If you’re a mom, I know you’ve had one of these days…
The other day my 5 year old was beside himself. From the car ride home to pick up his older brother from school through the dinner hour, he would break into to screaming jags that startled me. And all he wanted was mommy. He needed to be held and consoled. He would regroup and be fine and then another outburst would ensue. It was back and forth, up and down. It was the witching hour – when homework needed to be overseen, dinner needed cooking, and the dogs were doing their “feed me” dances. But everything needed to take a back seat to the emotional chaos, including dinner.
When calm finally returned, it was dark and dinner was way past due. And that’s when guilt started to rear its ugly head. The kids needed to eat but the time crunch and emotional drain of the day’s events left me reaching for a jar of tomato sauce (albeit organic) and some pasta. On the one hand, I had nurtured and fed my child emotionally and yet that voice of perfection still rose up. How could this meal’s “vegetable” be a jar of tomato sauce? I found myself guiltily grating fresh carrots and onions into the sauce to assuage Ms. Perfect before I started the conversation about being “enough”. It was enough that dinner was being made, regardless of its nutritional density. But why does this mama-guilt and demand for perfection always seem to arise? Couple that with some eco-guilt and holistic minded-moms are in for serious trouble.
Motherhood and guilt are so closely intertwined that we expect it to be a “natural part of mothering” according to Karen Kleiman, writing on “Guilt, Motherhood, and the Pursuit of Perfection” in Psychology Today magazine. We are always judging ourselves and others, fearing that we have scarred our children and failed on our parenting journey. And this persistent yardstick of perfection can lead moms down a path to anxiety and depression.
Instead, parents need to develop self-acceptance and understand that we are good enough, in this moment, with these resources, and with whatever energy and patience we can muster. Every single day is an opportunity to learn and grow as a parent and judging every imperfection – in ourselves and in others – creates a pattern of guilt and regret. As author and positive affirmation expert Louise Hay has said: “The bottom line for everyone is I’m not good enough. It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed.”
We need to change our self-talk and thoughts as mothers. This is no easy task. Self-talk is so automated we often don’t even recognize when it is going on. Listening and being aware of what we tell ourselves is the first step in changing the conversation. Slowing down to pay attention, journaling, and meditation are all great tools for identifying our negative self-talk and learning to replace it with more positive statements and beliefs. We need to know that we are good enough and creating positive self-talk is a step in the right direction. As mothers, we need to forgive ourselves and know that we are doing our best. And we need to know that sometimes a jar of tomato sauce IS enough.
Being forgiving and accepting are some of the core philosophies of holistic living – and why I created the Holistic Moms Network – to provide an opportunity for support and connection among moms. None of us is perfect, and we can share in the journey knowing that we are in good company.
Want to learn more about Holistic Living? During October, we celebrate Holistic Living Month and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to connect with us somehow – whether you can make it to our 9th Annual Natural Living Conference in Chicago, connect with a local chapter, or join us online for one of our many events scheduled throughout the month – we’d love to meet you!
A leading voice in the natural parenting movement, Nancy Massotto, Ph.D, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Holistic Moms Network and mother to two boys. An articulate and knowledgeable writer and speaker on holistic living, natural parenting, and eco-conscious lifestyles, she shares her passion with a wide variety of audiences as a presenter and author. She is passionate about empowering women, supporting mothers, and raising her children as naturally and sustainably as she can.
Image provided by SXC