The two sides of motherhood

Being a parent can feel like such a hard job sometimes, especially when energy and patience are in short supply and we feel pushed to our limits.

When that happens we might in engage in behaviours which are at odds with what we want be like as parents - perhaps we shout or scold our children for example.


So what is going on inside that at times we are taken by surprise by our (over)reactions?

It can feel as though there are two parts of us: the "higher" mother who is kind, patient, present, compassionate and acts in ways that are enriching for the family. When the "higher" mother is in charge you usually feel fulfilled and motherhood is a smooth dance which you have successfully mastered.


However, when your toddler throws the 10th tantrum of the day (in public!), wakes every other hour at night for no apparent reason or demands to sit on the cat (sorry Jaffa...) the other side might get triggered - what I like to call the "lower" mother.


We all  carry with us a version of this far from perfect mother. We often hide it as best we can lest our friends and family think we are a bad mummy. It also brings up shameful and guilty feelings for many women as our minds beat us up for not being good enough.


The emotions triggered by our children's (mis)behaviour can feel so overwhelming at times that the lower mother appears to take over without us even being aware of it.

I have nicknamed mine the "crazed" mum and it looks bit like this - scary, right? No wonder we fight this part of ourselves so hard and why our minds give us such a hard time over these parts of us.

When the lower mother hijacks your mind and emotions, you get so caught up in it you end up acting in ways which are worlds apart from who you want to be as  parent - such as loving, caring, understanding.


So what do I do then? 


Start by noticing in what kinds of situations this "lower" mum takes over: what the trigger was, what was happening in you and around you beforehand - were you tired, hungry, rushing, in a crowded supermarket?


Notice also what kinds of thoughts come up: "I am being manipulated by my toddler - I am a pushover", "I am so useless at getting him to sleep - why can't I get him to behave like my friend's child?", "This is too hard, I just want some peace and quiet".


Then let go.


Don't try to push these difficult thoughts away or argue with them to prove how they are wrong or irrational. Just notice them, you can give them a name (oh, there is the "I am a useless mum thought again...thanks for that mind!) and then let go.


It is a bit like watching the sky - notice the clouds (thoughts) form and appear in the horizon, watch them drift by, sometimes change shape and then disappear again. So it is with our thoughts and emotions - they can look grey, thundery and scary at times and yet if we don't get caught up in a struggle trying to push them away they will eventually change and leave at their own pace.


Do the same for your emotions, don't fight them or push them away. I like to slowly breathe into my anger or frustration for example and then make a little room around it, expand a little, just letting these difficult emotions be there and then carry on acting according to my values.

I'm not talking about liking it or putting up with it, it is more of an active willingness to meet things as they are. What is the point of arguing with reality anyway?


The energy you save by not choosing to fight the difficult thoughts and emotions can be put to good use by taking valued action in line with what matters to you as a mother.


Don't just take my word for it though: if you take a good honest look at your own experience - do you feel any better if you try to avoid or push away these difficult thoughts and feelings? And if you succeed how long do they stay away until they come back again?

I'm afraid we are all in this together - it is just part of being human...


So how about getting familiar with your own lower mother so you can more easily spot her next time she comes around? You may look into the kinds of things she says, tone of voice, maybe it even resembles someone you know, a celebrity or a character from a book.

What does she look like? You may even want to draw yours - I have seen some pretty funny ones! In the meantime I have added a few more pics to give you some inspiration...