Getting Lost in Mothering

I wanted to be a mother from as early as I can remember.

This was not due to seeing my mum love being a mum, it was that I felt I would be good at it and that it would be great to be able to love something I created. Well, my childhood wish came true and I ended up being totally lost in mothering my seven children – yes you read correctly, it was the wish that kept on giving.

In being caught up in fulfilling my childhood belief that I would be a good mother, I lost my connection to the fact that I am a woman before I am anything else for anyone else.

You might be thinking of course you got lost, how wouldn’t you with seven kids! Although true, the sense of forgetting we are women first is something I have observed in many mothers with fewer children. Like mother’s before me, my life became about meeting everyone else’s needs that rarely saw me considering that I had some of my own. I am sure many mums can relate to waking up for the 6th time in the night for an unsettled baby, making cupcakes late at night for a school function the next day, or staying up late to help with homework when you are so tired you know you should be in bed.

I lacked boundaries in my mothering and allowed myself to get lost in all the shoulds and have-tos, which often resulted in me “losing” it in a big way with my kids!

This only ever happened when I ignored my body’s signals to say No or ask for help instead of going into my autopilot good-mother-should-always-be-there-for-her-kid’s pattern. Ultimately I put caring for myself last in the very long list of priorities.

The truth is that all my trying to be a good mother often ended up with both myself and my kids feeling bad, which was completely counter to what I was trying to achieve. This would lead me to feeling guilty for resenting the kids so I would up my trying even harder and the destructive cycle would begin again which always came at an expense to myself.

This sequence was so ingrained that it took my body becoming very unwell to give me the stop I needed to consider there had to be another way. With no choice but to change, I began a journey to get honest with myself about why I was doing all the doing for my kids and why I didn’t feel I deserved to make a space to care and nurture myself.

In the process of getting honest and as I slowly embraced self-care and self-nurturing in my life I discovered:

  • Self-care and nurturing are not selfish, they are an absolute must to be truly able to freely care and nurture another
  • Taking simple steps to embrace self-care and nurturing leads to the next caring choice
  • Self-care and nurturing build a deeper connection to my body that has changed how I feel about myself that is way more loving
  • My self-worth is not dependant on what I do for my kids or anyone else
  • Mothering is much easier from a foundation of caring for me first
  • My children respond to me being honest about how I am truly feeling
  • One of the greatest gifts I can offer my children is role modeling loving and caring for myself as a priority
  • I am not only a woman first but my connection to this comes from a love that I now feel within me

This ongoing journey of self-honesty and being willing to embrace self-care and nurturing as essentials in my everyday life has transformed how I feel about myself and how I now mother.

I now view mothering as something I do, not who I am.

There are times when I still get a little lost in mothering shoulds and have-tos but the great thing is I am much more aware that it just doesn’t feel right. These days, instead of being trapped in the cycle of guilt and trying harder, I can reflect on why I got caught up and then respond from the loving woman I know myself to be.

by Sharon Gavioli, age 54, Brisbane Australia

For Further Inspiration:
Are you a mum or a woman first? Miranda asks in Mothering the Essence of True Nurturing
Do we women lose our identity after having a child? Read Nicole’s take in The Woman, The Mother
Read what a four-legged object (a chair!) can do for you and your beauty routine with Sharon

854 thoughts on “Getting Lost in Mothering

  1. Sharon, this is a very powerful article because it shows how you have been able to pull yourself out from what you were lost in (as mothering) and come back to being you as a woman first. When we hear things like this from someone who has a lived experience of being lost but then bringing back true balance in life, it is deeply inspiring and supports us in knowing what is indeed possible.

  2. Interesting how the balance is so simple and loving – true mothering is not to only love another and do everything for them at the neglect of oneself, rather it is saying that as a woman we count just as much as everyone else. The real problem often lies in the fact that we do not tend to value ourselves as much and hence the self neglect can come in – which really only teaches our children and those around us to do the same (neglect themselves always at the expense of another).

  3. Wow Sharon – what an awesome sharing! 7 children or 1 child, makes no difference, for as you have said we can still get caught up in the pattern of needing to be there for another at the neglect of ourselves! This is something I too have experienced and thankfully am extracting myself from, which has been deeply loving and supportive for myself and the whole family!

  4. “I now view mothering as something I do, not who I am.” This is so powerful for mothers to read. Regardless of whether you’re a stay at home mum or one who goes out to work for a living, Many women regard their being a mother as defining who they are,. I know I did. We are women first and foremost and can so easily get lost in the mothering aspect, especially on the first few years of a child’s life.

  5. ‘I lost my connection to the fact that I am a woman before I am anything else for anyone else.’ How easy have we made it in modern society to get caught up in roles and allow ourselves to be identified by them, rather than simply connecting to the truth of who we are and using this as the foundation for our daily living.

    1. A line that comes from martyrdom is ‘you’re not grateful for all that I do for you’. It’s a very heavy line, steeped in resentment and bitterness and basically reflects the fact that the person saying it is not doing whatever it is out of love but out of either duty, obligation, recognition, identity or something similar. And so it’s no wonder that thanks and appreciation aren’t forthcoming.

  6. What you have presented here is very key for many women in that, whether being a mother or not, we often lose the sense of ourselves in the roles we take on and put ahead of us taking true care of ourselves.

    1. So true Linda. We can get lost in the roles we take on – and can wear many different hats at various times. I used to think being a chameleon – fitting in with whatever I felt was required of me was a ‘good thing’. Returning to who I truly am i realise i was sold a lie.

  7. Putting self care at the top of our agenda is not selfish it is essential not just for us but for our children and everyone else we come into contact with as the resentment that builds up when we constantly put others needs before our own has to find an outlet and it is never pretty.

  8. “I lacked boundaries in my mothering and allowed myself to get lost in all the shoulds and have-tos,”
    I think you speak for many mothers here, its become the norm for a women to get lost in the images she think she should be rather then feeling who she is.

  9. If we do not love, care, honour and cherish ourselves, how will we ever love, care, honour and cherish another? You cannot offer an empty cup and expect another to drink from it.

    1. Great analogy Liane, for any so called love given from an empty cup is empty of true love. This highlights how true love never neglects anyone.

  10. Children learn by observing what they see and feel around them, which means that they learn what it is to be a woman by the way we honour and treat ourselves.

    1. Absolutely so it is essential that we start to break the cycle of putting others needs above our own as everyone suffers the consequences when this happens and yet if we reflect a self honouring way of living that is what will be passed onto future generations.

    2. Spot on Mary – so we can ask what role model are we presenting? One that loves and appreciates ourselves as the women that we are and gives from that, or one that neglects ourselves and attempts to give from that emptiness?

  11. Mothering when done with a need or to fulfil a fairy tale picture is a fast track to losing yourself as a woman. I remember when my child was young, I believed that I wouldn’t have been doing a good job as a mum if I had focussed on being a woman. In my mind the position description required self-sacrifice and ignoring being a woman except in a functional way.

    1. Taking time out for yourself was ‘not acceptable’ when I had children – forty years ago now. Maybe this is still the case. I notice in myself when I see women doing this I feel an envy that it was so different for me But it was always my choice. I hadn’t even realised this until just now – a good one to let go of – and celebrate women looking after their own well-being first.

  12. The deepening of our honesty with self and then all others is what allows us to heal our spirit as we come closer to truth and absolute truth.

  13. It is such a lie that we grab onto, to think that putting others before us is what makes us caring people. We are caring people if we care for people, it doesn’t matter if we put them before us or after us, but the quality of care truly is determined by how much we are able to care for ourselves.

  14. When I go into the doing for my kids I become very insular. I think it is ‘easier’ to do the things that need doing for them but in truth this is a lie as I end up feeling resentful. Getting to the root of why I invest in the doing requires a commitment and dedication to myself but this is certainly worth investing in as I deepen the relationship to self, the outcome being, raising children that are responsible for the way in which they live their lives and I feel the effects of supporting them with no attachment which affects my health and wellbeing enormously.

  15. It is a true blessing that our body always brings us back to truth in some way with illness and disease. Without it doing so we really would be in a pickle, having few clear signs that we are aware of about what we are really doing to ourselves.

  16. This is a gorgeous blog to read Sharon, and so valuable for everyone that you made these new healing choices, ‘This ongoing journey of self-honesty and being willing to embrace self-care and nurturing as essentials in my everyday life has transformed how I feel about myself and how I now mother.’

  17. I can see how easy it is to get caught up in the mothering because everything around is sets us up to believe and follow what is needed. Some are more mother earth like and others are more regimented but they are all coming from what we are being told it is to mother. What about our innate feelings and wisdom within that tells us exactly what we need to know about mothering. This way of mothering is truly honouring for all.

  18. Many mums put everyone else first, as they have a belief that is what we should do to be a good mum, until our body says no this is not the way, ‘Ultimately I put caring for myself last in the very long list of priorities.’

  19. We have created a society that feeds ideals to women about how they should perform in their various roles, without deeply honouring that all women, regardless of whether they are mothers or not, have an innate ability to nurture not only themselves but also all others. This nurturing is not part of the ideal we have been sold; it is a light that lives within us that we allow to emanate out – a process that cannot happen when there is an ideal blocking the path and restricting our natural expression.

    1. And I can feel how the ideal grabs me and then I’m gone or in truth I am gone first and then the ideal takes hold. Yet getting to feel and sense this ideal that we are fed in every area of society is an opening to letting it go and making different choices, choices that truly support my children as I explore and learn to support and care for myself first.

  20. Sharon, your insights may or may not seem simple but they are very profound and effective, showing how to be a mother with many children and a woman and have a relationship, all at once. Millions of people in Australia alone would probably benefit.

  21. Putting everyone else’s needs first is something that do not remember being actively taught, but knowing that I had to do it all the same in order to keep the status quo. That everything depended on my being completely giving of myself at all times without boundaries, was what was required for the family unit to function is not what anyone told me directly I had to do, but I remember choosing to do it. Which makes me see what happens when as young girls we grow up looking to the world to tell us who we are.

  22. “Ultimately I put caring for myself last in the very long list of priorities.” This is so common. I did the same. Thus when I go to volunteer on the local maternity ward I make a point of suggesting the new mother really takes gentle care of herself first. For if she goes under, the whole family is affected.

  23. It is common that the natural feeling for women to nurture others turns into having children because its something we should do or we think we will be ‘good at it’. Is this one of the earliest ways that we start to look to what we can ‘do’ that society will approve of and notice us for, rather than just living how gorgeous we are?

    1. We have made mothering a ‘doing’ rather than be an expression of our being – our true being which is our Soul.

  24. Great to be able to call out when something has started to become who we are. As a parent, I have to really look at how much time and energy I put into being a mother vs just being me. it can very easily become all that you base your day on and your conversations on when this is just me giving my power away – which leaves a pretty grim reflection to my children.

  25. When we get lost in the boundaries of mothering chaos ensues, letting in all those ideals and beliefs about how we should do it will always leave us and our child worse off. Far better to follow the inner heart where we know innately what is best for us to do.

  26. An incredible reflection is shared here of how in our connection to who we are as women first, we then are able to bring everything that is needed to truly offering the quality of mothering to any child. Thank you Sharon for highlighting how this is possible and truly supportive for all concerned.

  27. When we go into autopilot and ignore our body’s signals to say No or to ask for help we set our selves up to fail we also negatively impact all those around us, including our children.

  28. Getting lost in the mothering is very relatable for me also but mine was kind of twofold as I got lost in the role at times but also brought in being a single parent as a backup so that I wouldn’t be able to feel what I was holding under the role.

  29. Getting lost in mothering is unfortunately all too common, and I can relate to having done that also. For me, it was like a switch was flipped and suddenly all these pictures of what it meant to be a mother or should I say a ‘Good mother’ popped in as if waiting on the sidelines for the opportunity to leap into action. In the process, I lost myself and put myself last in the queue. What I have since realised is that I was reflecting all of this to my daughters to carry the baton on, if and when they have children.

    1. Yes, it is very comfortable for those around but we all lose in that process even if it doesn’t seem like that initially.

  30. Very true Sharon, it is not that all our worries are gone, but that once we feel that we are slipping away in the mud, we can get ourselves back out and ask for support. There is nothing special about that as anyone else can, when we are open to receive the tools to do so. And that is what Esoteric Women’s Health offers. A way to be with oneself, backtracking the loveless steps we make away from ourselves, re-connecting back to the loveliness that we are from. Without perfection! No perfection!

  31. ‘Self-care and nurturing are not selfish, they are an absolute must to be truly able to freely care and nurture another’. Well said Sharon and very true, if more mothers embraced self-care and self-nurturing as their everyday ‘norm’, I am sure the high statistics on exhaustion and depression amongst mothers would begin to decline.

  32. I see many mums trapped in the cycle of guilt and needing to try harder – awesome to have a different reflection one that shows us another way to parenting.

  33. “One of the greatest gifts I can offer my children is role modeling loving and caring for myself as a priority” Education starts in the home and this is a lesson that is there for life.

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