So, how’d you become a “Mom Coach”?
As a Doctor of Occupational Therapy and working in pediatrics for over a decade, I continued facing a roadblock with the parents incorporating my suggestions into the home life. I came to recognize as I became a mother myself and the stressors of life, motherhood, and a career are already exhausting. Adding more to your plate is just too much. I was finding over and over that women, and specifically mothers, are feeling exhausted, unfulfilled, and lonely. They're ashamed to even admit that they feel lost in motherhood. The amount of guilt and shame they place upon themselves for never doing enough is rampant. I’m here to start the conversation and keep the conversation going. If women want to work with me, great. If not, I'm still going to spread the message. It’s vitally important.
Does this have to do with our own mothers, or are we still using the 1950s housewife as our model of the ideal mother?
Sort of, we've come a long way since the 1950s. But the feelings of loneliness and lack of fulfillment are still the same and very much present today. Now we've taken that 1950s model and added things from the 1970s feminist movement. Because of that, we now have the added pressure to also be working moms. Oh, and we’re still supposed to continue with the roles expected of us at home. As a clinician, I hear this story over, and over, and over. Mothers feel exhausted, depleted, overwhelmed, and lonely in their lives.
Tell me about the inability to quit this job?
Yes, moms often want to quit and run away. It becomes too much sometimes.
In fact, there's this thing called the “hospital fantasy.” And, it is a real fantasy many mothers have. They joke about being admitted to the hospital for something very minor, not life-threatening, just something serious enough where they have to stay there overnight. Here’s the fantasy part: in imagining how it will be, they think, ”My food will be brought to me. I'll have warm blankets. People will come in when I need them. There's a call button. There's a TV and I can watch what I want to watch. And there’s silence.” So, that's how bad things have gotten for these women! They’re left to fantasize about being admitted to the hospital. It's meant to be a joke, but it's not really funny. I think it's heartbreakingly sad.
They feel guilty about spending money when their husband is the one making the money. They shame and guilt themselves into thinking they need to do more than they already are. They think they're not worthy of spending money on themselves. So, for them to take a vacation or go to a hotel by themselves, is something they would never even consider. Instead, they dream of hospitals.
If you're a working mom, you feel guilty that you're working, if you're a stay-at-home mom, you feel judged.
As parents, we second guess every single decision we’ve ever made, and we do it so often, we feel like failures. And on top of that, we’ve got to add taking care of our husbands to the mix. It’s no wonder we constantly feel burnt out.
What will it take for moms to turn this around?
Well, moms need to realize the responsibility is within themselves to make a shift. They need to own their choices, give themselves what they need in order to thrive, and do everything they can and commit to taking care of themselves so they can stay healthy mentally and physically for their families. So often, we guilt and shame ourselves out of doing this in many different ways.
How do you coach moms through this?
The women who come to me are exhausted, depleted and ready for change. They feel lost, like they don't have a sense of identity anymore.
I encourage my moms to think of the process as a continuous cycle. Recognition is key. We start at the top and say, “Hey, I'm refreshed. I'm a mom, and I’ve got this!” Then, we go, go, go until we feel burnt out. And, we don't do anything about it because we have to keep going... We tell ourselves nobody else is going to do it, so we go into mommy mode. And, we push on. The cycle continues, and it’s go go go, some more. We tackle our to-do list, and we get shit done… we power through… hey, we’re the MOM! But then, we experience another moment where we crash and burn. This time, however, it usually shows up as a meltdown. And, at that moment, we end up lashing out at our children or our partners with resentment and anger because we're so frustrated, exhausted, depleted and burned out. And then, at that low point of the cycle, after we’ve lashed out at everyone we love, we shame ourselves into believing we could have done better. In the midst of this shame and guilt, we tell ourselves, “That was terrible. That was wrong, I messed up, I should do better, I can do better.” We don’t recognize the breakdown or see we’ve reached the bottom. The reaction should be, “Oh, shit, I need to go take care of myself.” But instead, we allow the shame to tell us, “You're not enough, you did a bad thing and you need to make up for it. You need to work even harder and do better.” Then, the shame propels us forward and we are somehow able to go all the way back up to the beginning of the cycle. We put even more pressure on ourselves to show up as who we think we’re supposed to be. And still, we completely neglect ourselves. As we continue around the circle, every single time around we condition our brains over and over to think we’re not worthy. “I'm not worthy. I'm not worthy. I'm the problem. I'm the problem. I'm the problem.”
Do you think this is made worse by feeling like we’re the only one that has these feelings? The thought that everybody else is doing it perfectly?
Yes. All of this is shameful to discuss. It's shameful to open up about it. It's shameful to admit we’re lonely and unfulfilled in our lives. There is so much self-abandonment in motherhood. We are somehow able to take care of everyone else around us, but we forget to give ourselves some grace. And, we continue to shame ourselves. Yeah, so that's the reason we're burnt out.
Tell me more about self-abandonment.
Well, the number one reason we're burnt out is because of self-abandonment. Women completely abandon who they are, and their own sense of priority for themselves in this life when they become moms. They can’t fathom being thought of as a terrible person or a bad mom, so they say, “I need to go do this for me.”
Whatever dreams they had for their lives before they became mothers are now completely gone, and that was never part of the discussion when they were deciding to get pregnant. It's just the expected path we're all supposed to follow. You've got to find a man, get married, and have a wonderful life.
That's what we saw our parents do, right?
Yes, a lot of them gave us the white picket fence treatment and hid all the bullshit until we thought, "Okay, this is going to be easy! Now I know what I'm supposed to do. Wow, I want that life!" So we go get that life, only to realize, "Holy shit. This is not what they told me it would be. This is not what I thought it was going to be. I thought a child would enhance my life, I thought having a family would enhance my life, not control my life."
But the big piece of it is that women need to decide for themselves and realize they have a choice. And they need to be able to say this is not how I want to live my life.
So how do we break the cycle?
You break the cycle by saying, "I'm enough. I deserve to take up space and residency on this earth. I'm enough to warrant having a voice. I'm enough to warrant having an identity outside of motherhood.
My big thing is our shoulds versus our musts. We tell ourselves we should show up a certain way. But we fail to identify our musts. What are your musts in your own life? What are the things in life you must do for yourself? What are the goals and dreams that you must achieve for yourself?
You can still have that in motherhood. And you shouldn't be shamed or feel guilty for wanting those things. You shouldn't be shamed or feel guilty for going and getting those things.
One of my clients right now, said, "I can't even remember the last time I was excited about something." Another, when asked what brought her joy, told me, "I don't know, I can't think of anything."
And it makes me very sad.
How do they realize there's another option? What is the catalyst for them to ask for help?
Well, a lot of women just keep their heads down, shaming themselves through the cycle. They're not looking at the bigger picture, they're only looking at what they have to do next. Eventually, they hit rock bottom.
The catalyst for change? Hopefully, they’ll see me talking about it. I think they also see other women who are trying to revolutionize this movement. And hearing women talk about it, probably feels like a dirty little secret, or a guilty pleasure. And so, talking about it almost feels gluttonous.
It's addicting to be able to dream. Then they start to say, "Oh, can have that? Like really?"
How do we stop the cycle? It must be hard to pull someone out, especially someone who's been through the cycle a lot of times?
What pulls them out is that they're literally at their breaking point. They realize they're at the bottom of the totem pole. And they've gotten to a place where they say, "I don't know what to do anymore. I feel like I'm in the middle of an ocean, without a life raft, begging for someone to throw me a life preserver." It shouldn't have to get to that point, but that's often what it takes before they will ask for help.
They have to decide they want a better and more fulfilling life. They have to decide they're ready for change.
Is this just a mom thing, or is it a woman thing?
It's all of us. Women are just supposed to take care of everything. Many, many women who are not moms follow me because the conversation is still the same. We all have a hard time asking for help or even admitting that we need help. We're supposed to have it all together. We're supposed to smile and look like Barbie on the outside and have our shit together on the inside.
What is it that makes us think this is what we’re supposed to do?
It's patriarchal conditioning and devastatingly upsetting to me.
What would you say to the new mothers, pregnant women, or to the women who are planning to become mothers?
Well, they have to be willing to have a hard conversation with themselves before they decide to have children. They have to decide what kind of mother they want to be. They have to decide what role they're going to play. And, they have to have tough conversations with their partner. They have to hold boundaries for themselves regarding what they are and are not willing to do and give up. They need to start delineating tasks, and discussing expectations and think about what feels good to them. And, in my experience, this doesn’t happen often.
Most first-time mothers don’t fully understand how hard it's going to be. No one talks about self-abandonment, no one talks about any of it. It just happens. People say, “Oh, you’re going to have a baby! That’s so exciting!” And that's it.
No one talks about how intense and lonely, it is, or how much a child actually needs. Having children involves sacrifice. And there's a balance that needs to be discussed prior to stepping into parenthood.
What advice do you have for the moms reading this and currently saying, “omg yes, yes this is me. I’m exhausted, and depleted. I live in that cycle.”
I see you mama. I know this struggle is incredibly real. You are not alone. You don’t have to do this motherhood and life alone. You can have a balance in motherhood. You can release all that shame and guilt you place upon yourself. It’s ok to take care of yourself every single day. Because YOU are the heart of the family.
To read more about Dr. Brooke and her Mama-vation, head to her Instagram by clicking here (hyperlink: https://www.instagram.com/brookeweinst/), or join her Facebook community, (hyperlink: https://brooke-weinstein.mykajabi.com/offers/LF35xmi3/checkout)
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