Being a mother entails many duties nowhere listed in the job description. It requires, as author Elizabeth Stone put it, “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” And with that expansion of love comes surrender, sacrifice, and often, too much self-judgment and critique. There’s a fine line between surrender and martyrdom, communion and collapse. This Mother’s Day, consider these tips for finding more ease in taking up the mantle of motherhood.
1. Hold your work as sacred
Whether you are a stay at home or working mother, it’s tempting to disregard how difficult and demanding mothering actually is. But when you start to see mothering as a higher calling, as part of your deeper purpose, it reframes the seeming drudgework as a key part of a transformative context. As Meg Meeker writes in The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers, “Each of us mothers is created to fill a calling. First and foremost, we were born to be really good moms. We weren’t born to be mothers who are thin, rich, smart, who drive a lot, buy our kids great clothes or get them into good colleges.”
She suggests beneath the quest for status is the real driving force: the sense that our presence is important to another person. We get distracted from full presence, full embodiment, because we are afraid of what lies beneath the superficial in us. When we put all comparisons and self-improvement projects aside, who are we? What depths in us are waiting to be discovered? That is the work of making motherhood more fulfilling—tapping into your deepest essence and sharing it with your kids.
Try it: Meeker suggests dropping the habit of comparing, competing, and impressing others—especially other moms. Wanting to impress is a sure sign of inauthenticity. Instead, focus on what’s alive and important for you. Follow those cues rather than simply keeping up with the Jones’.
2. Find your tribe/sisterhood
The idea that it takes village to raise a child is much more than a cliché. It means that motherhood needs community, support, companionship and the bonds of deep friendship. Being a mother is a relational process, and it is through our friendships, that we experience the fullness of supportive relationships—and how best to support each other and our kids. My web of friendships with other moms has taught me more about mothering than anything else.
Try it: Friendship takes work—and effort. Nothing is more worth it. Go out of your way to practice being a good friend, being available to others when they need you and asking for help (or companionship) when you feel the gnawing of desperation. Remember that friendship isn’t a luxury—for most of us, it’s a necessity. Do what it takes to maintain, nurture, and invigorate the friendships that hold meaning for you.
3. Focus on fullness
Instead of all the energy that goes into self-assessment, the mental lists of comparisons (with other moms) we make unconsciously all the time, go deeper than the jealously these comparisons provoke. Jealously points us to an insecurity or lack we feel in ourselves, and it’s worth exploring the vulnerability that jealously can cloak. Jealously is corrosive, but naming it, acknowledging it, and taking it deeper diffuses its power. It can take you to a place of innocence, of exploring what you do really like about yourself, and how good it feels to find ways to be comfortable in your own skin. Focus on what you do have rather than what you don’t. And extend this gratefulness, this inner applause, to those close to you. Give frequent verbal applause to others tips the balance from empty to full.
Try it: Along the lines of praying for our enemies, give praise to someone you have difficult feelings for. Try to see their gifts instead of just their faults. That kind of generosity in yourself—what we in fact crave in others—can be remarkably healing for the soul.