Are you finding motherhood consumes every part of your life - and you're not exactly sure why that bothers you so much? Jodie Hedley-Ward, author of You Sexy Mother, explains how to make finding your authentic self a priority.
As mums, we devote ourselves to those around us, but often fail to consider our own needs for even the briefest moment. We shower our loved ones with attention, kindness and concern - then wonder why our own hearts can sometimes feel heavy with a longing we cannot even explain.
It is often only a matter of time before we run empty and our health, relationships, and spirit start to splinter. It is vital that we awaken to the significance of our role as a mother and realise that we are the very foundation of our family's well-being. Neglect of ourselves is abuse at a very profound level. When we forget that every word, action, and intention has a powerful effect on our family unit, we can rationalise that putting ourselves last is a good and indeed "selfless" thing to do. And so begins a vicious cycle of self-sacrifice, tiredness, and resentment, often leading to depression.
The big lie
Many of us were taught by our own mothers that looking after ourselves and prioritising our needs is selfish (almost verging on sinful!) when you are a mum - but how wrong they were. What better gift can you offer your children than a strong, vibrant mother who is a healthy and fulfilled role model?
Motherhood is obviously a huge part of who we are; however, it is important to acknowledge that it isn't all of who we are as an individual. A mother needs to be reminded of the fact that she is a woman, first and foremost, who still possesses desires, needs and wants that are separate, yet equally as important as the needs and wants of other family members.
So the next time you fight that urge to indulge in a bit of me-time or spend money on a new dress for yourself, remember that small children don't know or care whether their shoes are a designer brand or their toys are boutique limited editions. They do, however, notice and care that their mum is glowing with the inner joy that comes from topping up the tank occasionally.
A healthy mum is one who feels good inside and out and, consequently, has the ability to know which battles are worth fighting (and which are not), and has the energy to keep up with the demands of her busy day. Whereas a stressed, tired and overwhelmed mum is someone who is going to find it difficult not to snap at the smallest provocation and will probably overreact when her kids are simply being kids.
I think most of us would be lying if we claimed we had never said or done something that was more out of anger about how we were feeling inside than it was about what our kids actually did. The catalyst for our inappropriate behaviour is, more often than not, the negative thoughts that manifest over time when we overlook our needs day in and day out.
A new era
We, as mums, are now demanding more from our experience of motherhood than ever before. We are more educated and well-travelled, and have enjoyed a higher standard of living prior to motherhood than any previous generation. It is only natural that when others tell us to "just get on with it and leave all selfish notions of what we want alone", we feel resentful.
We must look for a new blueprint for how motherhood can and should look. It will not be the same for any of us, as the goal is to move towards authenticity - by garnering the courage to make choices based on your own inner voice and longings, rather than what your friends or mothers around us are doing. The task, although seemingly simple, is actually our greatest challenge, as the pressures to conform to the expectations of others, and meet the needs of our family, can be overwhelming.
Open yourself to a new reality
Take inspiration from mums around you who are pursuing an authentic and fulfilling life for themselves. You will spot them everywhere once you open yourself up to this kind of reality. They are the mums working slowly but steadily towards the life they always wanted - studying via correspondence toward a course that they are passionate about, or jogging with baby and toddler in tow as they strive to create a healthy, toned body that they feel good in.
That mum with a phone in one ear and a baby nuzzling on the other is possibly negotiating the cost of her website for her new home-based, baby-inspired business. These mums have a sparkle and inner confidence that is not determined by how much sleep they did or didn't get last night, but from knowing that they are moving closer each day to their dreams. They have a purpose over and above just making it through the day which gives added meaning and joy to all that they do.
Nothing but our own self-limiting beliefs can stop us from pursuing an extraordinary life. It starts with honouring yourself as a woman first and a mother second.
If you have a daughter, start by imagining what her life will look like when she becomes a mum. If you would like to see her looking healthy, fulfilled and brimming with self-love, then start looking after yourself with as much love and compassion as you would offer her when she embarks on the amazing and hugely challenging journey that we call motherhood.
Simple steps to rediscovering your own
beauty and worth:
Jodie Hedley-Ward is the author of You Sexy Mother: A Life-Changing Approach to Motherhood (Exisle $34.99).
For more tips on looking after yourself as a mother, visit www.yousexymother.net. Sign up to Jodie's online community and receive regular inspirational updates. She also offers a web-based personalised mentoring programme, which is based on her Ten-Step Turnaround Plan, as featured in the book You Sexy Mother.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 4 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW