If I could go back and talk to my new mom self, I would have so much I’d want to say.
I would tell her not to worry so much.
I would remind her to trust her heart and instincts.
I would encourage her not to feel guilty about taking care of herself. Because she can’t keep giving to others if she doesn’t give back to herself.
And I’d remind her she has strengths, so many strengths, even on the days where she doesn’t want to get out bed. And especially on the days she’s overwhelmed, not knowing how she’s going to get through the day, watching the clock until bedtime.
The more years I have mothering, the more I see moments everywhere — of moms doing every day things caring for their families. It is truly amazing and inspiring. But the problem is, so many moms have trouble seeing and acknowledging their strengths.
Often, as moms, our strengths go unnoticed because we do so much and keep things going, in ways our families may never know. That is, of course, until we get sick, or run down, or travel for work, sending our families into a panic, proof of how much we do behind the scenes that no one may ever see.
And it’s not just our families who may overlook our strengths. We as mom forget our strengths. I’ve heard so many moms over the years (in my work as a psychologist) squirm with discomfort when I ask them to highlight their strengths. Here’s the ironic part, I am sure you can relate — for many, it’s easier to focus on what we need to improve, ruminate on mistakes, feel guilty that we’re somehow messing our children up, rather than acknowledge our strengths and abilities.
So many moms live in a mindset of guilt, worry, and stress, rarely stopping to pause and see all the things she’s doing right.
And have you ever noticed when another mom compliments another mom? Often before the compliment can even settle on her ears and in her heart, she’s responding to the compliment by highlighting one of her flaws instead of soaking up the lovely praise.
Why is that?
I think this needs to change.
Being able to highlight our strengths does not come easy and requires practice.
The older I get, and the more experience I have mothering, I can comfortably highlight my strengths. This wasn’t always the case for me.
Early on, when I was a new mom to premature twins, I was incredibly overwhelmed and questioned almost every decision I made. I was unsure of my abilities. Acknowledging my strengths came from others: my parents, my husband, friends, and the pediatrician. Hearing phrases like: “They’re growing well” or “You’re doing a great job, the girls are so happy” or “You’re like a goddess to them, the way they look at you is incredible! (I loved being called a goddess, I’ll never forget that one!) Over time, I was able to see my strengths as a mom, but it took time and some getting used to seeing my strengths.
Some of my strengths I have as a mother are I am patient, calm (especially in crisis and stress), and attuned to each of my daughters’ needs. Not perfectly, because perfect is unattainable if you ask me, but I am good enough at the right moments or most moments of mothering.
I want you to ask yourself: What are my strengths?
If you are at a loss for how to answer this question, think about it this way: what do you do well? Are there phrases or compliments you hear often?
Everyone has strengths — that has nothing to do with how much money you make, if you work or stay at home, or if you can make the most Pinterest perfect crafts and cook dinner every single night.
Being able to highlight your strengths is an important character trait, and it also gets us through the stressful times mothering our children.
I think many mothers are uncomfortable thinking in these terms because they may not want to seem as if they are bragging, boasting, or conceited.
There is a significant difference between highlighting what you do well and being arrogant or boastful.
Consider this: when helping your child learn something new, or when you want to reinforce a behavior, without much thought, I bet you highlight his/her strengths. Take the lead on how you would mother your child, and be the same cheerleader you would be to your child, for yourself.
Being able to highlight your strengths in motherhood is essential. Knowing your strengths builds confidence, develops your mama wisdom, and helps you during times of stress.
I’d love for you to read this post and be inspired to write down five of your strengths. If you can’t think of any, ask your child, partner, and friends. Hold that list near to your heart. And learn to add your strengths to the list. And your strengths don’t have to be grand or elaborate. They can be as simple as loving your family, always trying your best, and continuing to show up with love even on days you’re beyond exhausted. Read the list often, and especially on the days of mothering when your struggling.
We all have strengths, and it starts with our ability to recognize the gifts we possess and share with those we love.