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Dear Mama, You Need to Break up With These 3 Things

Dear Mama,

There’s no doubt about it: motherhood isn’t for sissies.

As a mom, you are a leader. An advocate. A nurse. A teacher. A mediator. A friend. A vomit-cleaner, diaper-changer, and so much more. Your job requires a steady arsenal of qualities at your disposal: resiliency; stamina; wisdom; grace; compassion; laughter; and again, so much more.

What you don’t need though, is that inner, lethal voice that criticizes you or downright shames you. It’s the voice that tells you that you’re messing up the little lives in your care, or that you’re simply not cut out for the job of motherhood. On some days, it whispers quietly, and you briefly forget it even exists. On other days, the bully voice screams louder than a heavy metal band, and you’re tempted to throw in the towel and quit.

If you’re tired of the inner critic messing with your mama-mojo, then it’s time to break up with these 3 things:

1. Break up with perfectionism.

There’s a sticky note hanging near my desk with a line penned by author Anne Lamott: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.” I love this quote and bring it to mind when I find myself slipping into my perfectionist-mode tap dance.

This tap dance is the rigid, unattainable demand we perfection-seekers place upon ourselves and others. It’s a dance where mistakes are met with neither grace nor mercy, but instead with beratement and judgment. For most of us who wage daily battles with unrealistic expectations, we either obtain whatever it is we’re after flawlessly, or…we fail. There’s no in between.

As moms, when our ideals become the undercurrent of our thoughts and actions, the demands we place upon ourselves can inevitably trickle down, placing unreasonable demands on our kids.

Personally, when I’m unaware of my inner critic who mandates idealism from my kids, I tend to zero-in on misbehaviors and become overly concerned with how they behave in public. If there’s a tantrum or less-than-desirable social behavior, the bully voice sneers, “You must be a failure as a mom.”

So, why don’t we just dump the demands of perfectionism before the tap dance begins?

2. Break up with expectations.

As a (on-the-road-to-recovery) people-pleaser since the time I was a kid, I dove headfirst into living out of others’ expectations—often without question—once I became a mother.

Whether we realize it or not, the pressure we allow others to place upon us could unnecessarily derail our motherhood journeys. Family members may think we should to follow suit and raise our kids as they once did (or still do). We may feel the burden of the expectations of society or of our communities, where certain dietary, educational, or financial ideals are adhered to and appear to be the norm.

Then there are also the unquestioned standards to which we hold ourselves. When we live out of these self-imposed burdens, we operate from a less-than-authentic place of who we are truly meant to be.

For me, the longer I allowed others’ expectations to have a place in my motherhood journey, the longer it’s taken me to learn how to question assumptions and untangle myself from them.

Mamas, let’s agree to untangle ourselves from the web of unspoken expectations once and for all!

3. Break up with fear.

After I became a mom, it didn’t take long for all the glaring mistakes I was making and the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” to start playing over like a bad, broken record in my headspace.

When we focus on all the ways we fail as moms or on the mistakes we make, we allow fear to take up occupancy in our minds and actions, and fear becomes our guide. Fear tells us we are messing up the lives of our children. It keeps our feet bound in quicksand and prevents us from taking risks. Fear paralyzes and stifles growth.

If I could go back and redo any part of the last eight years since becoming a mom, it would be to not focus so much on the mistakes I’ve made, hence giving fear so much leeway and control in my role as mom.

It’s time to tell fear to take a hike!

So, Dear Mama, remember that you don’t have to listen to that voice.

It’s no cakewalk talking back to the bully voice within. And though we’ll never be void of it entirely, we have endless opportunities to choose whether we allow it to dictate our thoughts, behaviors, and actions.

Awareness is the first step to making lasting changes, and a large part of moving forward is being honest with ourselves.

So, yes, own up to your mistakes, but be honest with yourself about all the times you’ve shown up and done something right as a mom too. Think about all the moments you’ve cuddled next to your child, wiped away tears, made a late-night PB&J, or gotten on the floor and crawled around pretending to be a pony. These seemingly mundane moments are beautiful deposits that mold and shape your child’s life.

You are human, and to be human is to live imperfectly. I’m learning more about the freedom in admitting my mistakes and allowing others to see my flaws. When we become accepting and free with our own humanness, we can embrace our imperfections and parent from a place of worthiness. Famed researcher, Brené Brown, provides us a noteworthy framework for how to do so in her Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.

And although we may never completely silence the mocking of fear, writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, gives us a refreshing way to interact with it in her post here. Identify what fear is telling you, or where certain expectations stem from and decide if you want them to be a part of your daily life.

Just remember, the internal bully doesn’t get the last say unless you allow it to do so. You can break up with it at any time.

Image from Stills by Hernan.

For more encouragement in your momming, check out:

Dear SAHM I See You and Want You to Know These 8 Things
To the Mom Who Feels Guilty For Loving Her Work
5 Quotes That Will Encourage You, Working (Super) Mom
3 Ways Positive Self-Talk Can Improve Your Life

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You’ll love this episode from This Grit and Grace Life, Mom: You Are “Mom Enough”: How to Stop Feeling Like a Failure – 017!


Rachel is a freelance writer and a huge fan of peanut butter, humidity, and driving barefoot. Her favorite pastimes include reading up on aviation disasters to “conquer” her fear of flying and finding hope in the storms of life.

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