Mother, Nurture & Wild
Offerings from the heart to meet you exactly where you are
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Take a moment for yourself this Imbolc, Mama. Imbolc is a cross-quarter festival, marking the midpoint between the Solstice and the Equinox.  It’s a threshold time.  A time between time.  And in this way Imbolc can remind us...
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This is particularly for the mums who’ve gained some space and time with the back-to-school of September.  Whether school has started for the first time for you this month or you’ve sunk back into the much-needed routine of it all.  Extra-specially relevant if this is the first time in a long time that you’ve actually had some consistent child free space in your week…

So term has begun.  The first couple of weeks are under your belt.  Hopefully your kids have settled in/back to the extent that you have more headspace.  And now finally it’s time for that epic list you’ve been compiling all Summer (or for 4 years) to have your full attention.

Time for you to finally FINALLY get done all the things you’ve been longing to get on top of.

But you’re exhausted and nothing is happening quickly enough.  Or the thing you imagined would take you a morning has taken you a week and a half and you’ve barely scratched the surface.  Or the thing that seemed like a small hill has revealed itself to be a mountain on closer inspection. 

You’re lacking motivation, certainty, clarity, creative flow or some other elusive magic that would see you flying.

In your head you were going to be aceing it by now and you’re starting to feel down on yourself that you’ve entirely wasted these first couple of weeks.

I feel pretty sure about saying… you haven’t.

It's understandable

If since school went back you haven’t managed to:

~ Choose / pick up / change / sky-rocket your career

~ Start an instantly thriving business

~ Deep clean & declutter your entire house

~ Become a top cross-fitter from a starting point of zero exercise for years

~ See all the people

~ Pick up all the projects

~ Sort out your entire life

~ Do all the other gazillion things you swore you’d do as soon as you had consistent child free time

It is ENTIRELY UNDERSTANDABLE

(And also entirely understandable that you might want some kind of life overhaul)

When space opens up

When long anticipated space opens up it’s so common for us Mums to have pre-loaded a shit ton of expectations on it.  We’ve had a lot of time to think about all the things we’ve not been able to get to!

These expectations are such that you’d have to be a super-human time-traversing being to meet them.  Which you, wonderful as you are, are not. Nor should you attempt to be.

Let's remember...

A week or two is barely enough time to catch your breath, re-discover the ability to string two sentences together and get used to drinking hot cups of tea again.

You have absolutely not failed, fallen short or missed any boats.

At the same time, your frustration and disappointment make complete sense as well.  If consistent child-free time has been a long time coming, if you’ve waited ages to get to all this stuff, of course it makes sense that you want to be cracking on. 

I would offer that it takes time to re-group and get back into the swing.  It takes time to make shifts and changes.  To get something big moving or overhaul some area of your life.  When you’ve anticipated some kind of movement for a while and space for it finally opens up, it’s understandable that you want it to happen immediately – yesterday, ideally.  

And yet, maybe it’s ok that it needs more room to unfold.

What you can do:

If you have disappointment or frustration around your once-the-kids-are-back-at-school plans, here’s what you can do next:

~ Start talking to yourself softly and encouragingly (gently catching yourself when you forget to)

~ Give yourself the grace to really catch your breath and feel how you feel – particularly if this is the first child-free time you’ve had in a long while there may be some exhaling and unravelling to do first

~ Allow this to take the time it takes – how often do we rush ourselves to get on when it might go better if we took that extra time to gather?  And if it is your first consistent space for a long time I’d really recommend a pause before you dive into what’s next.

~ Meet some of your needs that you’ve been putting off for too long – the things that will fill you up so you’re not trying to be productive from a place of empty.

~ Check in with whether you still want all those things you’ve been earmarking for when this space opens up for you – it’s normal to find it feels different once you’re here

~ Ask yourself what you have capacity / appetite / energy for just now – and be honest with yourself

Then (and only then)

~ Choose ONE focus that feels good to be with first 

~ Be realistic about timeframes & expectations of yourself

~ Notice that the self-doubt coming up is a mechanism designed to keep you safe and it's only part of the story

~ Ask yourself (and return again and again to) ‘what is the next most doable step?’

I'm rooting for you x

*
Coach with me

If September has felt overloaded with expectations you couldn’t possibly meet and you crave clarity, support, direction or a plan you feel good about, it might be a good time to have some coaching. 

Check out my one-off deep clarity session or my coaching journey ‘the Unfolding’ for longer support. 

You can book in a virtual cuppa with me here to talk about what you need and see if we’re a good fit.  I have space opening up in a couple of weeks time and I would love to meet with you. 

I wrote in my blog post at the start of Summer that this one was going to be a juggle with both working from home and tag-teaming childcare between us. I wanted to share an update about something that’s helping which I hadn’t anticipated.

It’s this:

I’m NOT trying to have the Perfect Summer

And it’s a revelation.

Why this feels good...

There’s this subtext that seems to run through Summers once you have children that says ‘this is the only Summer they’re going to be like this - this age - so enjoy every moment, make all the memories, capture all of them in instagrammable photos and make it the most perfect GOLDEN Summer there ever was’.

If it were a film I can hear a trailer announcing: brought to you by the makers of the ‘good mother’ and ‘supermum’ myths, Patriarchy Studios brings you this season’s blockbuster: The Perfect Summer… enjoy every second!

Wow. The pressure.

I’ve been guilty of doing a number on myself with this storyline more Summers than I want to admit. Equating my love for my kids and wanting to be present to the stage they’re at with it needing to be perfect. Holding up an unnecessary measuring stick to our golden-in-parts-but-also-very-messy-and-imperfect Summer holidays and feeling like I’d failed in some way, even though I tried to tick all the boxes.

When you notice yourself think ‘this must be perfect’ it’s worth asking ‘or what?’.

What would it be if it wasn’t perfect? Disappointing? Not enough?

And what do you make that mean? That you’re not enough?

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a form of self doubt that I work with a lot with 1:1 clients. It’s seductive in that it says ‘do this thing perfectly and you’ll be safe / acknowledged / enough’.

But it’s an exhaustingly false promise because I’m not sure anything ever is perfect and even if it was I don’t think we’d recognise it as such.

The thing about perfectionism is that it always wants more and better. You're rarely ever done with it. And so we exhaust ourselves trying and then still feel unseen / disappointed / not enough anyway.

Since a disappointment is likely the very thing we’re trying to avoid our Summer being, when we set our sights on the perfect golden one, it turns out it’s a double-bind.

This year is different

This year, having worked a lot on my own perfectionism-flavoured self-doubt this past couple of years, I’m loving that I seem to have been able to unconsciously ditch this impossible ideal when it comes to our family's Summer.

(It’s totally ok to consciously ditch it, too)

And there’s this sense of: ooh so if it doesn’t have to be perfect, what could it be?

Messily imperfect and human? Just normal but sunnier? A whirl of tag-teaming with some chilled out pockets and the odd golden moment?

This feels freeing to me

And likely our Summer will always be whatever it’s going to be whether I try to make it perfect or not. This way, I get to take the pressure off, ditch the mum guilt and just be in it. Enjoying it for what it is, instead of being disappointed for what it isn’t.

Maybe I get to enjoy me for who I am, not berate myself for who I’m not too. And that’s pretty cool.

If you’ve been holding up a measuring stick to your days and feeling a whole load of not-enoughness, let this be your permission slip to put it down.

How about we have a messily human Summer together and lean into the exhale that brings.

*

If you'd like to read more like this, consider joining my (free) email community who I share my 'Gentle Words' love notes with once or twice a month. You'll also get access to The Self Care Journal - a 20+ page journaling workbook to work through at your own pace, based on my coaching process, to help you find clarity over what needs tending to for you.

I have 2 spaces opening up for my 3 or 6 month 1:1 coaching programme in September. This is the ideal container in which to tackle your perfectionism and other flavours of self doubt so you can be free to move forward those things that call to you. You're so welcome to book in a virtual cuppa with me to see if this would be a good fit for you. You can book that here.

Take care, lovely x

The more I lean into the direction I’m taking my work, the more I see the possible places and depths I can take it to. It’s exciting and enticing to see the roads I can travel to better understand what’s going on for the people I work with and master the ability to help them makes the shifts they need. A vision is forming from all these lovely possibilities. The potential of a big body of fascinating work that’ll take me 10 years or more to create.

But shit, 10 years or more? I’m only just getting started!

The thing with possibilities, potential and big visions is that awesome though they might be in one sense, they have a shadow side. Standing where I am with mine at the moment, I feel like there are a few different ways this can play out.

Scenario 1

(not desirable)

I can let my perfectionism run amok and spend 10 years feeling crappy and lacking because I haven’t yet created entire said body of fascinating work. I can feed my self doubt with endless looping stories of not enough, never enough, not me, ‘may as well quit because you’re so not ahead’. And even if I can overcome my internal warning system that wants me to give up before I get hurt, these perfectionism-driven stories could continue to be a demoralising soundtrack keeping me company on the journey. Completely hampering my ability to pursue any of it with clear focus and stealing the joy from the process entirely.

This one feels really bleak and spirit-sapping.

Scenario 2

(even less desirable)

I can bust a gut, run myself ragged and squeeze 10 years of work into 5 years just so I can get the big tick in the box that says ‘finished’. Missing the various opportunities for growth a longer period gives, many interesting and rich twists and turns, much of the rest of the my children’s childhood and all of life’s daily pleasures. Creating stress. Choosing overwork over all else. Feeding my self doubt with the lie that I am only my achievements and since I haven’t achieved the entire thing yet I haven’t achieved anything.

This one makes me feel like I’ll burst into hives.

Scenario 3

(I choose this one)

I can see and accept my wonderful reality. That I’m working on something I love. That inspiration is calling. That there are many possibilities and the journey will be so fun. That it feels like I’m just getting started and I get to be in the process of creating this body of work. Learning and growing as I move along the path at whatever speed feels right, following my interest as I go. Whilst not running myself ragged. Being in these precious days with my children where they are right now. Being with myself where.I.am with my needs mostly met and a regulated nervous system. Soaking up the daily pleasures (and frustrations) of life. And who knows what it’ll look like at the end of it. Maybe – surprise! - there is no end point. So maybe I give over to the process and allow myself to be here. Inside it. Instead of standing outside of me judging all the bloody time.

Doesn’t that sound like a relief? And yet, so often we find ourselves wrapped up in our stories of perfectionism, heading down scenario one or two.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a sneaky form of self doubt that can masquerade as high standards, ambition and beautiful compelling visions. It sometimes gets tangled up so closely with inspiration that we can’t quite separate the two all that easily.

It whispers enticing stories of how ‘perfect’ it will all be when it’s ‘finished’.

Think about your house

As anybody who has ever decorated a house knows, there is never a ‘finished’ and there is no ‘perfect’.

With house renovation (as in life) there’s a lot more ‘close enough’, ‘did the best we could with what we had’, ‘changed direction’, ‘found something better’ and ‘shit, that plug socket right in my eye line is going to forever incense me but I cannot face another wall being ripped up so I’ll live with it’.

And there’s a whole heap of messy and imperfect along the journey plus the deep satisfaction that it’s YOUR journey. Your home.

It doesn’t look completely like the Pinterest board, it took an AGE and you’re going to re-do that part at some point but you love it anyway.

Not forgetting - thank god you couldn’t get it all finished within a week of moving in because you’d never have realised how the light falls so beautifully just in that spot there and you’d never have had that idea to do that thing that made it all so much more awesome.

It's the same in life

House, big life vision, body of fascinating work… we can get so hung up on the finished article that we forget to allow ourselves to be in progress.

I hear a lot from Mamas I work with that they can’t begin because it’s too big. They feel they’re failing because they’re nowhere near finished yet. They’ve started but berate themselves for not being further along. Their self doubt has rocketed because they compared themselves to someone years further along a similar journey and made the perceived gap mean something about their worth or ability. They can’t really see how far they’ve come because they’re disappointed to not be ‘there’.

the Antidote

I want to offer that whatever this speaks to in you - it’s ok not to be finished. You likely won’t ever feel finished and that is ok.

It can be so freeing to allow yourself to be IN THE PROCESS.

Instead of berating yourself for not being there yet, what if you allowed yourself the experience of being just exactly where you are on the journey.

This kind of self acceptance invites ease, perhaps opens you to the joy of where you are and allows you to be more present to the experience.

Trust that you are in progress. Even when it feels slower than you imagined it would be.

Allow yourself to absorb yourself in the next part without the incompletion hanging over you and enjoy it for what it is.

It’s safe to be in the process.

You and your story are still unfolding.

You’re not meant to be finished.

Photo with grateful thanks - Annie Spratt via Unsplash

© 2022 Lisa Mabberley
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