional blockade.
Ignoring feelings of pain and grief comes with a price. When you shield yourself from your inner pain, you numb yourself in other aspects too. You cannot fully experience joy, connection and love. That’s a big price to pay!
I say to her that I can tell her a lot more about the power of emotions, but that this isn’t the right time. Now she is doing some really important work; she is crying…
She sobs for about 10 minutes, then stops. I jokingly ask her what happened to her 14 days of tears? She laughs and tells me the tears are gone, she feels lighter, relieved and relaxed. After saying this, she cuddles her son.
During the rest of the week we have a lot of conversations about giving up on trying to be a supermom. Letting go of the ideal of the perfect mother is a work in progress, of course. But by admitting she regularly needs a break and some support, this new mom feels so much better…
When I told this mother that she did the right thing, I was serious.
Mothers need to forgive themselves for ‘bad’ days, for not being supermommy all the time!
But instead of being forgiving, most of the times, moms are their own harshest judge. As if guilt and shame make us better parents…
Almost every time I work with a family as a maternity nurse, I have a ‘you are not a bad mom’-conversation with the new mother! For me, taking down the supermommy myth is one of my most important goals.
Moms will be better moms if they forgive themselves for cranky and tired days, learn how to ask for help, share their responsibilities and worries and allow themself to relax a bit.
Self-compassion can make a huge difference! “Talk to yourself the way you talk to loved ones, when you make a mistake.”
Brene Brown , author of Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection.
And please, give yourself a break when you have a hard day. Read a book that inspires you or uplifts your spirit, take a bath, walk outside, have coffee with a friend, pamper yourself, even if it is only for 15 minutes.
What do you do to relax? Tell us in the commentbox below.
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