5 Ways to Succeed as a Mom Despite Your Traumatic Childhood

How to Succeed as a Mom Despite Your Traumatic ChildhoodI had a less than ideal childhood. Most of it I’ve sort of blocked out in some sort of weird attempt at mental self-preservation, but I know enough to know that it wasn’t ideal. I won’t get into the nitty gritty details or point fingers, here, but childhood was lonely. I also probably had anxiety since I was old enough to remember, and it was never addressed. And even today, I still don’t have the best relationship with my parents.

I often hear about how some women dream of the day they’ll be mothers themselves. They’ve planned it since they were kids. I laugh that off because I don’t understand it – being a mother was never part of my plan. Until one day, it was. And when I was newly pregnant, I was paralyzed with fear for so many reasons. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to be a mother because I didn’t have a model – I didn’t have a set of loving parents to show me the way. When my daughter was born in 2013, I had a full-scale meltdown. Maybe it was PPD: I really don’t know. It was the first time I really came to grips with my childhood trauma.

I often wondered in those early days how I could be a good mother without knowing what it meant to be a good mother. I felt lost and alone. And I know there are so many others out there who didn’t get the love they deserved as a child. Here are five things I’ve learned along the way to help me get to where I am today (aka a much better place):

Be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge that you didn’t have the role models you needed. Remind yourself that you are learning this all from scratch, without any sort of prototype to follow. Be kind and empathetic toward yourself. As they used to say at the Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings I attended, “be your own loving parent”. Take care of yourself in the way that you would wish your parents took care of you. Put your health and well-being first.

It is what it is. You may have not had the mother and/or father you deserved in life, and that’s not fair. Acknowledge that but don’t allow yourself to fall prey to victim-hood. It is easy to be a victim. It is difficult – and much more worthwhile – to rise above and to succeed despite the challenges you’ve faced.

Acknowledge your successes as a parent. This is something I have to do often. I truly feel that my difficult childhood paved the way for me to do two amazing things I otherwise would not have done: 1) to be the best parent I can be and to always keep my daughter at the forefront of every decision I make, and 2) to be as successful as possible to ensure she has the life she deserves and more. I didn’t have a great childhood, but I will do everything in my power to ensure she does. I think that perspective I gained from having emotionally distant/neglectful parents allowed me to rise above it all. I truly feel that on most days I am a decent mom. Why? Because I don’t have to compare myself to my own mother. I am not even playing in the same league.

Map out a plan. When I was pregnant, I think part of the reason I was so terrified was because I had never planned on being a mother. Due to my chaotic childhood, I never fantasized about being a mom. It just wasn’t part of the plan. Therefore, I had no idea what kind of mother I wanted to be. I didn’t know there were different discipline styles, etc. Once I thought about it – I mean, REALLY thought about it, I knew that I wanted to adopt a gentler approach to parenting. I set out a list of things I wanted to avoid as a parent, and I was lucky that we both agreed on it. It was helpful to have a guideline going into motherhood that I could follow. It probably seems mechanical to most, I know, planning out ‘how’ I wanted to mother, but I had no model. It didn’t come naturally to me, and I am glad I had a plan in place (at least – I established some basic tenets to live by). I knew what I DIDN’T want to do, which made it easier to think about what I DID want to do. That being said, I think it’s absolutely important to develop sort of a motherhood ‘mission statement’. How do you want your children to see you? How do you want them to remember you? What will be your ‘legacy’? How will you deal with conflict and difficult moments? What forms of discipline will you use – or not use?

Seek help when you need it. I’ll admit it – I’m glad I had a breakdown of sorts after my daughter was born. Why? Because it forced me to get the help that I needed – help that I should have received decades before. When my daughter was born, all of my childhood trauma came back to hit me in the face – HARD. It took me a long time to realize what was happening, but I know it now. I had been keeping all of the memories and feelings bottled up for so long, laughing them off, until my daughter was born and they came back to haunt me. Since 2013, I’ve been on a pretty continual journey to better mental health as a result, and I’ve addressed my childhood for the first time. I have learned more about myself in the 5 years since she has been born than I have ever learned about myself. I am eternally grateful that things happened the way they did – it resulted in my daughter having the mother she deserved. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone – a professional – about your childhood trauma, or any other trauma you have faced. Medication can help, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. I never had to rehash painful moments in therapy (which I think is a common misconception about therapy) – instead, I learned coping mechanisms to help me more forward DESPITE my childhood. I could not have crawled out of that hole without therapy.

Remember: you can be an amazing mother (or parent) despite your less than ideal childhood. I promise.

<3

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Motherhood in the age of social media: why comparison is robbing me of joy

comparison-robbing-me-of-joy

Did you know there was once a time where mothers parented without Facebook Mom groups? I almost wouldn’t believe myself if I hadn’t experienced it briefly – VERY briefly – myself.

The first couple of months after my daughter was born were the most isolating months of my life. It was a constant debate between: “Is this activity worth my having to shower?” or, “Do I want to risk a nip slip in this particular location?” or “Should I disrupt my baby’s carefully curated nap schedule so I actually interact with the outside world?” All very important questions when you are a depressed, sleep deprived shell of your former self and you have a mostly unhappy (and constantly hungry) baby.

Until one day, when a friend casually mentioned that Facebook groups for Moms exist.

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5 Life-Changing Ways to Reduce the Mental Load of Motherhood

mental load

It seems as though the ‘mental load’ formerly talked about only by the most hardcore feminists has suddenly turned mainstream and is actually pretty topical these days (thank the lawd for that, TBH). If you’re lucky enough to be following me on Instagram or on Facebook, you may notice that I’ve been ranting about it now for weeks. #sorrynotsorry.

This comic describes the mental load of motherhood (in the context of working mothers) better than I ever could. I challenge you to read it and NOT get riled up about it.

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My Postpartum Depression Story

Postpartum depression

** Update: this was written in 2015. Re-reading this makes me realize how far I’ve come since then. I’ve finally adjusted to motherhood and my life feels ‘normal’ again. I talk with a therapist as often as I can (I find talk therapy helps me more than medication) and I’ve switched medications a few times. I’ve also been diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. But I feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. **

I never wanted to be a Mother.

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Self-Care: What It Is (And Isn’t) (+ My FREE Self-Care Guide!)

Self-Care

Self-care. You hear a lot about it, but what is it, really?

Self-care is an all-encompassing term that describes measures we can take to improve our mental, emotional and physical health. Think of it as preventative medicine: it’s like a vitamin we take in the form of… anything that benefits our health. (Hah, just call me Webster’s Dictionary over here). 

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10 Ways to Ground Yourself When You’re Feeling Stressed Out and Disconnected

There’s been a common thread that strings most — if not all — of my recent conversations together. There’s not enough time. We’re all struggling to keep our heads above water, make meaningful connections, meet deadlines and impress superiors. We’re paralyzed with indecision and envy. We’re desperate for connection that — no matter how hard we try — doesn’t seem to come from the devices we hold in our hands.

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What I’ve learned about how anxiety affects me

I recently remembered the moment I began to experience one of my first instances of crippling anxiety. It was the very first day of law school in 2011. I walked into the building, where many (younger) students had already paired up with new friends. At 26, I technically fit the description of a “mature student”: I had been out of school for four years, and I felt decades older than most of them.

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Dear Mama, I know you’re tired. I am, too.

This stage of life is hard.

We rush from one activity to the next. We’re trying to advance in our careers while still maintaining some semblance of sanity. We’re never fully focused at work, always anticipating that call from daycare or school. The schooling we so carefully and expensively pursued has done nothing to prepare us for this. We’re living for the weekends, which turn into disorganized chaos because we’re all so used to routine. We try to strike a balance between planning and “living in the moment”, and end up with a terrible combination of both that makes Monday morning feel like a reprieve.

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The Silver Lining of Sadness

I’ve posted often on my struggles with depression and anxiety. Part of it, I believe, is because depression and anxiety are genetically encoded in my DNA. I have a strong family history of depression, and I unfortunately inherited the gene. Part of it may also have to do with my less than ideal childhood. I won’t get into details, here, but suffice it to say: I didn’t get the love I needed as a child.

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