For years, I have coached clients on strategies to incorporate self-care into their daily lives as well as hosted hundreds of national Time for Mom-Me self-care groups. No matter what the socio-economic, ethnic or the family demographic is including work-at-home-moms, stay-at-home-moms, homeschoolers, or professional moms who work outside the home, all of my clients struggle with feeling entitled to incorporate self-care into their lives.
It's as if we feel that if we state we have a need to be mothered or to mother ourselves we are saying by default that we don't love our families or that we are incompetent caregivers. We judge other women when they admit that they must prioritize self-care for themselves even when we understand that refueling makes us better mothers. We challenge the notion that as women we can responsibly nourish ourselves without neglecting our responsibilities. We don't follow the same advice that we give our children such as rest when you've done too much and aren't feeling at your best, eat three meals a day and choose friends that affirm and support you. We push through and ignore the most basic signs of self-care. This is a big reason that so many mothers silently harbor feelings of resentment and loneliness.
So this week, I interviewed Dr. Melva Green, board certified psychiatrist and the expert doctor on the Emmy award-winning TV show A&E's Hoarders, to get her perspective on this issue. Dr. Green is a mother that values self-care so I wanted to learn from her wisdom.
Mia Redrick: What is your perspective on self-care in motherhood?
Dr. Green: While I'm a board certified psychiatrist, my heart as a shamanistic healer has long witnessed the loss of self care (what I term self LOVE) with the loss of community, so bear with me as I share with you from that view... through that lens.
MR: So, in your opinion, the loss of community influenced the loss of self care?
DG: In the days of old, before cell phones, fast food and Internet "everything," communities had rituals, traditions... things that brought them together. The rituals of preparation for motherhood and the celebration of the sacred life joining the community were precious turning points. Elders taught the woman self-caring principles deeply entrenched in a feminine wisdom. It was an honor to line-in to care for the woman "with child" and for months to a year thereafter. In fact, it was an honor to BE a mother... one of the greatest.
MR: Yes, an honor and a cultural understanding supported by the community. So, how did we get to a place where we associate moms who need consistent downtime with weakness?
DG: The fight against educational, social and political injustices were undeniably invaluable. However, as women fought for "equal rights" of men, intentionally or unintentionally, many of us became quite "manly." The ancient ways of nurturing, self nourishment, tenderness to Self and others were deemed "weak." All sorts of books, ideologies like thinking like a man and teaching hardball, became the new pop psychology. I'm still unsure how since any woman who's ever given birth and any man who's ever witnessed a birthing knows there is nothing harder, stronger and simultaneously vulnerable and beautiful as this event. But such is life.
MR: So why do women find it difficult to feel this sense of entitlement?
DG: Because the messages have become confusing. Many women believe they have to BE "hard" or otherwise, prepare to be "seen" as weak. Their inner-tuition tells them what's best but the old lies and baggage make for some heavy emotional conditioning and very tight mental squeezes. Which brings us around to this issue of work/life balance... two words -- MORE DOGMA! Follow your heart and the world follows you. Period! Feminine Power is creative, dynamic... not dogmatic. When mothers dance in the TRUTH of this, the issue of imbalance heals itself.
MR: Yes, excellent point. I agree and this will impact the symptoms of needing a time out?
DG: We will watch the rates of what my colleagues and I see as panic attacks, depression, anxiety or good ol' fashioned unhappiness drastically fall. Less and less we will see mothers painfully unaware until they're in the throes of emotional breakdowns and despair.
MR: Any last words Dr. Green?
DG: And finally, to challenge our "conditioning" comes with its unique challenges. It gets hard. It's unpopular. But, it's worth it... Because FREEDOM is the ultimate gift of perseverance.
MR: Thank you Dr. Green.
When we listen to one another without condemning another's needs, we are all better. We provide a space that is non-judgmental, supportive and provides mothers with the same embrace that they give their families. I hope you enjoyed this interview and I look forward to sharing another perspective soon about this important subject.