Not long after my beautiful daughter was born, I realized that caring for her would be only one piece of my parenting journey. I would also be constantly battling “mom shame” for the foreseeable future.
I joined countless parenting groups to try and learn as a first-time parent. Immediately, I noticed how harsh the group members were towards each other.
We were expected to already know everything about being a mom.
It was a bit frightening and intimidating to say the least. I knew I needed to find a way towards self-compassion as I struggled and made mistakes. It was difficult to shake those inner messages of “not good enough.”
1. Love for Soul Confuses Mom Shame
Part of me wanted to shut down and isolate more, but a whisper in my heart said “keep trying.” I continued trying to make connections with other parents. Finding mom friends that were not like those groups I joined was a sigh of relief. They were supportive, perfectly imperfect, and brought a lot of joy into our lives!
I realized how I gave others much more compassion than myself. When I realized that others make mistakes and I didn’t judge them, I was able to find more compassion inside myself.
Also through feeling the love from others, I began to understand I was worthy of the same love and understanding I felt towards them. I would never wish to mom shame them.
I noticed through these discoveries that I still struggled with self-doubt and comparison. The mom shame messages were still telling me I was not good enough to be a mom. It took some reflection, but I decided to re-enter therapy as I knew these messages were a part of my own processing style.
2. Love for Mind Heals Mom Shame
After a few sessions, I began to reconnect with my inner child. By inner child, I refer to the whisper in the heart that is vulnerable, messy, curious, and most importantly–hopeful.
In rediscovering and reconnecting with my inner child, I awoke a joy I had forgotten. The “shoulds” of parenthood had clouded this emotion. These self-inflicted rules and pressures prevented me from enjoying the moments that were most important to me.
My inner child, so full of color, is the part of me that would flutter with excitement making new friends, creating new projects, and daydreaming. She could also throw tantrums, have irrational fears, and become deeply saddened by disappointment.
The truth is I’d always known these pieces of me, but I shamed them myself. I worried they would cause judgment and embarrassment, as they had many times in the past. My knee-jerk reaction was to silence, lock away, and forget these emotions. Doing so caused the shame to get louder.
The problem with ignoring your inner child, as with an actual child, is that she will find a way to get your attention anyway. This can often look like anxiety, depression, and lack of inspiration in life.
Through therapy, I learned to give patience and listen to what this part of me was saying. In listening, the oversized emotions became smaller and more manageable. My mind calmed much like a child that realized a grown-up is now helping with their problem.
Finally, I began working together with myself instead of against myself.
I needed to heal my inner child and be a mother to myself first. This was especially true since my own mother passed away when I was 22. Drudging through that grief storm had created a separation within myself in an effort to move on and survive.
I learned to appreciate and admire this child-like part of myself. I was even able to be more present with my 5-year-old daughter. Suddenly trips to the zoo inspired more magic! Kindling this love for my inner child was healing in several areas of my life.
3. Love for Body Releases Mom Shame
Nevertheless, there still seemed to be a missing piece. I could feel my body becoming stiffer with age, parenthood, and stress. Although my thoughts were improving, they often still raced. I tried different types of physical activity and found yoga to be healing medicine.
Returning to my body and letting my mind be silent for some time helped me see the bigger picture–not just the overwhelming details. My mom shame was fading from a boom to a whisper.
Realizing the focus of yoga was more about how poses felt, not how they looked, changed my mindset in many areas.
I stopped focusing on what others thought of my parenting.
I focused on what was healing, brought joy, and simply worked for myself, my wife, and my daughter.
For those unfamiliar with yoga, it can be very different depending on the type you choose to practice. As I learned where my body held different emotions, I learned which kinds of flows would help me the most.
On days I feel vulnerable or heavy with emotions, gentle and restorative yoga is most healing. These are not difficult stretches and they focus on calming the breath and loosening muscles. I am able to cradle my inner child in my breath and soothe her through relaxation.
When tornadoes of thoughts are racing through my head, I focus on power yoga. This facet of yoga challenges the body and mind to build muscles through balance and strength-based poses. The physical challenges create a shift in the mindset. My thoughts and worries are transformed into manifestation and excitement about life!
Some days, my body is exhausted and aching. Yin yoga is perfect to soothe this. In Yin, poses are held for two to five minutes. This allows the muscles to loosen and relax deeper into the tissue. It’s empowering to know I am able to melt the tensions away, creating a deeper trust in my ability to care for myself.
The bottom line is that shame doesn’t stand a chance against love.
I found ways to love my soul through parent friends, love my mind through therapy, and love my body with consistent yoga practice.
Despite all the healing, I still struggle with the shame messages bubbling up inside my heart like lava. The difference now is that I know how to dissolve it through love.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.