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Just Show Up With Love

May 5, 2017

Love is what I believe will make us all strong enough, perhaps even good enough in motherhood. 

I put my kids to bed last night wishing I had been more. Yesterday was just one of those days…..

 

No, nothing happened. Everything was FINE. In fact, we are much better than we have been, fully recovered from a nasty virus that took my tribe down for two weeks.

 

I cannot  explain why, but I was just off kilter yesterday. Ever have those days yourself? The sun is shining, the kids are healthy, life is good….but still, you want to come out of your skin?

 

I always feel really guilty when I feel this way and chastise myself:

 

Get a grip, Alicia. Life’s good. Go count your blessings and get a reality check.

 

I am a huge advocate of gratitude. Yes, gratitude is scientifically proven to lift our spirits, but sometimes I just want to be a curmudgeon and refuse to even try to count my blessings.

 

That was me yesterday: an ungrateful curmudgeon.

 

Technically, I did everything I should have as this cranky character I was. My children were fed, loved, and made it to where they need to be in the world safely.

 

Having slept it off my blues, it’s easy to think,

 

What the heck was my problem?

 

But I'm not going there today. Nope. I’m stopping that rumination of guilt and shame right now because it will only make things worse. Today, I aim to find more moments of joy, so I’m setting myself up for success by assuring myself that yesterday, I was enough.

 

I can’t do it all, or perfectly in life or motherhood. Rationally, I know this. You know this. We all know this….

 

There is a lot on all of our motherhood plates. I know I am not alone in my struggle to stay afloat. In fact, yesterday I had a conversation about this with two really awesome moms I admire who admitted:

 

“Us too, Alicia. We’re all doing the best we can.”

 

Our collective voices in motherhood are calling for us to embrace imperfection. I hear this on the playground, I read the articles on the internet. Heck, I write some of these articles myself. We need to take it easy on ourselves, do less for our kids, worry less, hover less. From what I gather, less is more in motherhood these days. 

 

This movement calling for us to embrace imperfection is important. The expectation of "perfect" should stay far away from motherhood, and I am  working hard at setting this boundary myself.

 

In fact, since motherhood knocked the wind out of my perfection sails, I’ve scaled back enough on my unrealistic expectations to consider myself a recovering perfectionist.

 

Still, when it comes to the kids…I have a really hard time doing less, and letting go without guilt.

 

I have long thought of this as perfectionism…but since that tendency is (mostly) in check, I note something else is driving me to do and be MORE.

 

I believe maternal instinct is what drives me/us mad in motherhood. Not all of us moms are perfectionists, but universally, we want to be the best we can for our children. 

 

Maternal instinct is a powerful and positive motivator, but sometimes it gets a little out of hand. These primal urges we have helped our species evolve….but in today’s world the danger I sense for my children generally isn’t going to harm them.

 

No, quite the opposite. In fact, adversity allows our children an opportunity for growth. We become resilient in facing and overcoming small challenges, and if we prevent our children from conflict they won't learn resolution or gain resilience. 

 

Resilience is what will protect my children in the world when I can’t. Therefore my goal is to raise resilient kids. Still, the thought of allowing my kids to “suffer” makes me and just about every mom squirm.

 

I tell myself:

Say no.

Do less.

Pull back.

Let go.

 

A loud voice from my heart shouts:

Yes! Say yes!

More! They need more!

Lean in. Move towards them.

Hold on, HARD!

 

When I start white knuckling motherhood, it’s my cue to pay attention to the urges, and channel them where they need to go.

 

No, I don’t ignore my negativity or stifle my instincts. Maternal instinct is a good thing, and anxiety is a natural part of my genetic makeup.

 

Yes, I have finally accepted that I will NEVER be anxiety free, but I keep myself balanced through a positive outlet. For me, this outlet is writing.

 

My writing projects an image of positivity,  but you need to know that I work hard at maintaining this graceful and optimistic voice you hear. While I am naturally an optimist, the anxiety I carry has long tried to strangle my hope.

 

I was good at ignoring or avoiding my anxiety until motherhood came along and amplified these negative voices in my mind. 

 

Let's just say I was once so caught up in being a perfect mom, the OB who delivered my firstborn quipped, "Thank God that baby latched or we would have wheeled you straight to the psych ward."

 

Funny/Not so funny.

 

#truth

 

I write about things like gratitude and optimism, but I think it's important for me to admit that I am not always the most positive person on the planet. You need to hear that my anxiety has not gone away. I am still a big hot mess sometimes...more than I really want to admit. I wrestle moments of panic…..I desperately want to get everything right and avoid failure....

 

I just have learned to accept that I will always have off days and hard moments and when I am really spiraling down the rabbit hole I catch myself with the tools of positive psychology. Then, I channel my "stuff" into something productive: I am carving out a career as a writer. Have you noticed the amount of writing I have been sending out into the world lately? Ladies, that is a lot of anxiety....

 

#justsayin

 

Now that I have become more mindful of my triggers and therefore resilient, I’m going to say something really bold.  Striving for imperfection in motherhood might not be a a healthy goal for a mom/perfectionist. At least for me, the word "imperfect" puts my maternal instinct on high alert.

 

Yes…there is beauty in imperfection. I get all of that. I BELIEVE all of that. 

 

But maternal instinct wants me to be PERFECT, and that’s powerful mom juice coursing through my veins. I will never overpower my maternal instinct, so I channel it where it's most productive:

 

Love.

 

Just showing up with love in any moment is what keeps me balanced and makes me enough.

 

This theme has emerged in a few of my recent articles and showing up with love might be the only piece of motherhood advice I’m comfortable with dishing out. 

 

You’ll never be able to judge or shame me for giving my kids too much love. I figure in any situation it’s a win-win. Not only does it make me look good (on my worst day) it always makes me feel better....

 

Moms, we are never going to get over wanting to do and be more. We are always going to be susceptible to hurt, shame, those feelings of failure.

 

But don’t harp on them.

 

Show up with love.

 

Yes, for YOU, too!!!!

 

This might even be the most important part of my little love theory here:

 

We must nurture with self-compassion; we need to eat well, exercise, take breaks, and forgive our mistakes. We need to reserve some of the love, compassion, and nurturing we bestow upon our children for ourselves.

 

I know. You want to lament your failures, focus on your flaws, and do/be better. You want to sacrifice more, because instinct tells you being a mom martyr is going to make you good enough.

 

Why don’t you just take a break from that and give yourself a big old hug….Yes, YOU….she who is trying so hard to survive motherhood needs to just give herself some love. 

 

At least, that's what I'm doing today.

 

I sometimes forget I need to love my "mom self" too, but do you know who always reminds me of the love I must receive? My mom friends. They are always looking at me with respect, compassion, and remind me I am enough just as I am in my glorious imperfection. 

 

Mom friends, I believe, are an important part of my love theory as well:

 

We must show up with love for our children, ourselves, and other mothers.

 

Yes…the mothers who surround me and the love they show me are the glue that held my cracks together yesterday. This was just a quick conversation during a Girl Scout nature walk yesterday, but our stolen moment in a garden of flowers gave me enough strength to get through the rest of the day. 

 

I am not alone.

 

The struggle is real.

 

There is no right way.

 

There is no perfect solution.

 

But love. 

 

Love from my friends carried me through a tough witching hour yesterday, so today I’m showering myself with that love.

 

Today, I’m just going to show up with love:

 

Love for my children.

 

Love for myself.

 

Love for my fellow moms.

 

With mother's day right around the corner let's think about how we can give  the gift of love to ourselves and our fellow moms.

 

Love is what I believe will make us all strong enough, perhaps even good enough in motherhood. 

 

Xo

 

 

 

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