Do you ever have those days when nothing goes right? That you’re stressed to the point of breaking? And you end up hanging your head, telling yourself you are ‘rubbish’ at motherhood and balancing everything?
Recently, I heard one of my clients utter the words ‘I am a crap mum’ and it broke my heart. Yet this is not uncommon. We all have those days, I have those days – days when everything doesn’t go as planned and kids get upset, work doesn’t get finished and dinner is burnt. According to an Ernst and Young survey for workingmother.com, 49% of working mothers say they are their own worst critic. That means that almost half of us are beating ourselves up, putting ourselves down and telling ourselves that we are ‘crap’ mums.
Inevitably, when we keep telling ourselves that we “are rubbish” at this or that and use the “I am a” versus “I am being” in the sentence, we start to believe it is part of our identity and something we cannot change. We become resigned to it, get stressed, upset and possibly depressed.
What is happening in our brains when we repeat this mantra (because our brains believe whatever we tell it) is that neural pathway of ‘I’m am rubbish at being a mum’ becomes thicker and easier to travel. Furthermore, our brains will find ways to reinforce that story because our brains like certainty. So it will find more examples of how we are doing a bad job just to prove its point, reinforce that partciluar neural pathway and create certainty. You could say it is like the brain is playing ‘spotto’ (the car playing game where whoever spots the most yellow cars wins) but instead of ‘spotting’ yellow cars, the brain is ‘spotting’ examples of failure. And so the game goes on.
However, WE ARE NOT FAILING AS A MUMS.
Now I am not negating the seriousness of what it is we are feeling, but it is NOT WHO WE ARE – it is not who YOU are. It is what is happening around you and your reaction to it. But to just change the mantra isn’t going to work because your brain is still playing the same game of ‘spotto’. Instead, you need to start playing a different game of ‘spotto’. The brain needs to look for more positive examples of what makes you a good mum in order to create new neural pathways.
Here are 3 steps you can take to shift your mantra from “I am rubbish at motherhood”‘ and resigned to feeling disappointed to a mantra of “I am a good mum” with feelings of resilience to overcome those ‘crap’ days.
Take 3 big breaths.
This pause gives your rational brain, the neocortex, time necessary to catch up with your amygdala that is making you feel crazy. Also taking big deep slow breaths activates the pre-Botzinger cortex in the brain that will calm you down by slowing the release of cortisol into your bloodstream.
Ask yourself “When have I been a great mum?”
Think and say 3 examples of when you feel you have had a successful parenting day and of when you have been a good mum. Describe them in as much detail as possible and think about how your kids behaved during these times too.
Remembering these times will force your brain to create new neural pathways. With each example you are paying down myelin over that new neural pathway and making it stronger. The more this happens, the more embedded that new neural pathway of “I am a good mum” and “I am worthy” will be in your brain. All of a sudden, the brain is playing a different game of “spotto”.
Keep reinforcing the new neural pathway by repeating to yourself “I AM a good mum who is having a not ‘so great’ week and this too shall pass”.
The more you tell yourself this and back it up with examples, the more your brain will identify this “I am failing in motherhood
” story as a temporary behaviour and not your identity.
Circle back to Step 1 if you are still anxious and continue with it until you believe it a little more. Soon you will feel your breathing slow and your mind clear so you can be balanced during your ‘not so great’ week.
This shift in the “spotto” game enables you to rise up from resigned to resilient and believe that YOU ARE BEING THE BEST MUM YOU CAN.
Spotto! You are being a GREAT MUM!
Shannon coaches working mothers to bring more of their authentic self and align with their purpose to uplevel their performance so they can smash their results and then switch off at home to be present for their loved ones – happy in the knowledge that they are fulfilling their potential at work and at home.
What this means for organisations is that they don’t lose those driven, intelligent and ambitious women previously identified as “talent” to the mommy track or other businesses including self-employed after investing so much time, effort and money into their succession planning. Women do want to work and have a career with purpose yet more than 70% go back to work only for the paycheck (according to EY research) so organisations must reconnect and re-engage these women to thrive in their organisations to gain a positive ROI.
What this means for the individual is that they re-engage with their passion that drives them at home and at work. They learn to balance the two and intertwine them with a particular set of skills to be successful in both arenas. They rediscover themselves, their goals and their passion to have it all with a clear conscience.
With working mothers achieving more and being more balanced, we can improve the lives of children – future generations, everywhere. Discover more about Shannon’s business here.