Empowering Women to Balance their Lives
If someone had told me five or even ten years ago that I would someday be a mom and would struggle with post-partum depression after a miscarriage, I don’t know what I would have said or thought. I am a licensed mental health counselor and we sometimes think that we can handle anything that comes our way, but this is certainly not the case. In fact, I think that it is precisely the opposite – we know so much about mental health that we often don’t ask for help when we really need it. Instead, we think that we can just “power” through it. But we are indeed human and, as human beings, we all struggle with anxiety, depression, addictions, fears/phobias, religious awakenings, and religious breakdowns at different points in our lives. Life happens and throws you curveballs when you least expect it – and I believe that is where our struggles often occur. At the end of the day, what makes us similar is that we all know what we need deep down. But we often don’t take the time to listen to our inner voice that is whispering, “Hey, time to slow down today.” Or, “You know what you need to do to change, so start changing it.”
Mothers Don’t Have it All Together
Why do we struggle with listening to ourselves then? Are we so busy with our families, and with pleasing or helping others, that we often ignore ourselves? I have found that it shows when I don’t take time out daily for personal self-care. When I am stressed out, my sleep becomes affected, my attitude is affected, and this means that my family is also affected. Why do we not take better care of ourselves? The question is particularly relevant given that this trickles down and affects our kids, our husbands, our families, our friends, and our various relationships. My main reason for writing this article is because we are in fact very strong women who think that we can do it all and be it all. However, if we fail in any of the ways mentioned above, then we think that we are somehow not good enough. But who determines that? Who established this prerequisite that when you become a wife, mom, or simply a woman, you have to excel at everything and always look happy doing so?
Why can’t I get it together, like that mom over there who has everything together and seems so happy? Well, I can guarantee that she is struggling too. The reason I know this is that these women are my friends. I talk to them at preschool where I drop off and pick up my daughter. We meet on the playgrounds as our kids play, at coffee shops or libraries where we meet in passing as we try to do fun things for our children. That familiar, tired face that sees you, smiles, and begins to converse about how we can improve what we offer our children. Of course, this is because we love our kids more than life itself – no question. However, who is taking care of us while we are taking care of them?
The Importance of Self-Care
When I was practicing counseling, people often asked me, “How do you listen to people’s problems all day and stay sane yourself?” My answer was, “I practice self-care and I have also learned how to leave work at work.” The same is not true of being a wife or a mom. You can’t say, “Alright, I’ve had enough. I’m going to go now and leave this here while I walk out the door.” (Admittedly, some people do this, which is incredibly sad because if they had asked for help, it could have easily been prevented). I struggle to find the balance between being a wife and a mom, and somehow not losing who I am amidst the beautiful mess that we call life. I love my husband and I love my daughter, more than I ever thought I could possibly love two human beings. Loving what I do is not the issue. Rather, the problem often becomes not thinking that I deserve a break in order to recharge so that I can be that awesome wife, mom, and friend that others expect or want me to be. I had a similar experience when I counseled people before becoming a stay-at-home mom when my daughter was born. I loved helping people, and seeing their lives improve over the course of a few months, or a year or two. But if I hadn’t worked out, or gone out with friends, I would have felt depleted.
A Calling from God
I first knew that I wanted to help people feel better when I was in first grade. I saw an older girl sitting in front of me during our chapel time (I went to a Catholic school). She was crying, and to this day I have no idea why, but my gut reaction as an innocent little seven-year-old girl was to want to make her tears go away so that she felt better. I remember thinking, “Why is she sad, and what can I do to help her?” I believe that my calling was established at a very young age, and I believe that we all have this calling from God to do good and to use what he gave us for his purpose. I have often said to my husband or my family, “I just want to do something fun for a living! Why did I become a counselor?” But I didn’t just become a counselor – I believe that I was born to do this and that when you are born to do something and called to do it by God, he has a way of making it happen.
The Challenge of Balance
You may then ask: How do we balance all of these things, especially when we become parents? I am still discovering the answer, but it is essential to do so, both to remain a happy, stable force in your family’s life and for the sake of your own self. I am also finding that the more I talk with other moms from different walks of life, the more I realize how incredibly strong we are collectively as women. The things we go through for our children are quite phenomenal, and I find myself being constantly amazed at the stories of other mothers. I know that my journey of becoming a mom for the first time has been rather crazy. As most first-time moms will admit (the honest, real ones anyway), I had no idea what I was doing or how hard it was really going to be. But do I love my daughter more than life itself? Without a doubt. In fact, 100 percent more than I ever thought you could love someone. I have often described my love for her as a feeling that she is part of me. For example, when she was born and I wasn’t near her, I felt at times as if part of my arm was missing. That may sound weird, but I know most moms will understand what I mean. You are responsible for this beautiful life that God has gifted to you, and it is the biggest honor and challenge that you will ever face.
A Decision to Return to Work
I decided to stop counseling for a while when my daughter was born and closed down my private practice. When I look back now, I realize that it was a good decision for me at that point in time. But I’m also aware that going back to part-time work as she grew older would have helped me too. Being a stay-at-home mom is the hardest job I have ever experienced. You love this little baby more than anything, and yet it can consume you if you allow it to. I found it very difficult to not do everything for her in her first four years of life. I look back now with a little more wisdom and wish that I had asked for help more. I am now starting to counsel people part-time again, and although the transition is somewhat difficult (mostly because I tend to feel as if I am abandoning my daughter due to my “do it all” mentality) this is the best decision I have made in a long time. We are all thriving, and I get to do what I love again (together with raising my daughter), namely, to help others become better versions of themselves, which is what God intends for everyone.
I love my mom and my bio dad (although he has not been in my life since I was in High School, and even then he was in and out with drug and alcohol addiction issues). My mom did the best that she could for me with the tools that she had learned, but my parents failed me in some pretty crucial areas as I was growing up. However, my mom has always been there for me and, does what she can to support me in her own way. I know that this was a big reason why I strived to do and be everything for my own daughter, together with the feeling that I had to constantly protect her fiercely. I am still this way, but I am also learning to ask for help more, to not feel bad, but to relax and allow the few people in our lives that I trust care for her when I need to be elsewhere. Moreover, there is also the issue of isolation when you stay at home. I am a people person and am very social, despite also loving my alone time. I have missed the social aspect of being around other adults and talking to them, something I never realized would be difficult when I quit working. I am helped in this by having a very supportive husband, together with a supportive family and other mom friends to whom I can relate.
Supporting Each Other as Mothers
I have often wondered: Why don’t we help each other out more as mothers and as friends? I had a conversation with a fellow preschool mom a few months ago, who agreed that it is unfortunate that we don’t do things for each other more. She is from a different culture than mine, and in her culture, everyone helps out with raising the children so that you are never alone doing it. We agreed that American culture is very isolating and that this is not how it should be. The message we are given is –do it yourself, don’t ask for help, and act as if you are always happy and have it all together. It was wonderful and fascinating talking to her about being a mom and about life in general. She told me how she had moved from her country to the United States when she married her husband, and how they had moved to Seattle before they had kids. When she was breastfeeding her first baby, she came down with Mastitis (I had it three times while breastfeeding my daughter – it is awful and so painful). Her husband was out of town for work, she hadn’t made any friends yet, and she had to go to the doctor and get medicine. She was feverish and so sick that she couldn’t drive, so she called a cab who took her to get medicine with her newborn baby in tow.
This story hit me. We are such strong, powerful women, but why can’t we be there for each other in times like these? She should never have had to do that alone. I felt for her while listening to her story because I was very lucky to have had support when I went through the same thing while breastfeeding. Granted, she hadn’t met anyone yet in a new town, but where is the general support for each other when things like this happen? Are we too tied to our own children to lend a helping hand? It shouldn’t be this way and our American culture makes us feel that we have to do everything ourselves – all of the time, perfectly, and while smiling on the outside. This is something that many people do – not just with regard to parenting, but in general.
Remember that Children are a Blessing from God
Finally, let me encourage you to lend a helping hand to your friends as this may be the only help that they are offered. We all need support, especially as parents of young children and teens. Becoming a parent is a gift from God that we all need to take seriously, but we also need to help each other out in times of need. The Bible states in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” In other words, teach your children about Jesus, the Bible, and how this relates to their lives. They will learn most from you and your actions, so that when they are adults, they will know what to do and how to ask for help from God. Another verse that I love about the privilege of becoming a parent is Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Never forget that even on those tough days with your child or children, they are a blessing and a gift from God that is entrusted to you for a reason.
A Christian Counselor Can Help You with Parenting Issues
If you struggle with parenting issues, I am here to help you as a fellow parent and a trained Licensed Mental Health Counselor. As a Christian counselor, I want to assure you that you are not alone in your struggles. We can work through your problems together and find the peaceful, harmonious home you long for and deserve to have. There will be no judgment from my end, as every family is unique and therefore requires unique services and care. As I have stated in my previous articles, it is not an accident that you are reading this. Please call or email me now to set up your first initial appointment time for Christian counseling, and let’s embark together on a journey to healing and a happy home.
“Mom and Son,” courtesy of Maeka Alexis, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-ND 2.0); “Mom in Autumn,” courtesy of mnanni, pixabay.com; “Mom at the Beach,”
pixabay.comcourtesy of fsHH, pixabay.com; “Mom Playing With Kid,” courtesy of Laurent Bartkowski, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-ND 2.0)