As moms, we spend a massive amount of our waking hours listening and responding to others. The incoming conversations change over the years, but they take up a lot of brain space, nonetheless. When my kids were younger, the conversations revolved around their processing of the world around them. I answered 9000 “why” questions a day and made up the answers to at least half of them. As they get older, my kids are excited to talk about their interests (the plot line of a current book, details of upcoming movies, a break-down of what each of their classmates did over the holiday break, etc.). While I love being invited into their worlds and listening to their perspectives and opinions, I’ve found that going to therapy and prioritizing space where I can temporarily unload the incoming information and really sit with my own thoughts has been magical.
I meet with my therapist every other Tuesday at noon. For fifty minutes, I get to tap into the deeper parts of myself – beyond my identities as mother, wife, daughter, sister-in-law, friend – and really notice who I am becoming. Sometimes these self-observations are encouraging, as I see the ways my past experiences and relationships have prepared me for the current challenges of life. Other times the view is less exciting, and I’m grateful for the space and guidance of a skilled clinician who helps me navigate the sticky and painful parts of myself.
Prioritizing personal therapy as a part of my health and wellness journey has brought empowerment to my motherhood experience. As I become more aware of my inner-dialogue and the “why” behind my quick assumptions and patterned responses, I’m free to chose differently. Instead of seeing my shortcomings as failures, I’ve learned to get curious about the gaps and excited for the opportunity to heal the wounds exposed by my short-tempered reaction or desire to disconnect.
Seeing the words “Mom at therapy” on our fridge calendar normalizes the experience for my kids. Rather then therapy being relegated as a response to crisis, my kids are seeing that caring for one’s mental health is a lifestyle choice and not something to be hidden or put on the back burner until we’ve hit panic mode. As I consider the world they are experiencing, and the stress and anxiety I see them already battling, it is my hope that my pursuit of help and support via therapy will serve as a sort of “permission slip” for them to seek out needed resources in their future.
When I think about all the information and details that our mom-brains are asked to hold from day to day, it’s no wonder so many of us struggle with falling asleep at night. It’s no wonder so many of us struggle to feel connected to others. As we carry the responsibilities of work and laundry and dental appointments and budgeting and personal health and what to make for dinner over and over again, finding time to set aside the lists and expectations and simply hold space for listening to ourselves may be the biggest gift we can give to our kids.