“There’s not enough Mammies going off to India for 3 weeks”. This was the response from my little guy’s Montessori teacher when I told her I was heading away for yoga teacher training at the start of the year.
Lord knows, I deeply appreciate how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity and I’m certainly in no way suggesting that every Mama can just swan off across the globe at the drop of a hat. This type of trip is simply not available to everyone, for any given number of reasons.
But the sentiment of what she said is this: there’s not enough Mammies making decisions that will nourish and grow their soul, fill up their cup, bring their dreams to life and honour the wholeness of the person they are, the one that exists beyond her role as Mama. And she’s so right.
You don’t have to look that far back in history to understand the innate martyrdom that went hand in hand with motherhood. If you sat down for a break, you were lazy. If you didn’t sacrifice yourself in some way for those around you, you were a bad mother. Basically, if you weren’t suffering in some capacity in your role as caregiver and homemaker, you were probably doing it wrong. Rather than call out the bullshit on Mommy martyrdom, we preferred instead to offer chemical solutions by way of *benzodiazepines like Valium or Xanax, lightheartedly known in the 60’s as ‘Mother’s little helper’, wink wink, nudge nudge. Because it suited society better to plaster over the emotional cracks than to acknowledge the deep injustice of expecting one person to give of themselves the point of depletion.
Giving all you have to others while ignoring your own call for nourishment and growth is not heroic, it’s a recipe for mental and emotional breakdown.
When we know better, we do better, and now through disciplines like positive psychology, emotional intelligence and really, the whole wellness space, we have a solid understanding of what constitutes a balanced, emotionally healthy, thriving human. And deeply engrained in that, is living a life that honours who you are at the core of your being, caring for your mental and emotional wellness enough to sometimes prioritise your needs over others, filling your own cup up along with everyone else’s, honouring the hopes and dreams that you hold in your heart and taking the opportunities that life presents you with to bring them to life, remembering the fullness of who you are as a human beyond any one role and knowing that looking after yourself is not a selfish display of indulgence, it’s an act of survival.
So it doesn’t have to be a dramatic trip to India, there are any infinite number of ways Mams can nurture the person they are inside…continuing education, coffee dates, time alone, exercise, sharing talents with the world, taking time out to meditate, a good book, music, healing sessions, rekindling old friendships, hobbies, sports, working with a coach or therapist, nights out, breaks away, meditation, a glass of wine under the night stars, and yes, maybe travel if circumstances allow.
I live and breathe for my boys; they are everything, EVERYTHING to me. But I am a whole human *as well* as being Mama, and I need to honour and remember that. I’ve seen what happens when I give all of me to them, leaving nothing for me, and it is not pretty. Before they came into my life, I had a world of adventures of experiences that helped shape who I am as a person, and therefore as a Mama. If I simply cut myself off from all of that, not only am I cutting off a part of who I am, I’m doing my boys a disservice, because I’m giving them an incomplete, unwhole version of me. They deserve the full me. I deserve the full me.
So Mammies, Mamas, Mommies, Ma’s – listen up: you deserve to honour the fullness of all that you are. You deserve to mind you, to care for your needs, to give yourself opportunities for nourishment and growth, to listen to the whispers of your heart and live a life that is in alignment with your soul’s true north. You’ll be a happier human and a better Mama for it, I promise.
A just for the record, from one Mama heart to another: I see you, I honour all of you, you are amazing 💖
*This is absolutely not a judgement of individuals taking medicine, it’s a judgement of the society that created the need in the first place.