The Journey to the Unmasked Mother Takes Time
Right now, there is still a lot of talk about masks. Will we continue to wear them while waiting for a vaccine or herd immunity? What type of mask should we wear, cloth, surgical, filtered.
Well, this new phenomenon has me thinking about the masks we wear as moms in our everyday life. Perhaps we wear our masks to cope with motherhood, hide in motherhood or protect ourselves and our emotions while doing motherhood. And surely, there are additional reasons we mask up in this role as well.
Here are five masks that moms wear and what it might take should we want to remove them.
Mask #1-The Perfect Mom
At any given moment, this amazing mom is comparing herself to the other moms around her and second-guessing much of her parenting. Her focus is on everything being just right; appearances, meals, clothing. Her home, children and family always appear to be absolutely perfect. Oftentimes, she spends hours searching for the next “Pinterest perfect” thing she needs to create. At some point, we’ve all either been this mom, know this mom or we are this mom right now.
Removing this mask requires one thing – vulnerability. I know, it’s not my favorite thing either, but I’ve learned something along this motherhood journey. The goal of perfection has robbed me of my peace. Let’s set a new goal. Instead of asking, “Is she a better mother than I am,” let’s ask ourselves, “Am I a better mother today than I was yesterday?” Things don’t have to be perfect to be great. A home can be welcoming without every toy being put away or everything being in its place. I remember times when the doorbell would ring, and I would cringe at realizing it was my neighbor coming over for a quick visit. Of course, that was the morning that it looked as if an F4 hurricane had gone through the family room. The question, do I let her inside or do we all hide and wait for her to leave? Full disclosure, I’ve done both.
Mask #2-The People Pleaser Mom
The goal of wanting to make everyone happy and not ruffle any feathers can be suffocating. This mom will almost always say yes when you need her, even when she knows she should say no because she is already overextended, overcommitted and exhausted. This mask provides the greatest means of escape from having to have difficult conversations with almost anyone. This amazing mother would rather be angry with herself for making another commitment than have you angry with her.
Removing this mask requires some soul-searching. And during that search, the first thing to look for is the word “no.” I often say, “The word ‘no’ is a complete sentence.” In fact, it becomes so difficult for this mom to say no, that even if she says it, it’s followed by an apology and reason why. It sounds something like this: “I’m sorry, but I can’t help with that right now. I really want to but what happened is that … “Here’s a different response that is also completely acceptable: “No, I’m not available to assist with the Spring Fair this year. I know it will be amazing.” Saying no and setting boundaries around your time does not need to be followed with an apology or explanation. In fact, stepping back from some of our commitments opens up opportunities and space for others to step into new possibilities for their own gifts and talents to grow and be recognized. Is there a committee or project where you’ve served well and perhaps your season is over? It could be a new season for someone else.
Mask #3-The Martyr Mom
This mother may have the biggest heart of them all. She will give her right arm and anything else she has that you may need. She is selfless and willing to set herself on fire to keep everyone else warm. But here’s the thing – that is not necessary. In fact, there are times she hides behind this mask and wears it as a badge of honor. And oftentimes, reminding herself (and others) of all she’s done and sacrificed for those around her.
Removing this mask requires the ability to perform for an audience of one – yourself. Although this mom may feel unappreciated or taken for granted, she must learn how to validate herself with a regular regimen of self-care that goes far beyond a good mani-pedi. Finding ways to pore deeply into the areas of her life that allow her to feel fulfilled and content. The old saying is true: if we live by compliments, we will die by criticism. Self-affirmation and positive self-talk are ways to remind ourselves that we are amazingly imperfect just as we are. How do you talk to yourself about yourself? “I’m so stupid” or “That was a dumb mistake” may seem harmless, but I wouldn’t recommend letting comments like that become a habit. Would you say either of these to your best girlfriend? You are worthy of the same grace you offer her.
Mask #4-The In-Control Mom
Oftentimes at the heart of desiring control is fear. In many seasons of motherhood, I parented out of fear, and thus attempted to exert my control over the situation or the child. As our children get older, it becomes obvious that the control we once had is waning. In those moments, some of us attempt to hold tighter instead of releasing our children and allowing them to explore, learn and grow. This release doesn’t happen all at once. In fact, it begins with requests for freedom. To attend an event or go out with a friend (who perhaps we don’t know). But here’s the goal – trust. They want to be trusted to make the right decision and we, in turn, must give them the chance to earn that trust.
Removing this mask requires faith in what we’ve instilled in them, faith in their ability to make good decisions and faith in the fact that we’ve done our part. There are no perfect parents. We’ve all made mistakes, but I find that’s where the greatest lessons are. If we fear the mistakes that our children will make or if we take each of those mistakes personally, there will always be an underlying desire to control. Give your child the gift of autonomy in age-appropriate ways. Allow them the space to make a few mistakes so they can learn. Let’s retire the helicopter and lawn mower parent for good.
Mask #5-The Hidden Mom
The amazing hidden mom will often turn down new opportunities, relationships or even her own dreams because of “the kids”. It may sound like this: “Well, when the kids leave home then I will … ” or “Once the kids are all in (or all out of) college, then I’ll be free to … ” She doesn’t mean to hide. Her goal is to allow her children the best life possible, so she is willing to sacrifice her own dreams for the dreams of her children. However, it is quite possible for all of us to go after our dreams and to create and conquer goals, together.
Removing this mask requires acknowledging that it’s OK to have goals and things you desire to accomplish in addition to being a mom. Mom is a hat we wear, it’s not the only hat we wear. Remember that photography class you wanted to take or the book you’ve been wanting to write? Start showing up for yourself in real ways. Put yourself in ink on the family calendar instead of pencil. You wouldn’t think of erasing a doctor’s appointment or other commitment with your child. Treat your goals and commitments with the same respect.
The Unmasked Mom
This mom is the goal! She has a healthy understanding of the benefits that each of the masks provide. She respects order and balance without needing things to be perfect or controlled by fear. She leaves room for the unexpected and wants her family happy and whole, but not at her expense. She sets appropriate boundaries without the need to explain her yes or her no and feels no guilt when doing so.
The journey to the unmasked mom takes time. Removing one mask may reveal another, but that’s OK. Living an unmasked life is one of authenticity, where our own positive thoughts and opinions drown out any negative ones, regardless of where they come from.
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