This post is by author, life coach and yoga instructor Kate Hanley of Ms. Mindbody.
As a life coach, I work with women — mostly moms — who are exhausted from stress, guilt, and constantly judging themselves for their choices.
Some are working crazy amounts and feeling guilty about not spending more time with their kids. Some are doing jobs they don’t really care about, which makes them wonder if it’s worth it to put their kids in childcare to go sit at a desk and be miserable. Others are stay-at-home moms who feel they have to do everything for their kids, since taking care of them is “their job”.
All these scenarios create a ton of angst. And they all boil down to a question of value.
A client of mine – a mom of one who works very part-time – recently told me that although she chose not to work all that much because she wants to spend time with her preschooler, she’s constantly questioning her decision.
“I just need to know I’m doing something of value or else I don’t want to get out of bed,” she confessed. “On the days I’m with my son, I wake up and think, ‘I’m going to parent the sh*t out of him.’”
We had a good laugh about her confession, and I could definitely identify. Who hasn’t felt a drive to be the best mom she can possibly be?
The problem, I believe, is that pouring all of our ambition and energy into trying to be perfect moms can have the opposite of the effect we’d like.
After all, how do you think it would feel to a child to have the sh*t parented out of him? I’d wager it feels pretty danged oppressive, like a wet blanket thrown over his head. A few years of that and pretty soon that kid is going to want to get away from that wet blanket at all costs; it will feel like his very survival depends on it. Which is the exact opposite of what this well-meaning mom wants.
Can you relate to my client’s confession? I know I can. And in some ways, it makes sense: when your kids are really small and intensely needy, it sometimes just seems logical to put your brainpower and ambition on the back burner while you attend to nursing and nap management.
But over time, as your children get older, the situation has a way of becoming painful. As that baby turns into a preschooler and his needs become both less immediate and somehow more complicated, it can be tough to know when it’s time to either take a step back or ramp up your mothering efforts (more flash cards!).
If you’re feeling stuck, there’s one surefire way to pull yourself out of a tailspin of feeling angsty and adrift: by sharing your one-of-a-kind mix of talents – your genius – with the world.
It doesn’t matter if you do it as part of a 9-to-5 job, as an entrepreneur, a volunteer, a friend, or a mom. The process of putting your talents “out there” is the best personal development seminar there is.
When you focus on being the best version of yourself that you can possibly be – and sharing that bright light with the rest of the world – it takes the focus off of “parenting the sh*t out of your kids” and allows you to just be who you are, which happens to be a mom, and all the other things you are, too.
Some of the other benefits you start sharing your genius:
- You don’t have to try so hard to prove your worth, so you get to show up more authentically in every part of your life.
- Your kids get to see you shining. Which means they respect you more as a multi-dimensional person and not just “mom.”
- You model for your kids how to be true to themselves, challenged, and fulfilled. Honestly, is there any better gift you could give them?
- When you honor your innate talents and share them with the world in some way – big or small – you make it possible for the people around you to do it too. Not because you sit down and give them a lesson on how to do it. Just because they get to see you do, which then triggers the thought, “Hmm, I could do that too.” When I re-did my website to feature my coaching, it inspired my husband to hire someone to build his own site, which he’d been talking about for 2 years but hadn’t made any progress on.
- Sharing the best parts of yourself is uplifting to everyone you come in contact with. It also draws people toward you who like you for who you really are.
- You get to be recognized for your natural talents. Think about that. This is big.
In the spirit of the new year, give yourself the chance to do a little big-picture thinking so you can see what you already do well and then lead with that. Ask yourself:
- What are you innately good at, so good that it feels easy and like you could never imagine that someone would pay you for it? That’s your genius. (For me, it was loving talking about “big” stuff and hating chit-chat, being curious, and giving pep talks.) It could be anything — cooking, listening, finding the humor in otherwise sucky situations, making eye contact. Don’t discount anything here.
- How could you do more of what you’re good at? Maybe it’s as simple as changing the way you interact with your husband and kids; or maybe it’s the seed of a business idea.
- Start looking for opportunities in your day-to-day life to use more of those skills and talents that come so naturally to you. They are there. Everywhere. But if you’ve been pooh-poohing what you’re good it, you haven’t let yourself see them. Looking for the chances to bring your big guns boosts your energy, and keeps you from always being on the lookout for things that are wrong, messed up, or need fixing.
Whatever steps you take, when you let your genius lead they way, you kick off a host of benefits that starts with you and ripples out to everyone around you…including your kids.
Photo: Flkckr user Dreaming in the deep south via Creative Commons License
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Kate Hanley is author of The Anytime, Anywhere Chill Guide as well as a life coach, speaker and yoga instructor. You can learn more about Kate at www.msmindbody.com or register for her upcoming one-day retreat at www.katesyogaplayhouse.com.