I was talking with a 14 year old yesterday. She told me “I’m worried all the time… about my mom and her health, about my little brother, about school, about my friends, about other people in the world who I can’t trust… I feel like I have to take care of everything.” This 14 year old has taken on a lot of worry for a lot of people; she is a protector. She’s strong, resilient, and empathetic. She has so many gifts!
The role of protector is one she’s developed through repeated thoughts, emotions, and behaviors; she has also been influenced by the expectations and behaviors of the people around her. Family members and teachers have praised her for being wise, ambitious, and nurturing. As members of social and family systems our roles become familiar to us, and to the people closest to us. It’s our status quo.
Don’t get me wrong… It’s important to be brave! It’s valuable to be a caregiver and to be passionate about the ways we are engaged in the world.
These are beautiful and important ways of showing up for others. But it’s also important to be able to live with freedom, without worrying every day.
To be able to play and laugh and relax, and to show up for ourselves.I can sense that she wants this for herself.
Likewise, I can sense (and hear) that many mothers want this for themselves.
Moving beyond anxiety means looking at the patterns we are sitting in, making new ones, and living with intention. It means creating new roles for ourselves. We will meet resistance here- from ourselves and others. For example, this teen’s parents need to understand that she is intentionally letting go of her worries and converting them into practices of self-love. Her family will have to acknowledge that their roles, too, will shift as her’s does. When one member of the system creates a new role, the roles of others members must adjust and change too.
When we decide to create new patterns that bring us into authentic alignment, it will take time for the rest of our family system to adjust their new roles alongside us. It’s hard, delicate work because it’s transformative and empowering!
A few years back, it became clear that I needed a new role in my family system. I decided to step out of my familiar, anxiety-driven roles of planner, organizer, and mediator. Since this time, I have been working to honor my own boundaries and to lift myself up until my needs are met. But changing this role has required a lot of self-talk, a lot of action, a lot of practice.
What roles do you have that serve you? What roles do you have that don’t serve you? And how do these roles impact your family members? Here are some tips and activities for reflecting on your role as a mother: (Notice, your current role may even be influenced by the roles you held as a child.)
Observe, as nonjudgmentally as you can, the times in your day that you feel anxious or resistant. Notice (and write down) tasks that trigger your anxiety.
When anxiety comes up, rate it on a scale of 1-10. While taking breaths that feel healing and calming to you, recite this mantra to yourself 3-5 times, or until you notice a shift. “I am not my anxiety. My anxiety does not define me.” Consider rating your anxiety again, noticing if it has decreased. (If not, no judgement.)
Journal/doodle about the limiting aspects of motherhood. What parts of your role keep you from meeting your needs. Consider drawing a representation of yourself. Around and inside of your avatar, list the qualities and characteristics you DO NOT want to embody. Validate each one that comes up, name it, write it down with acceptance and openness, even if it feels painful. (Consider tearing or burning this representation; adding an emotional and energetic practice of letting go of what doesn’t serve us opens space for new patterns.)
Journal/doodle about the freeing aspects of motherhood or the aspects you want to incorporate in order to meet your needs. In similar fashion, list the qualities and characteristics you want to embody. Validate each one that comes up, name it, write it down with a sense of curiosity and abundance. (Consider hanging this representation on a wall where you’ll see it daily. This vision will help you create the new patterns you deserve.)
Talk explicitly about your role with your family. Share your thought process with your loved ones– a child/teen, a partner, a friend. Talk about changes you are manifesting and why. This increases ownership and accountability!
Ask for help when you need it. If you are holding your vision highly but still struggling with how to implement or manifest the changes, reach out! Connect with a coach, a therapist, a mom’s community, etc. Support will help you stay committed to doing the hard work that ultimately results in the easier life you deserve.
Remember that transformations take time. They are a process, but you are enough as you are. Stepping up and making the commitment to grow is admirable. New roles that are founded on intention and love will serve you and your family. Your teens and tweens will sense the ways you are empowered, and they, too, will step into their source of agency and power.
Get More Relaxed: Tools for Moms with Teens and Tweens
Mothers serve families and our communities is countless ways! There is so much fulfillment and endless passion in doing this work, words almost can’t describe it. Yet, many mothers have unfulfilled, unnamed needs. I want to share some things I’ve heard mothers say as they reflect upon times of challenge:
“I don’t want to burden other people with my feelings.”
“Being vulnerable is scary because I can’t trust anyone to show up the way I do.”
“My emotions are my own problems, and I don’t want to bring others down or impact them.”
“Emotions and crying feels like weakness; I don’t have time to get bogged down by weakness.”
Holding all of our hurts and challenges and struggles within us causes overwhelm. It can cause us to shut down. Many mothers have been able to identify and share about a time when their body told them it was time to slow down; a time in which they were stuck in bed for a week with a virus because their mind and body could not take on one more thing. Bottled up emotions lead to isolation, depression, and anxiety, and these patterns can be passed on to our children, who observe and sense our every move.
If over time, our thoughts are fear-based, like those above, our emotions will match our mindset. If we become consumed by the fear and anxiety of being vulnerable and asking for help, if we are so averse to opening up and experiencing our emotions, our creative energy will come to a halt. We will be stuck in bed, sick.
The goal of so many mothers is to have emotional, financial, spiritual, and lifestyle freedom. This vision is ours to create and craft. In order to achieve this, we need to get touch with our emotions. There is no need to feel shame for the patterns we currently play into, but we must hold our vision for peace and ease close to our hearts.
Here are some pathways and tips to the freedom you are ready to manifest:
We need to get touch with our emotions. Stop and journal at least 2 times a day. Consider using this framework as a guide: My body feels _____; My mind feels _____; My heart feels _____. Whatever sensations or feelings come up are valid, even if they are conflicting. Naming and sitting with any emotions and sensations you are experiencing is a huge entry point to awareness.
We need to navigate our resources. Write down a list of ALL the people/communities you can turn to for various needs and situations. Consider creating this list when you are feeling supported; the list will feel full and accessible. That way, when you meet challenge, and determining resources feels impossible or confusing, you’ll have a place to start.
We need to build a deeper sense of confidence to express ourselves in healthy, productive ways. Create (and write down) a 3-step action place of how you will ask for help when you need it. For example, 1. Text a close friend and ask for a chat later in the day; 2. Commit to 20 minutes of journaling over lunch– instead of working or watching Netflix; 3. Invite a close friend or family member to check in on you every morning for the next 3 days.
Moms and our teens and tweens need opportunities to let go of baggage. It’s time to access outlets that feel safe and supportive. The universe is ready to hold us, and if we can dig out of our shame or the expectations that society has put on us, we can reach our visions and become the highest versions of ourselves. The challenging life circumstances and emotions are not going to go away, but we can create productive, freeing patterns for managing them. We can influence our young people with these positive, uplifting patterns. We can change the world! While we seek independence and self-sufficiency, we don’t have to carry our struggles along. Let’s get comfortable asking for help and modeling the power of openness.