My path crossed with Taryn’s recently and it could not have come at a better time, as I’m on a crusade to change how mothers think about themselves and their place in the world (both with my friends and through this blog). I cried a bit reading Taryn’s words below as I think we can ALL identify with this, and I can’t think of a more important blog post I’ve published recently than this one, right here. Have a read and let me know your thoughts.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m the mom of three young boys aged, 9, 7 and 1. Together with my hubby and 2 dogs (also boys!), we live in Somerset West. I obtained my Master’s Degree in Homoeopathy in 2002.
Keen to explore the world I moved to the UK where I started my own practice, specialising in women’s well-being, in 2004. During my time in the UK I also lectured for several colleges and facilitated women’s workshops. In 2014 I returned to South Africa and now work from both my private practice and at the Healing Hub at Lourensford Wine Estate, with a focus on women’s well-being and a special interest in supporting moms.
I want women to feel heard, seen and valued for all that they contribute day in and day out. We are a most precious resource and it is time to tap into that!
2. Where did the inspiration behind MotheringMe come from?
I, like many of your readers, am a dedicated mother. Since I held my first baby to my chest I’ve wanted nothing more than for my kids to be happy. At first I bent over backwards to realise this and I became an outstanding martyr. I ignored my body’s signals, chalking it up to #becausemotherhood. I survived on more coffee and less sleep and by the time my second son was two, I was exhausted.
I was raising my kids in the UK where home help is a rarity. Our family were all in South Africa and my husband worked a 90 minute train ride away. But at the time I didn’t know that asking for help was okay – I thought I had to be perfect and have it all together. I wasn’t and I didn’t. I had yet to understand that my greatest service to my family was taking care of my well-being.
I developed a chronic condition that is exacerbated by high stress situations and ended up in hospital. Although it was awful (and I couldn’t even pick up my preschooler for months while I recovered), I learned a most valuable lesson that would completely change the way in which I mother, and change the course of my career.
I learned the hard way that when we are not ok, we are of no use to our family.
I learned that the idea of putting your kids’ needs before your own is nuts and that the well-known saying of “put your oxygen mask on yourself before your kids” is actually the golden rule of mothering.
To heal I had to mother myself with the same unconditional love, care and tenderness that I do my children. I started to give my needs, desires and whims attention, just like I do my kids. I choose to Mother Me, not because I am selfish, but because my kids, more than anything else in this world, need me to.
When I am healthy, inspired, energised, and feeling connected to all of the things that give me joy, then I am in a space to truly nourish my family and mother them. MotheringMe means that I can be the best version of myself when I am called to mother through the choppy waters raising a child brings: their changing hormones, heartbreaks, social pressures, probing questions and challenging behaviours.
This is not always easy and it takes a commitment to my well-being. It sometimes means making unpopular choices and requires much flexing of the “how to say no “ muscle. MotheringMe requires creativity, resourcefulness and forethought but it is worth it every time!
As a homoeopath specialising in women’s health I have also worked with many moms. With so many mothers seeking medical help for anxiety and depression, and many more telling me that they are always exhausted and that motherhood is just plain hard, I know that my story is not unique. This fuels my passion for this topic and I will keep this conversation going for as long as it takes until moms really get how much they matter.
3. Why do you think us women particularly struggle to devote time to ourselves? Is it nature/society/guilt?
Yes guilt is a big factor. But it is illogical. It makes no sense to feel shame about doing whatever it takes to be the healthiest captain steering the family ship. Wouldn’t you want the leader of your pack to be the fittest and strongest? Would you be happy with an exhausted, dizzy, distracted and stressed leader? I wouldn’t. You are the source for your family and you set the tone in your home. You owe it to your family to take care of yourself.
But I think the real issue is that we have forgotten that we are actually leaders. We have grown up in a patriarchal society and for thousands of years women have been down played, our value stepped on and our true role suppressed. Mothers are raising our future. They are more precious than jewels but all they see is their flaws.
When you realise just how valuable your contribution to this earth community is, when you understand that you – as you are right now: tall, short, C-section mom, natural birth mom, breast feeding or formula feeding, working or stay at home, highly strung mom, zen mom, whatever perfect form you take – ARE ENOUGH, then you will look after you.
It’s not only about devoting time to ourselves necessarily, it is about a deep commitment to our well-being. A decision to do whatever it takes to feel good and an unwavering, non-negotiable prioritising of our needs. For example choosing food that is nourishing, checking in with myself regularly during the day with questions like – am I hungry, do I need to hydrate, do I need the loo, is this posture comfortable, do I need to stretch or move, do I need some fresh air? And tending to the answers, gently and lovingly. It is not always about taking time out, more importantly it is about putting ourselves back in the picture.
4. What’s your take on mom shaming?
Once you appreciate the value of your own contribution and you understand that there just is no competition because there is no perfect mom (you really don’t get to win at motherhood) then you no longer feel like you have to shame or criticise other moms to justify your own choices.
Don’t be fooled by social media, magazines and movies, as it is all a carefully crafted charade. If there is one way in which we are our own worst enemy it would be that we are not honest enough with each other, and that we don’t show our vulnerability and challenges. By hiding the parts that we find difficult from other moms we not only hurt ourselves by cutting off support, but we also put other moms in an unfair position because we are selling them the glossy version of motherhood.
One of my mom patients once said to me “motherhood is a silent conspiracy, no one tells you the truth”. But because of the privilege of my work I get the real stories and I can assure you that we all share the same struggles, insecurities and worries.
I deal with mom shaming by moving away from it. I am selective of my sisterhood and choose women who’s words of encouragement blow the air under my wings. The ones who have had critical things to say about my parenting choices, have no place in my life or in my conversations.
5. What are some of your practical tips for mothers?
- SET YOUR PLACE AT THE TABLE. Do not eat the scraps off of your children’s plates, or eat while standing or running around. This is a very important message that you are sending to yourself: it says I am worthy and I am committed to nourishing myself, and I am not the family’s slave. My job is not to set the stage for everyone else’s happiness, my job is to participate in the happiness.
- REST: R stands for relax, E stands for exhale, S stands for slow down/stop and T stands for tune in. I encourage moms to REST regularly during the day, don’t save it for the yoga class. This could be while you’re doing the dishes or the laundry, or in the car before you rush off to do the next errand. Put down Facebook or whatever phone app you’re scrolling through, make a lap for your toddler, smell your baby, sit back in your office chair and close your eyes. Then tune into and tend to your needs, right now, whatever they may be.
- MAKE A LIST OF TEN THINGS THAT GIVE YOU JOY. These are the things that make you feel alive and inspired. Keep this list somewhere visible and every week commit to do at least three of those things. Get the planner out and write it in, because if you don’t schedule it in as a non-negotiable commitment, it will not happen. When you first do this don’t be surprised if you can’t even start your list. Many of you are so used to making sure everyone else is happy, that you have forgotten what brings you joy. Close your eyes and remember the things you loved as a little girl. If you can’t remember, then ask someone who knew you before you had kids.
- CALL A FRIEND. It takes a village and you prove nothing by trying to do everything on your own. Find someone you can talk to, often. If you have a close friendship group, then great. If you don’t, then perhaps join an online forum or Facebook group that is supportive of moms. Try find a mentor or councillor or you can even join my Facebook group if you need inspiration.
- Always remember through the highs and lows, the good days and bad…..YOU MATTER. YOUR WELL-BEING really matters.
You can find out more about Taryn and her consultations on her website.
All words and images above are copyright of Dr Taryn Jacobs and may not be used without permission.