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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The Ugly Truth About Mommy Blogs

mom blog

I’ve written about this before, but let me reiterate: this season of life is hard. Seriously – it’s no joke, you guys. I’m pouring what little energy I have left into my job, which leaves no time for much else. My connections with friends are scant, although I know they’re there. We’re all running on our respective hamster wheels and just trying to get by. We make plans with the best of intentions and by the time Friday comes, we’re ready for bed by 9 p.m. – plans or not.

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The Simple Routines I Follow to Start My Week Off Right

routine

I posted earlier today on Instagram about how much I hate Sundays. They just feel like another Monday to me. Maybe even worse. For some reason we’re all perpetually cranky in this house on Sunday mornings. Today was no exception. I spent the first half of the day stewing, but managed to recover later in the day and ended up being super productive. We even spent some time at the library checking out books before we headed to the grocery store. [I asked my 4 year old what she’d rather do: go to the library or the park. Of course she picked the library. She’s a girl after my own heart].

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Five Foolproof Strategies to Combat Mom Guilt

mom guilt

Oh, Mom Guilt. My old friend. Or should I say “frenemy”.

This morning wasn’t one of my most shining moments as a parent. I woke up late, exhausted (which is the new thing I do since becoming a parent), and laid in bed for too long. I woke my four-year-old up and instructed her to get dressed. She wanted to wear her pajamas to school. We said no. She asked her Dad to eat breakfast at the table, which we both knew wasn’t possible given the fact it was so late.

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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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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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How Living More Minimally is Changing My Life

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Those of you who know me and follow me on social media know that I’ve been singing the praises of “minimalism” lately. And while I’m sure it makes me sound like some sort of combination of preachy bitch and millennial vegan hipster, I can’t help it – it has been a total game-changer. (Check out my 7 life-changing tips for living more minimally here).

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My Medication Makes Me a Better Mom

my medication makes me a better mom

I spent the early weeks of my daughter’s life on the same spot on the couch. To this day, the cushion serves as a stark reminder of those times: worn out and significantly flattened by its many hours of use. The cycle went: wake, cry, eat, cry, eat, cry, eat, cry, sleep. Repeat. And for the first time in my life, I felt a particular type of anger bubbling up within me more times than I could count: white hot flashes of rage that terrified me, forcing me to place her in her crib while I stepped outside to remind myself to breathe.

I felt like I was having a heart attack.

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