Feel like you’ve lost ‘you’ in motherhood? Seven ways you can thrive emotionally – by being more like your children

Once children are born, everything revolves around them. Meanwhile, mothers struggle with high expectations and a heavy workload. As a result, we risk burning out and losing ourselves.

But not if we do the right thing.

Since the birth of her two-year-old daughter, Pauline, a successful 36-year-old property manager, told me that she feels more like a “House-Dragon” than a career woman. 

She said she feels intellectually under-challenged, unimportant, and no longer part of a “normal” life. Instead, stinky diapers, children crying, and conversations that compare the abilities of her children withher friends’ children are the new order of the day. 

Mountains of laundry piles up, toys lie around, and there is no time for cleaning or cooking. Shopping for her own needs,  putting in the effort to look pretty, and taking care of her own well-being is a minor matter for Pauline today. Going out alone with friends is a rarity. Flexibility is a thing of the past, as is fixed planning.

Pauline finds it difficult to reconcile work and family life. Coping with all her obligations and tasks proves to be a challenge. She lacks time and energy in all corners and ends and has the feeling that she can’t get anything right. 

Same, but different is the life of Bianca. She is 42 years old, a dermatologist, and the mother of Julia (seven) and Bryan (10). Many would call Bianca a “Power Woman”. It is no coincidence that her husband and her friends call her “master of the house”.

Bianca is self-sacrificing, conscientious, and takes care of everything and everyone. For her, it is important that everyone is doing well, that everything is under control, and that she presents a good picture to the outside world. She has high expectations of herself and even tries to make the impossible possible.

In addition to the household and the well-being of her own family, she takes care of the neighbors’ children, whenever possible. She also has an ear for the needs and problems of friends and family, and every Thursday evening she volunteers to take over the gymnastics lessons of the local women’s sports club. All this on top of her job as a dermatologist with a workload of 80%. 

How does she manage all this? That’s what she’s asking herself. She’s paying a high price for it. She puts herself and her own needs and wishes completely aside.

Some of you may recognize yourself in the role of Bianca, while others are less perfect and more likely to identify with Pauline’s situation.

The fact is, every mother is also a human being with needs, wishes, goals, and desires. Depending on personality, character and life circumstances, these turn out differently. 

Once women have children, their own needs take a back seat

If we take Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a guide, our basic needs begin with healthy food and drink as well as sufficient sleep. These are followed by the security needs for living, work, and income, followed by social needs such as partnership, love, and friends.

Once these are fulfilled, individual needs such as recognition and appreciation up to the desire for self-fulfillment arise. 

When a woman becomes a parent, it is typical for Mazlow’s higher-level needs, namely recognition, and the desire for self-fulfillment, to take a back seat.

The needs of children become a priority. Instead, the “deficit needs”, from basic up to social needs, which nobody misses as long as they are satisfied, become relevant and often lead to fear and discomfort if they are not met.

Women need to choose between family and career

Pauline and Bianca both went through years of training and were at the height of their careers when they faced the question: Family and/or career? Their whole life planning, and with it their pyramid of needs turned upside down.

Bianca decided to stick to her career plans in order to fulfill her dream of having her own medical practice. This made the need for sufficient sleep and social life more pressing.

Pauline, on the other hand, decided to cut back on her career in order to have time for her family. As a result, the impulse to satisfy her own needs and achieve self-fulfillment completely disappeared.

Whether alleged “Supermum” or “House Dragon”, both cling to old habits and make life unnecessarily difficult for themselves.

We’re not aware of the price we pay for our decision

The two women have consciously chosen their path. So, you’d think changing needs would be okay. But the two of them, like so many other people, are not aware of the consequences of their decision, i.e., the price they are paying for it.

Meanwhile, they stick to their habits and do not adapt their behavior to their changed needs. This is where the challenges arise, mostly unconsciously.

Due to the additional obligations as a mother, Bianca finds it difficult to live up to her claim to perfection. She does everything possible not to fail, even if she neglects herself completely. Pauline is plagued by a guilty conscience because she does not meet the society’s unspoken expectations from a mother and businesswoman. 

Such inner conflicts lead to feelings of shame and dissatisfaction and can manifest itself, for example, in listlessness, being grumpy, or bossing around. These are neither the hormones nor a change in the nature of the woman brought on by the birth of their children.

Rather, it is their own dissatisfaction. Tears, bad conscience, the feeling of failure and self-doubt.

These are just a few more examples of what can happen to a woman when she neglects herself and her needs. Not to mention the relationship or educational problems that can arise as a result. If the woman does not take this situation seriously, it can lead to serious illness, burnout, or depression in the long term.

But it does not have to come to that. 

Children are our best teachers

“A child turns everyday life into an adventure, sand into a castle, colors into a painting, a puddle into an ocean, plans into surprises and habits into life.”

While we adults have moved away from our natural abilities and instead focus on duties and responsibilities, children naturally follow their intuition and instincts. They take themselves and life easier, laugh heartily, enjoy themselves, and have fun. They do what they feel like with full attention, enthusiasm, and passion.

What we can learn from observing the upbringing of children, even when they overwhelm us, is to see our life as an adventure and to turn habits into the desired life.

If we succeed in consciously shaping our habits and thus satisfying our needs, there is a good chance that we will enjoy our lives like children – balanced and without burning out. 

Seven ways to find balance and thrive emotionally as a mother

So how can you bring new, useful habits into your everyday life, and start to find balance? Here are seven ways we can be more like children – and thrive emotionally.

1) Take yourself seriously

Be the first and most important person in your life that you care about. That’s not selfish, that’s self-love. Only when you are willing to put the focus on yourself, can you change something. Once you are at your full strength, you can also be there for others to the full extent and support them.

2) Be aware of your needs

Make yourself aware again and again what is important to you and what you want. Often we do things out of “well-wired” habits because there is no other way or because others want it that way.

Instead, listen to yourself and your needs. What would you do if you had the choice? Would you still do the same thing? What do you really want? If you don’t know what you want, take your time.

3) Make time for yourself

Plan time for yourself regularly, and the things you want to do. Be careful, this isn’t about doing leftover work. Rather, it is about satisfying your personal needs such as shutting down your thoughts, relaxing, being creative, and feeling good about yourself. 

Treat yourself like an appointment and enter ME time in the calendar.

4) Be aware of the WHY of your habit 

Why do you want the new habit? What is the goal behind it? To find this Why is not always easy. Sometimes it is helpful to consult a coach who has the appropriate tools at hand to uncover yourreal needs and wishes.Sometimes it is better to take the opinion of someone who is detached from your life. 

Combine the desired habit with an existing routine or introduce a new one immediately. Off-peak times are particularly suitable for this. For example in the morning, in the evening or over lunchtime.

Why? Because at this time you consciously perform actions such as getting up, going to bed or doing the dishes, which you can connect directly with your new habit and use as a trigger to remember your intentions. Learn more about How Rituals Can Prevent You From Burning Out here. 

5) Treat yourself lovingly

But be consistent and learn from your missteps. If the implementation of the new habit does not work out right away, do not “mentally” beat yourself up.

Treat yourself as lovingly and understandingly as you treat others. You do not want your slip to become a habit. Fail forward. Find out what you failed at and how you can make it better the next time. 

6) Start now and don’t wait for better times

One step is better than no step. Habits are made up of actions in a row. Just like toddlers learn and grow step by step, and that can happen very quickly, each of your Baby Steps brings you closer to your new, useful habits that make your life more worth living.  

7) Find supporters and set reminders

Other people can be a tremendous help in getting used to new habits. For example, if they regularly remind you of your plans, encourage you to continue and celebrate your success, or are just there with you when things don’t work out, it can be a huge help.

Also helpful are well-placed visual reminders. For example, in the form of sentences or pictures, which remind you of your plans again and again.

“Those who say they don’t have the time to take care of their skin, will sooner or later have to find the time for corrective treatments.”
(Jana Elston)

Grow beyond yourself and be there for others – but do not forget yourself. You are wonderful and worthy of your own goodness. Consciously include yourself and your needs in your own actions and you will experience more quality of life, well-being, productivity, satisfaction, and fulfilment.

Sounds good, but won’t work? You’re not sure you can do it? Book a free and non-binding online Breakthrough Session with Corinne Steiner, Sparring Partner and Professional Personal Development & Leadership Coach, in which you will find out together what you need to do to make your implementation work.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez