By: Kaitlin Soule, LMFT @wellnotesbykaitlin.com
It hits all of us moms at different times, but for me it wasn’t until everything got quiet and the visitors stopped coming, and the meals stopped showing up, and my partner went back to work that Postpartum Anxiety showed up at my doorstep.
The recognition that I had a real-life human, who I loved beyond what I ever thought was possible, to keep alive and well with no user manual felt so…freaking overwhelming. I distinctly remember sitting there staring down at my beautiful red-headed little girl feeding from my cracked (and bloody) nipples, curling my toes in pain, and thinking “is this ever going to end?”
Before kids, I imagined that same moment, but I never imagined I’d feel anything but complete bliss and adoration. And then the guilt kicks in and thoughts like “I SHOULD be enjoying this more,” or “breastfeeding should be easier,” or “I shouldn’t want or need time to myself…how could I be so selfish?” “I shouldn’t want to go back to my career (Yeah, the one I worked my ass off for and was smack dab in the middle of growing when we made the choice to start our family).”
I never questioned that I loved my daughter, and that being a mom was something I always longed to be…but I just felt overwhelmed by all the things that could go wrong, and all the noise around how women “should” behave once they become moms felt so damn exhausting. I felt like I was losing sight of who I was beyond the person who bathed, feed, and cared for my children. I felt bogged down by the belief that I held that I had to be one or the other – the B.S. notion (drive by old and worn out cultural and societal messaging) that I had to choose between the role of mom and every other aspiration or desire I held.
I remember walking into a boutique store on a rare day away from my three kids and seeing a shirt that read “Mother and More.” That seemingly simple phrase held so much power for me in that moment…it was as though some higher power was giving me a nudge, or a permission slip to step into my own growth journey, and to evolve into the woman I was meant to be.
And so, I did, and while none of it happened over night, I started slowly shedding the weight of other’s people’s expectations by leaning into the truth that when I was being all of me (mom, wife, therapist, and creator) I was showing up as the best version of myself.
Flash forward to 7 years and three kids later, I hold so much compassion for that younger, and more fragile version of myself – that version of myself who hadn’t yet discovered her place in motherhood and womanhood.
The same thing is true for all of us, that when we give ourselves permission to shed the should we make SO much more room and space for our own experience and our children’s experience. The most beautiful part of saying “yes” to our wants and needs, and the truth we often forget to acknowledge, is that we are teaching our children to do the same.
Now, in my career as a therapist and an Empowerment Coach, I have the honor of helping woman get out of their heads and into their lives by overcoming the barriers that are holding them back (i.e., mom guilt, limiting beliefs, and anxiety) from leaning into their own growth and evolution journey.
I don’t know what being a “mother and more” looks like for you. Being more than mom has nothing to do with working or not working, staying home, or running a business. Being more than mom just means remembering that you are a whole person who gets to choose how to parent, love and lead.
So, wherever you find yourself today, remember that it’s not just your children who are growing and evolving, but you are too. When we become moms, our identity changes, it shouldn’t disappear. Our identities aren’t meant to fade, but instead, to expand with time and an open mind.
As our hearts grow bigger, our capacity to love and give grows too. And as our time grows thinner, the choice to spend our time doing things that “fill our cup,” and feel meaningful to us becomes our choice to make. Saying “yes” to your own version of more is something that nobody else can do besides you.
Of course, there will be seasons that it feels hard to lean into your own personal growth, career, relationships- because motherhood is all encompassing. There are times when all you can do is just get through the day and make sure the kids are fed, cared for, and content (ish). That’s okay, that’s real. When we allow for your experience to be ours and accept where we are (even when it’s REALLY hard) we are honoring ourselves…and from there we are given room to grow.
So remember this, you are worth the time and work it takes to be a mother and more-and growth and evolution is both imperfect and takes time. Honor where you are, because when you love yourself well, you are loving them well.