What Does it Mean to Be Maternal?
Maternal self-esteem can run up and down. Do you have a mental checklist about being a mother that’s impossible to live up to? Do you think you must be empathic and self-sacrificing while being a multi-tasking genius capable of understanding every stage of child development?
Do you struggle to meet all those impossible expectations? If you say, “Yes,” think again. Because that mother is far too rushed and preoccupied. Kids need mommies, not efficiency experts.
Being maternal is more individual than all that. It means finding out who the YOU really is as a mother, so that you have an identity to share. Your child doesn’t need a maternal giant. He or she needs someone they can get to know and trust. If you don’t know who you are as a mother ‘cause you’re always on the move, how will they?
What is Self-Esteem? What is the Ideal Mother?
Mothers have an ideal of what their mothering should be like. That ideal is based somewhat on the mothering they did or did not receive. Usually, we want to give more than what we received.
So we have a fantasy of the ideal mother. That imagined person is called an ideal because she’s who we aspire to become. Key word: aspire. We don’t fulfill all our aspirations, they just guide us.
Self-esteem is the difference between the real and the ideal. If who you actually are is very far, too far, from your ideal, you will live in a mind cave of self-doubt. Your self-esteem will be low. You may have to revise your fantasy mother-self into something that takes in more of the realities of your life and what children actually need so you are treat your ideal self more kindly. When your real self comes closer to a warmly guiding ideal self, your self-esteem will rise.
Tips to Tolerating Disappointment and Frustration
Remembering that ideals guide and lead but aren’t meant to judge and shame will help you tolerate the normal daily frustrations of everyday life.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Make your daily check list reasonable and doable or you will be counting what you didn’t do, not what you did do.
2. Make what you say more important than what you do. It’s not about how much you fit in between getting home from work and putting the kids to bed or if you stay at home, thinking you should be accomplishing every minute. It’s about how much you listened and responded to what your kids told you.
3. Focus on your insides and your child’s insides first and foremost. Then the externals that fall short won’t matter very much.
4. It’s more important to notice your child’s facial expressions as keys to their feelings, not if their back packs are organized perfectly and properly.
5. Notice how your child listens to you when you accept his or her thoughts and feelings and your confidence as a mother will rise.
6. Remember that the end of the day snuggle is far more important than the momentary meltdown you didn’t know how to handle.
7. Do you sometimes feel ignored like your children are indifferent to your advice? Remember they are living in their own emotional worlds that may supersede what you are saying in the moment. Just ask, “What’s the matter? I’m here for you” and the closeness will return.
8. Recharge your batteries by having some adult listen to you. Or, if you’re more solitary, take that half hour for yourself with a cup of tea or music. It’s easier to keep giving when we also receive.
Mother yourself. I don’t mean with massages and ice-cream (though that’s nice in the moment), but with emotional care. Give yourself credit for all you try to do as a mother. Reassess and revise your ideals. Just save the parts that are most important: trusting in yourself and accepting who you are so you can do the same for your kids.