When we think about an ideal mother we tend to think about someone who is nurturing, loving, caring, compassionate, available, soft, and empathic. In reality we are not able to nor are we meant to live perfection. As a mother I am tender and kind but I can be surprised by the prickly reactions I have sometimes. I have my moments where I blunder. Other times I feel capable to handle any challenge, be it the skinned knee, the homework struggle, or the hurt heart.
“A few weeks ago I had a difficult moment as a mom. I lost my cool, was piercing and sharp with my words. I called up a friend and downloaded my heavy hearted moment. It is important to know that we are not alone in these spiny moments of mothering. What I aspire to as a parent is to learn these interactions and to stay committed to the relationship. I trust in my ability to repair my mistakes no matter how long it takes. I am learning the art of accepting my flaws and challenging myself to grow in the face of them. Yes, even cactuses bloom.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Inside and Out
A recent dream:
My daughter and I were in a prison. My daughter tried to escape by running out but each time sliding glass doors would close, preventing our exit. We could see the expansive, wild world, through the glass but freedom came with patience. I suggested to my daughter that if we slowly approached the doors they would remain open…and then we were free to pass through, to enter the world.
My reflections since this dream have involved inquiry about the mother-daughter relationship as this exists internally (as parts of myself) and externally in the world. In what way have I imprisoned my feminine nature? What allows me to find freedom? In what ways can I slow down, have patience, allow the young parts of myself to be tempered by my wisdom Self? How do these patterns shape my choices as a mother of my children?
Since then my daughter and I had a fantastic conversation during a hike. I suggested that she and I pick out animals that represent us when we are in conflict. She grabbed onto the idea and quickly assigned each of us our animal. She told me that I am a badger because I am very patient until someone crosses a boundary and then I can be quick to get angry. I am then persistently on her until we get things figured out. I belly laughed, “you nailed me!” We then decided her animal and those of my son and husband.
She then offered that we each have another animal that comes out when we play. She gave herself the mountain goat because she loves to climb. As we walked together I felt playful, spontaneous, and connected. The doors opened. We were free.
The Sacred NO
Unbridled care, compassion, and empathy can lead us to over-extend in the name of “doing good.” If we do not set limits or boundaries we can end up taking responsibility for other people’s emotions, behaviors, or inaction. It doesn’t do anyone any good to run ourselves ragged.
When I hold my children accountable I help them to grow up. It is a sign that I care. If they are hurtful and I do not set limits they get the message that I am not paying attention or that they are not important. When honor my boundaries I am modeling that I am able to take care of myself, it is not their job.
I also aim to listen carefully to the ways that my children say NO. This is one way they assert independence, control, and power. I want to respect my children and support their Will in the world. Honoring our own limits and respecting those of the people we interact with is a sacred dance.
When our NO gets repeatedly dismissed or overrode there are consequences…we might lose touch with our truth and become overly compliant. Or we can lose touch with healthy anger and either implode (turn against ourselves) or explode (turn against others).
In what ways have you been overriding your NO? Saying yes when you really want to say NO is a form of self-sacrifice and builds resentment. Swallowing our NO becomes self-harm. You are worthy and deserve to have a NO. Embodying your NO is a powerful practice. In what ways does honoring your NO help you say YES to the very experiences that you long for in the world?
It is important to know that we are not alone in the challenging moments of mothering. We all have times when we are rough around the edges. Ultimately, what I trust is the knowledge that we grow stronger as we successfully navigate challenges in life. Such success requires a willingness to acknowledge when we got it wrong and discerning what is needed to rebuild connection and trust. Accepting ourselves in the midst of a difficult moment builds empathy and allows us to nurture and mother ourselves. With the waters of compassion we soften our jagged edges.
- Attachment Parenting and Real Life
- Support for managing your child’s meltdowns
- Parenting and the Transgenerational Legacy
About Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Dr. Arielle Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist, wife, and mother in Boulder, CO. She offers trainings for therapists, maintains a private practice, and has passions for the outdoors, yoga, and writing. Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole (Fall, 2016). She is the developer of Resilience-Informed Therapy which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic (body-centered) psychology and time-tested relational psychotherapy. Like Dr. Arielle Schwartz on Facebook, follow her on Linkedin and sign up for email updates to stay up to date with all her posts.