Someone asked me, "What makes the biggest difference for you as a mother?"
And today, my answer is simple. And I promise to share.
But there was a time, early in motherhood when our daughter wasn't yet walking and our son was mastering the terrible threes that I was spiraling HARD.
I had completely lost myself in the experience: the nursery rhymes, the arts and crafts, the homemade food, breastfeeding, the erratic sleep schedules, the whining, the demands, the diapers, peeing when I ran, the trap of it all. I had lost the traveller, the academic, the connector, the athlete, the inspired thinker, the robust leader; all of those dynamic personas and interests that I had invested love, energy, and resources into for decades were disappearing. And so was time.
I was criticizing myself fiercely for becoming invisible.
And when I wasn't feeling like a failure as a human, I was feeling like a failure as a mom.
Motherhood is challenging. It's hard. And it's relentless.
And I wouldn't trust a mom who wouldn't relate to that.
On top of the 24/7 demands, the pressure from society is over the top. So much judgement. So much expectation. So much imposition.
I consider that time in my life as my rock bottom. It might not be rock bottom for everyone, but for me, losing myself, lacking personal purpose, and feeling trapped in it all felt like rock bottom. And when you are at rock bottom, some serious life choices start pounding on your door demanding that you show up and answer.
For me, it was the choice between continuing to feel miserable, resentful, and like a failure at everything or change.
Obviously, I chose change. Do-or-die personal-warfare kind of change.
I was on a mission to change my mindset, my habits, all the unhealthy patterns I could dig up, the limiting beliefs I didn't even know I had.
I turned about-face and plunged into the scary darkness, and I committed everything I had to it.
My life is too valuable an opportunity to spend in misery.
And every painful exploration created glorious reward. The most important, most sparkly, most glorious and most profound lesson I learned is how infinitely valuable I am, how my life is for me, and that I am my own creator.
My life is up to me.
So, now to my promise: What has made the biggest difference for me as an entrepreneurial mother who is thriving with happy children in a balanced life-structure? I make myself a priority. I take care of myself first.
I cannot feed my family from an empty plate.
Teaching our kids to be happy requires me to be happy. If I tried to tell our kids to be happy or bought them things, enrolled them in every art class or sport, and did everything that I thought would make them happy, and I wasn't personally happy, they would see me as a scam.
If I tried to teach them to value themselves but did not value myself, they would see the hypocrite in me, and our relationship would be affected by that inconsistency.
If I told them they are good enough but did not demonstrate behaviour or give off energy consistent with me feeling deeply good enough, worthy, or important myself, I cannot expect to teach them to feel good enough. It's not even reasonable to expect that could be true. Kids are so tuned in; they are tapped into our energetic resonance. They read our vibration more than they listen to our words. You can't fool a kid on this.
Likewise, if I told my kids to pursue their dreams and have a happy life, to find purpose and meaning that would give them a fulfilling existence (because don't we all want that for our kids?), but had never pursued the same for myself, they would have no clue where to start. They would not be successful in those pursuits with the upbringing I would have given them.
I make myself a priority in order to teach our kids how to value themselves, how to love themselves, and how to pursue their passions and a life of purpose.
My kids are my WHY.
AND, my own wellness and happiness are my also my why.
So what does putting myself first look like?
When I shared this unpopular perspective of mothering with my younger friend (who is not a mother) who asked me this wonderful question, I could tell she was a little surprised. We are definitely not programmed with this perspective. The more common, socially-accepted view of parenting is that we give everything, do everything, manage everything, and control everything for our kids. We sacrifice everything as the great martyrs for our family. **insert recorded applause here** #amiright!
But that doesn't work. We cannot give everything to our kids. We cannot feed them and nurture them if our plates are empty, if we are not happy and fulfilled in our own purpose, comfortable in our own being.
Because when our kids are grown, I don't want them to fall in love with someone who undermines them, tries to control them, or bosses them around because of a way of being that I taught them: that that is how you make love work. And do you know how I would teach them that, by acting like their servant, by giving in to them at each crossroads, by being undermined by their demands, by reserving every resource I have for their benefit.
Oh no my precious little lovelies, we all deserve better than that.
When I put myself first and continue to grow, learn, and nurture my passions, my growth is interesting. And when I am interesting, my kids will be interested in me. And that creates a life-long connection, something I value immensely.
And then when they are grown and move out of our house and into their own empowerment, their own purposeful, interesting lives, I will still have myself, my passions, my interests, and my purpose.
I will still be whole.