More Than Moms
Contributed by Tracie L Keller, LPCC-S
I love working with mothers in therapy, probably because I identify as a member of this group. Being a mom is a solid part of my identity. It’s a part of my identity that I’m sure my 16 year old self shutters at the thought of, and it’s a part of my identity that I struggled with in early motherhood. Now, more than five years into this role, I wear it proudly. On days off from work, you can find me sporting my favorite baseball cap and running around the park with my little ones. It has been through those interactions with other mothers in the community, as well as through my clinical work with mothers in therapy, that I really started identifying issues in how modern-day motherhood is impacting those of us in this population.
Today’s world has so many ways of sending messages about what a mother “should” or “should not” be. Not only do modern mothers have to reckon with the messages that they receive from family members and friends, they also have to manage new ways of receiving this communication through social media, magazines and books, podcasts, and more. For this reason, and not surprisingly, mothers have tended toward trying to find groups of support where they can connect with others mothers. There are endless numbers of social media groups centered around this topic alone—whether it’s a page like Scary Mommy or Mommy Talk, or a blog like Mommy Needs Vodka [which, by the way, is followed by nearly two million people on Facebook at present time]. So why is it, then, with all of these online groups or ways for mothers to potentially connect with one another, that most mothers I speak to describe feeling alone?
I think it’s because we are missing the one thing that would help alleviate the loneliness that at times, is mothering. Authentic connection is something that women are bred for. I’ve talked about this in a previous post regarding the holidays and stress that can occur in that season, and I’ve also spoken about the perfectionism that is in our culture related to, well, EVERYTHING. But what I mean in this post is that we are wired, i.e. programmed for authentic connection. There is something called “Tend and Befriend” research on this topic, that shows that women’s immune function, stress/cortisol levels, and mood all improve when we have other women who we can authentically connect with and share the struggles of daily life with.
What does authentic connection look like? It’s that friend that you can talk for hours with about everything, or nothing, and not feel judged or ashamed. It’s knowing that you can feel heard without interruption or never hearing something like, “at least” starting a response from that person. It’s about empathy, which is a choice that I wish more people made with one another these days.
I started noticing these trends in the past year or so with multiple women that I work with. I’ve recommended the book, Mommy Burnout by Dr. Sheryl Ziegler to many of these women, and have seen a tremendous increase in their ability to focus on their own needs in order to improve the ability to mother their children and to regain a sense of their own identity. I recommend this book to any woman who is at a point in her life where she wants to improve her balance, approach parenting more mindfully, or learn to set [and maintain] some boundaries that will help sustain her. I recommend it to any mother who may be reading this post and wondering how she can start to make some changes today, in order to feel less alone and overall, more connected to both herself and others.
Keller Counseling & Associates is starting a mother’s support group called More Than Moms in early 2019. I decided to start this group because I want to start changing the conversation around what modern motherhood “has to” look like or be experienced, and instead, work toward finding new ways of supporting one another. Authentic support, that is.
If the group is not your thing, that’s no worries. But if you made it through this post and still find yourself wanting to make some changes in order to feel more connected with other mothers or yourself, then I do recommend doing so. Get creative on ways to do this! Start by finding a friend or family member who fits the bill for what I described above. Have a conversation. Listen back. Go on Amazon or to your local bookstore, and look for reading on this matter. Read Brene Brown books or listen to her TED talks. Seek individual therapy, if you think that would help.
The point of this blog is to remind you that things can change, and that you can feel connected with yourself and others again. Motherhood is a beautifully challenging role, and it’s one that changes our identities with it. In order to accept those changes, we’ve got to work on it [not avoid it]. I invite you to do so, and I hope that you’ll keep this conversation going.