The Problem With Modern MotherhoodMay 18, 2023
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Why are modern moms so burned out? What is the problem with modern motherhood that has us feeling overwhelmed, inadequate and guilty?
In this episode, I’m talking about the big picture and the expectations around motherhood to help you understand why you feel so overwhelmed.
Because it's not just that your kid is spitting out their food or not cleaning up their room or didn't put their shoes on or got a bad grade or hit their friend or did something wrong at school. That's not actually why we're so overwhelmed.
We have created a dynamic in our society where the expectations are too high on moms.
Guilt in Motherhood
I’ve had a few conversations recently with moms about guilt. May is a crazy month when it comes to kids. There are extra activities and school events that parents are expected to be at. Some of these pop up last minute or happen in the middle of the workday.
Of course, you get to feel sad if you’re missing something, but there’s this other layer of guilt that seems to come along with it.
And I think this is often where the burnout and overwhelm begin. Unrealistic expectations lead to sadness and guilt. Then, we criticize ourselves for feeling that way. And we don’t take the time to process any of those negative emotions, so they kinda hang around.
Our society has created an ideal mother and a dream of motherhood that has been presented to us primarily through social media. And the standards just keep getting more and more intense.
Unrealistic Expectations in Motherhood
In modern society, as a mom, you're responsible for SO MUCH, and it wasn’t always this way.
Modern moms get the story that your child's education and academic achievement is on your plate. Parents have been told that there's an ideal standard that you should strive for. And if you don't strive for it, you aren't helping your kid reach their potential.
If you didn’t get them into the “right” school and you're not doing homework with them and reading with them every night and monitoring their schoolwork and checking their grades, then that means you're not a good mom.
Previous generations didn’t have access to most of this information. But now that we do have access, it becomes our responsibility to monitor it.
Most parents are not child development experts or teachers, but we’re expected to know and do all this stuff anyway.
You know the story…feed your kids healthy foods, watch their sugar, have family dinners, but also only feed your kids things they like.
We feel bad because our kids like junk food, but they’re offered it all the time. And then if you don’t want them to have junk, you get labeled as “that mom”.
It’s too much to manage. We can’t compete with our society all the time.
The same thing happens with screens. Everyone is telling you not to let your kids do too much screen time, but no one is telling us what is too much and there are all these other “rules” we’re supposed to follow when they do use screens.
Our kids love screens because they’re fun and interesting and great. And you know what? So do we.
Setting limits and boundaries around screens is a challenge on its own, and then they bring tablets and Chromebooks home from school anyway.
All the activities
We’re already trying to balance academics, education, diet and screen time. But they shouldn’t just do school! Kids should also…
- Play sports to develop social skills and leadership and move their bodies.
- Do something creative, like art or music.
- Have some kind of religious education (if your family is religious).
- Learn another language, especially if you speak a language other than English in your family.
But then your kids don’t have time to play and you find yourselves overscheduled and doing too much. 😭😭😭
But when the pressure to do things is so intense, how are you supposed to opt out?
I want you to take excellent care of yourself, move your body and see your friends.
But the message we often receive is that you should prioritize yourself, but also get everything else done - work, making appointments, tidy up, volunteer at school, drive your kids around, organize your house, feed your family healthy food and get them to bed.
There’s also the idea that working is helpful, so if you love work (or need to work), you should…
But don’t work too much or your kids will feel neglected. So you better do it right and find the right balance.
This is a new one in the last 20 years or so, and I do teach gentle, connected parenting.
But sometimes the message becomes that you are supposed to not just manage everything, but you’re never supposed to be unhappy about it.
You’re being told to let your kids have all the temper tantrums and big feelings, but you don’t get to express any of yours.
I teach you to manage your nervous system in the midst of misbehavior. Then, set limits so that you’re not permissive. Teach your kids how to express their feelings within a limit.
We were not raised this way, and it is not easy.
You might be putting pressure on yourself to be the perfect gentle parent. None of us is going to be perfect. I’m a human being. You’re a human being. We lose our cool sometimes.
Unrealistic Expectations of Mothers
We have a lot of models of different ways moms organize their homes and feed their families, and some of them are really beautiful. It looks like these moms have it all together - the perfect houses, perfect bodies, perfect kids, perfect everything.
There’s a lot of pressure on you to achieve all of that.
The message you’re getting as a mom is be super chill while you get all the shit done. If you don't get all the shit done, you're going to fuck up your kids, and it's going to be your fault. And if you're overwhelmed and frustrated, it's probably because you're doing it wrong.
What I want to help you see is that if you’re finding yourself feeling overwhelmed, guilty and burned out, it’s time to look at what you are trying to achieve. Is it that perfect (and unrealistic) Instagram version of motherhood?
How To Avoid Burnout in Motherhood
There are a lot of expectations in modern motherhood, and those expectations are built around other people's goals.
The standards are simply too high, and all of this leads to burnout.
Burnout is when you have a lot of stressors, expectations and demands in your life, and those demands are greater than the time you have to recover from them.
It's 100% okay to have stress and be busy. That's inevitable, right? But you want to make sure you're building in periods of time where you get your body, your mind, your heart, and your soul back to a new baseline.
At the end of an intense week, it’s okay to take Saturday and not do anything. Rest, do screen time and takeout. Be gracious with yourself without the guilt.
Decide what is important to you
Over the years, I’ve had to decide what I care about the most and what my goals are. When I’m clear on what I want to focus on and why it’s important to me, I can weed through all those other expectations and decide if they fit the big picture vision and goal for my family.
The three goals I prioritize for my family are:
- My kids’ emotional health and wellbeing
- My relationship with my children
- My personal mental and emotional wellbeing
When you prioritize your family and what you and your kids need at any given time, it will mean saying no to something else.
You get to be in charge of your life. You get to say yes, and you get to say no. People are going to be annoyed. People are going to have opinions and feelings.
The way out of burnout and guilt is by defining what motherhood means for you and what you want from this experience. What matters the most to you?
Your perceived failings in motherhood have nothing to do with you.
You are great. You are an incredible person. You are an incredible mother. You measure up in 100,000 ways. I want you to enjoy your life, your kids and this experience of motherhood.
- Why we feel so overwhelmed as moms
- My trick for deciding whether something is right for my family, my kids or myself
- How parenting is like a Ferris wheel
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