Motherhood can be monotonous and painful, or it can be the pathway to our most awakened selves, full of wisdom, mutual learning, and growth. Frequently it is both of these things, and key to bringing mastery to the family dynamic is through the quality of the questions we ask ourselves.
The first step is bringing awareness to the ‘rub’ you’re currently facing in your motherhood. What is it that you find ‘hard’? Is there a fantasy that comes into your mind when you’re faced with this that says ‘if I only I could/be/do/have x, y, z, then this wouldn’t be happening? With every fantasy, sunshine-and-rainbows, one-sided view of the world, comes a hidden nightmare - we just don’t see it yet. Bust that fantasy, and you find freedom, presence, and gratitude for where you are right now. So what are the drawbacks of the fantasy in your mind?
Here are some great questions to ask yourself to bring awareness to your dynamic:
What am I trying to control here?
When we feel powerless in relationship to our children, we tend to want to ‘power-over’ them, through trying to control behaviour, eating habits, sleeping habits, even their feelings. No human being (regardless of age!) particularly enjoys being told what to do, and the more you try to control your children, the more resistance this will create, played out through challenging behaviour or disconnection.
Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed and trying to control things outside your influence? What would it feel like to loosen your grip on the things that aren’t significant, or are outside your control? If you didn’t concern yourself with the things outside of your influence, what would that create more space for?
Reducing the ‘brain noise’ allows us to be more present and focussed, and available to our children and partners.
What am I trying to run from?
Our animal nature wants to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Our angelic nature sees pain as our portal to consciousness. The willingness with which we ‘lean into’ pain tends to be in accordance with what we value most. We face challenges more readily in the areas of life we’re most inspired by, and run from them in our lower-valued areas. So everyone is running from something! What is it you keep running from, that you ‘keep running into’?
Maybe it’s setting clear limits and boundaries with your children, that ensures everyones needs are honoured, or perhaps there’s someone in your life who you are deeply triggered by, whether kids, partner, mother-in-law or boss?
These dynamics don’t show up in our life by coincidence, they are there to teach us; and so it is wise to ask the question - what is this situation trying to teach me about myself? (and no the answer isn’t ‘That I definitely don’t want to be like that!' because whatever you spot in them, you have in you, you just haven't recognised it yet)
Who am I blaming?
We tend to blame others when we feel like they’ve let us down in some way, or when they don’t conform to our value system. When we blame, we make ourselves a victim, creating feelings of disempowerment that keep us ‘stuck’. It feels good to blame others sometimes - like we are somehow vindicated from any part we play in the dynamic. However when we are willing to take ownership of our role, it actually begins to release us from the discomfort, and move into more spaciousness.
Pay attention to your language as it’s a feedback to let you know where you are in blame-mode, or putting unrealistic expectations on others. Statements like ‘my baby should sleep more’ or ‘my child needs to learn to play with others’ are directives from your own (or other’s) values onto your children, which, when our children don’t follow suit, sets us up for a cascade of feelings like anger, blame and criticism.
In these cases, you could ask yourself why these things are important to you, and what happens if your children/others don’t conform to your expectations, and the benefits of this, to lessen your own emotional charge on it. Because this is the thing - no one else is responsible for how we feel.
How can I bring more playfulness into this situation?
Play is a beautiful way to foster connection, ease tension, and bring lightness into your family dynamic, and it can be used in so many ways, to work through resistance with our children and ourselves, and deepen relationships. But it requires you to be willing to put in a ‘circuit-breaker’ on your own patterns of behaviour - to play your way out of situations where you might instead have got angry or yelled.
Sibling dynamics are great to use in play - my son occasionally will playfully ‘bonk’ my daughter on the head and then run away saying to me ‘You can’t catch me!’; this can go one of two ways - discipline the behaviour by saying ‘Don’t hurt your sister’ OR see his invitation for play and connection and follow his lead. Yesterday we did this with a game I made up called ‘Sauropod seven-thousand kisses’, where I became a Sauropod dinosaur trying to catch him to give him kisses, allowing him to dictate what he needed in the game, by me saying, ‘If you keep running away from me, that means you need even MORE Sauropod kisses!’. Children generally don’t tell us when they are feeling sad, left out, or disconnected - they show it through challenging behaviour. As adults we show it through numbing-out, distractions, or anger (anger tends to mask our hurt, as a protection mechanism).
When we choose play with our children in this way, not only do we create a pathway to healing for them, we do it for ourselves, too, by re-patterning our neural pathways and earlier experiences, so we no longer need to be ‘run’ by them and can choose to move forward with greater intention, rather than knee-jerk reaction.
How is this challenge serving me?
The things we find ourselves resisting most, are often the areas where our greatest growth lies. When we see all ‘bad’ in a situation, we are not seeing the complete picture; what challenge are you facing right now, and how is it actually helping you, rather than hindering you? Is it strengthening relationships, compelling you to increase your own empowerment, teaching you something you’ve been resisting learning?
The quality of our life has a lot to do with the quality of the questions we ask ourselves. Broaden your thinking and see your world shift.
Bridget Wood is Co-Founder of Nourishing The Mother and a lover of life and connecting people to themselves through wisdom, introspection and quality questions. Bridget is also the Director and Events Manager of Suburban Sandcastles. With an insatiable appetite for knowledge and a desire to understand the bigger picture of human behaviour and how the world works, Bridget is on an inspired path to learn more deeply who we are beyond the limitations that we, and our society and culture, place upon upon us.