When Motherhood Feels Toxic

You already know that the Mary Poppins account of motherhood is a false bag of goods. For me, that became clear the moment my beautiful daughter was placed on my chest. 

 

Within ten minutes of pushing out this extraordinary baby, I became physically paralyzed with fear. Where’s this divine motherly instinct”? I thought in a panic-stricken state. I just knew the nurses, and my husband saw my missing mommy gene.

 

I felt so clumsy holding my daughter that I kept her in the same position despite my arms killing me. That’s the first of many examples of how I’d continue to contort myself beyond my limits in motherhood. 

 

Sound familiar?

 

“But that’s what mothers do,” some of you will say with a well-intentioned smile. As if there’s comfort in being part of a massive club of others that find honor in erasing the line between where they as a person end, and another person begins.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I knew parenthood would be demanding. After being entirely hands-on with much younger siblings, I was ready for demanding. 

 

[bctt tweet=”When you don’t define motherhood for yourself, others will define it for you.” username=”lilatimer05″]

 

What I was NOT ready for was motherhood, reminding me of the abusive relationships I worked so hard to escape and heal from.

 

Motherhood and my past toxic relationships shared many of the same ingredients.

 

There were intense feelings of love (borderline obsession)—fast-moving peaks and valleys of emotional highs and lows—fleeting moments of feeling extremely important and then utterly worthless in the next breath.

 

With reflection, one particular pattern of my behavior stood out to me. The other person’s needs always came first. Often, my needs (particularly emotionally and mentally) were left running on fumes. 

 

I managed to self-heal from the low self-esteem and crippling fear of failure that over a decade of toxic relationships left me with. I never thought those feelings could intrude on the most beautiful moments of my life.

 

Yet there they stood, taunting me as if the years of personal growth and progress never happened. 

 

[bctt tweet=”It’s not about your child’s behavior; it’s about your behavior and mindset.” username=”lilatimer05″]

 

What’s incredibly frustrating and liberating is that the onus is on you to flip the switch. I realized that ingesting endless information about what makes a great mother led me back down a dangerous path. One that felt threatening rather than welcoming. Thankfully my established self-awareness kicked in.

 

Looking back on all of that great motherhood advice, I realize it all smacked of “your life ends here.” 

 

Much of the “perfect mom” idea perpetuates the same behavior I displayed in those toxic relationships. No boundaries. No care for self. Sacrifice yourself in the name of love.

 

Well, I flipped the script in a big way!

 

Trying to live up to the Super Mom standard with back to back babies, I felt like self-neglect (not showering, getting dressed, or asking for help) were all badges of honor. 

 

Let’s take a moment to address the mom memes that make us giggle as we look at the image of a frazzled, half put-together woman, about to do laps in a tall glass of wine. 

 

Funny? To a degree because they’re relatable, and that makes them stick. Do they also reinforce an unhealthy message that motherhood comes with no boundaries and self-neglect?

 

I believe so. 

 

It took me four years to realize that motherhood requires us to show up for ourselves and create boundaries. I’ve become a fantastic (not perfect) mother. I’ve gone from feeling resentful toward my husband, regularly picking fights) to feeling gratitude that makes me enjoy and crave his company.  

 

Most importantly, I look in the mirror and respect and love who I see—the imperfect mom, who some may deem selfish for drawing red lines and enforcing them.

 

The mom who left her safe job as an Ultrasound tech to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams.

 

The mother who regularly takes internal stock to make sure her needs are being met, rather than being hyper-focused on showing up for others. 

 

Yes, I show up for myself first, because my fulfillment, dreams, and sense of self still matter. Did you think I’d say something like, “I show up for myself because you can’t pour from an empty cup”? 

 

That is true. However, I feel no need to explain why I still matter! My only mom-guilt comes from not having understood this from the beginning.

 

"Define what Motherhood should look and feel like for yourself, or risk losing yourself in someone else's definition."

“Define what Motherhood should look and feel like for yourself, or risk losing yourself in someone else’s definition.”- Lisa Latimer

 

Are you struggling to create healthy boundaries? I help ambitious women silence fear and intuitively create the fulfillment they crave. Visit my homepage to find out how I can help you clearly define what fulfillment looks and feels like for you, and fearlessly create it.

 

Come and join me and other radical mothers in my friend’s fabulous Facebook group The Radical Mother Project and follow me at the links on my homepage!

 

 

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