When you're a new mom, it is easy to oscillate- sometimes moment by moment- between complete love and gratitude for the new life you have created and complete overwhelment. It can feel impossible to meet even your most basic needs when all the time and energy you have seems to go directly into meeting the needs of your child. Sometimes it feels like too much to handle.
This was the case for a good friend of mine when her older son was three and her younger son was two months.
She called me one day in tears and told me she had done something that made her question her entire sense of self. I listened as she told me the story of what happened.
She was feeling excited and hopeful that day because she had managed to get some things done around the house while the baby slept peacefully in his swing. Toys that had been out for days were finally put away, laundry sorted and folded, and a load of dishes in the dishwasher. She even got in a shower before it was time to pick her older son up from school.
She arrived at her son's classroom feeling like she might finally have the whole mom of two kids thing under control, but that all came crashing down when his teacher opened the classroom door and asked "Oh, did the baby stay home with dad today?"
Her heart dropped. Panic washed over her. She had forgotten to take the baby into the school! She had left him strapped in his car seat!
A nauseating combination of shame, terror, and humiliation ensued as she pushed past the other parents to fetch the baby from the car where he was sleeping peacefully.
She was in disbelief that she could do something so grossly irresponsible. She never thought she could forget her own child. If she was capable of forgetting him once, she reasoned, it could happen again at any time. Maybe her own child wasn't safe with her. Maybe she didn't have what it took to be a good mom and this proved it.
After several solid hours of freaking out, she talked to some friends who all had stories of similar situations happening to them, which reminded her that she, like all other parents in the world was a human being having a human experience.
When you have an experience that threatens your core beliefs about yourself, your ability to forgive yourself is what will determine whether you are able to move forward or remain stuck in a shame spiral. I have found that the quickest way to forgive yourself is to remember yourself.
Remember that you are your own harshest critic but that your deepest core is always love. You just need to allow that love in. Imagine the "flawed" part of you as a small child begging to be treated with love despite her imperfections. See how badly she is hurting.
See that you aren't able to fully love those around you including your children when you don't fully love yourself. After all, you can't give something you don't have.
Turning it Around
I said these things to my friend as she breathed into the phone. When I was done, she replied, "I know I need to work on loving myself and forgiving myself more. But how?"
"You already know," I told her. "Start taking care of yourself and letting the outside and the inside be reflections of love. Start small and all is coming for you in time."
"You mean taking care of my body?" she asked.
"Yes, taking care of your body is an act of love that you want for yourself and that you want to model for your sons. You also need to care for your mind and spirit. You need to treat yourself like the whole person you are. It's not that complicated, I promise. And I promise every mother on the planet has been exactly where you have been. Forgiving yourself for being imperfect is a journey but it's one you don't have to take alone.
My heart went out to my friend whose confidence as a mother was so shaken by her mistake. We have all been there in one way or another as women because as women we are all creators of fragile things, whether it is a child or a piece of art or a new idea. The universe is always expanding and so are we. It's a journey for sure, but it's one we can take together.
If you want to learn more about the next steps in your journey, call me for a free phone consultation at (973) 769-2401.