You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘feminist motherhood’ tag.

‘The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any’.  Alice Walker

I love this quote from Alice Walker who understands the pain of being a mother apart – the last time I heard she was still estranged from her daughter.

What does it mean to have power in any given situation? Perhaps we feel this when we agree a parenting plan with our ex, or reach an acceptable financial settlement or achieve the status of resident parent. These often hard won examples quite rightly help us to feel empowered, validated and vindicated. But how do we feel when things don’t work out the way we would like them, when life doesn’t feel fair or right? How easy it can be to feel disempowered, unequal and less than.

Different ways of feeling powerless

There are two different ways to feel powerless. The first is caused by someone or something external such as, our ex having residency of our children, our child decides he or she wants to live with their father, we are obliged to pay maintenance to our ex even though contact with our children is being obstructed.

The second way we can feel lacking in power lives internally within ourselves. Some of us have an accumulated sense of helplessness from abuse or neglect during childhood. Others build up a sense of helplessness in the more recent past – having endured an abusive marriage is an example, the way we have felt undermined, bullied, undefended. Sometimes years later, we can still feel vulnerable, judged, criticised or guilt ridden. Even though we no longer have anyone in our lives putting us down we find that we are very good at convincing ourselves that we are powerless.

In my work with mothers apart from children I often see both external and internal powerlessness. Women who have lost so much – children, homes livelihoods – self belief, self worth and the ability to self care.

How can we empower ourselves?

Be wise about control

Stop railing against the things you can’t control. You can’t re-write a Cafcass report, or force the legal process. You can’t make a rejecting older or adult child value being with you or insist someone else changes their opinion of you. But you can change yourself – your point of view, your attitude, your actions, how you treat yourself – and feel a lot better for letting go of trying to control people or things. And sometimes when we change, others change too.

Take responsibility for your thoughts.

It’s your choice to adopt criticism from others as your perception of who you are. Allowing judgements and criticism from others to rule your thoughts will impact negatively on your behaviour. Don’t give others this power over you. Remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s wise words – “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission”.

 

Watch your language!

Watch negative self talk. I hear mothers apart from children say the most cruel and undermining things about themselves – “I was/am so stupid, gullible, weak willed, it’s all my fault, I can’t forgive myself” – the list is long and the self punishment powerful. Pay attention to any self-defeating thoughts you have. Talk to yourself like you would to your best friend, not to someone you don’t like. You deserve to be spoken to with compassion and loving kindness, give that to yourself.

Review your point of view

Observe your mindset if you slip into thinking ‘I will never get over this, things will never change, it’s not fair, not natural, not right, not possible’. Stop! Really? Can you be sure? Bring yourself back to the present when your view on the world becomes dark, small and limited. Who is to say this thing that feels insurmountable isn’t the very thing that needs to happen. We do not possess insight into future, neither can we control it.

Choose potency

What a wonderful word! The Oxford dictionary defines potency as ‘The power of something to affect the mind or body’. Close your eyes and breathe in a sense of potency into your belly. Bolster yourself with these thoughts: Some things take a while, maybe months, maybe years. I will bide my time. I will shape up a good life for myself. I will be happy. To help you along your way you might enjoy the poem Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou . Go on, read it out loud for all of us!

Warmly,

Sarah Hart

Advertisements

Despite the knowledge that from a religious perspective Christmas is the time of good cheer and celebration, this time of year can highlight the flaws in our lives. A lack of money when people are buying presents, illness or depression when others are partying or being alone in what feels like a world full of happy families. How can we best support ourselves over the festive weeks?

I hope the following scenarios help to shine a guiding light on finding peace of mind.

All that glitters

A mother apart had made good progress after feeling that her world had ended when her teenage son decided to live with his father. She was beginning to shine once again, discovering fulfilment as an independent woman as well as making time to be with her son, although he did not always want this. A few weeks before Christmas he asked her to go late night shopping with him. Swept up in a seasonal fantasy – an image of the two of them enjoying gingerbread cappuccinos and watching carol singers in the square – she cancelled what she had planned for the evening. Instead of her daydream, the reality was one hour with moody lad who demanded to be taken home once she had bought him the latest computer game. She drove home feeling cheated and manipulated.

It is wise to reality check the gold shimmering before us. Is it ‘realism solid’ or ‘fantasy plate’? The teenage years are a time of self focus, when thinking about a parent’s needs is unlikely. Remembering that this disappointing shopping trip is just as likely to happen when parents aren’t separated, can normalise and remove the sting. By ignoring the glitter – the longing for what we don’t have at this moment – and offering quality time that does not compromise us moving forward with our lives, we are best placed to enjoy a mutually rewarding relationship with our children if and when they are ready.

March to your own drum

A mother who was estranged from her two daughters, regularly sent them cheques inside of Christmas cards. Each year she waited with baited breath. If the cheques were banked quickly, she wondered whether it was a sign of change, perhaps a growing acceptance…or did the girls simply want the money? Every passing day without seeing a bank withdrawal filled her with anxiety and pain. Had they thrown the cheques away to demonstrate their rejection of her? As the years passed she sent larger sums of money which she couldn’t afford, hoping to see a quick deposit, perhaps even a note of thanks or phone call. She felt controlled even though sending cheques was routine created by herself.

When we become aware of the ways in which we give away our power, we are able to begin new, healthy rhythms to our lives. We take responsibility for our decisions, unswayed by guilt. For example, “I chose to send this amount and no more to show I care. Whether or not they choose to receive my gift is their choice”. We strive to find a good balance between taking care of own needs and offering to meet the needs of our estranged children, if and when they are open to accept this. We march with confidence to our own drum.

A time of giving or giving up?

A mother apart struggled to hold on to her seasonal traditions after her divorce. Quite understandably, she longed for her usual family Christmas, familiar decorations, food, music and games. One year her ex partner insisted the children spend the day with him. Another year her children told her they wanted to be with their dad. As Christmas was so important to her, she suffered weeks of anxiety while it was decided with whom the children will be. On years when they were with their father, she felt a lingering rejection and resentment.

The concept of giving takes on new meaning when routines of the past fall away. When we decide to let go of the past, we allow for new traditions to take shape, new possibilities that could be just as good or better. Giving up our desire to have things be a certain way can be done with a little goodwill on our part. If this feels impossible, then decide to let go for your own health and wellbeing. Emotional giving need not be giving up, if we make it our choice. To choose is to empower ourselves.

Lonely this Christmas

Lonely or alone? A mother who is regularly apart from her children laughed when she told me how her lively, loud, extended family pre-separation Christmases used to be. She thought she’d never adjust but now she loves being on her own, viewing Christmas as a day for being incredibly self-indulgent in an unselfish way. She feels she doesn’t have to make anyone else happy. With only herself to consider, she eats what and when she wants, reads for hours, goes for a walk. One year, she focused on de-cluttering and getting organised for the year ahead. She said Christmas alone is always a day well spent.

There’s not much I can add to this fabulous example of excellent self-care and making yourself happy! The 25th December is not a non-negotiable being together day. If you are going to be alone when you don’t want to be, make sure you choose how to spend your day. Even consciously choosing to do very little is healthier than feeling that very little happens for you.

Where ever you are, whatever you will be doing, I wish you comfort and peace this Christmas.

Warmly,

Sarah Hart

Counsellor, Dip IRC, MA, MBACP (Accred), UKRCP

Mother’s Day tips for non-custodial mothers…

Being such a money making occasion, Mother’s Day is difficult to avoid – but you can make things easier by preparing yourself emotionally.

Please make a commitment to take outrageously good care of yourself today.

In particular…

Remember, you are and always will be your child’s mother 365 days a year, no matter what has happen in the past, or what might happen in the future. Having given birth to a child is a huge achievement. Sit quietly for a while and honour your status as a mother.

That said, it is essential to remind yourself that being a mother is only part of who you are. For many of us (especially in the early days of separation) it feels like a really big part but make no mistake, our status as a mother it is part of us not the whole of us. Many mothers are so used to being involved with their children’s lives they lose touch with their own. Living apart from our children is like experiencing premature empty nest syndrome. Children leave home eventually which means that at some point in your life you would need to address being without them. For us, this life stage arrived earlier than expected. Like all mothers who reach this transition, ask yourself: What would fulfill me? What have I always wanted to do but never got around to? Don’t let guilt get in the way. Take off the hair shirt – it’s your life, so make sure you live it.

Buy yourself some flowers today. Plan a special treat or, better still, ask your partner or a friend to go with you for a springtime walk, tea and cake, a delicious meal or whatever you love doing best. Whatever you, know that you worthy of love and kindness so please give this to yourself.

Warmly,
Sarah

As Mother’s Day approaches, the media, shops, restaurants and florists would have us believe that if we are not indulged by our children, we are losers. If children forget or choose not to treat their mother, they are selfish and uncaring. How easy it is for us to fall for this myth!

Thankfully, we can choose to see 3 April differently.

This Sunday is a day like any other. Just like any other day, we can see it as a chance for a new beginning, to embrace spontaneity, to do something that will make us stretch and grow or prioritise nurturing and pampering ourselves. We can ignore the media hype and decide to spend it doing whatever it is that makes us happy.

Realising how much pressure and power Mother’s Day foists on to our children, we can choose remove ourselves emotionally from the false belief that to be remembered on this day is a measure of our self worth.  You will not cease to be valuable, lovable or worthy if your children forget Mother’s Day or reject you.

Expecting mothers to give children all of the nurturing, guidance and self belief a person needs throughout life, is a myth. It is never too late to receive love, mentoring and support from any number of strong mother figures around us. Do you have enough wise, insightful and loyal ‘surrogate mothers’ to sustain you?   It helps us when we acknowledge that this is true for our children too. Motherhood is not a competition. As we and our children change and grow, we can receive mothering from many different people at different stages in life. Understanding this can help us feel less urgent and worried if we don’t have contact with our children at this moment in time.

Whatever you do on Sunday remember this: We can cherish ourselves and our lives. We can nurture and love ourselves. We can accept ourselves with all our faults, strengths, thoughts and feelings. We are the best thing we have got going in life. Believe this – it makes Mother’s Day and all other days much easier and a lot more fun.

Take good care of yourself.

Warmly,

Sarah

In all the excitement at Wimbledon these past couple of weeks (thanks to Andy Murray for giving it his all), I’ve been reminded of how easy it is to get locked into playing emotional ball games.  Perhaps you’re familiar with backwards and forwards, to-ing and fro-ing behaviour with someone else that usually involves a provocation, an insult or a sarcastic jibe.  For example, your knee jerk response – which you later regret – to:

  • An unnecessarily rude text from your ex partner following a misunderstanding about when you were supposed to take your child to his house.
  • Your child calling her stepmother, “Mum/Mom”.
  • A work colleague exclaiming “How could she!” on hearing that a woman in finance left her family home to be with another man.
  • Your father’s sarcastic comment about the long grass and weeds in your garden

and so on.

How to lose the game but win the match

If you’re aware of finding yourself playing emotional ball with someone, why not try the following 5 steps to lose the game but win the match:

  1. Imagine you’re in Centre Court.  Face your challenger head on.  Pause and breathe.  Observe their stance – what does it tell you?  Is there a deliberate intent to cause hurt or maliciousness?  Are they hitting out through ignorance, lack of experience or because they’re too young to know better (your child perhaps).
  2. Watch the provoking behaviour or comment – coming towards you.  Use your mind to slow it down and roll words up into a manageable tennis ball size.
  3. Stand still and relaxed in your half of the court.
  4. See the ball fly past your left or right side.
  5. Turn and leave the court in a dignified manner.  Without a word, calmly walk away.  Be prepared for a possible barrage of balls as sometimes opponents don’t like it when you stop playing the game.  Remember, even saying, “I’m not going to play ball”, is playing ball.

 What to do if you’ve already returned the ball:

  1. It’s never too late to stop playing even the longest running emotional ball game.  If you stop, your challenger will eventually give up when you’re no longer willing to play.
  2. Sit quietly and close your eyes.
  3. In your mind, press the Hawk-Eye button for an action replay.
  4. Then follow steps 3 to 5 above.

Remember that practice makes perfect so do keep at it throughout the year.  Finally, there isn’t any prize money for the winner – there’s something much more valuable and long lasting than £850 000:  the priceless emotional, physical and spiritual reward of calm, dignity and peace of mind.

 

Until next time, take care.

Warmly,

Sarah

Sarah’s new self-help book: A Mother Apart

Support for women

Sarah specialises in counselling and training women. She helps non-resident mothers find inner peace by dealing with guilt, distress and other difficult feelings which can be experienced when living apart from their child. Her self-help book, 'A Mother Apart', published by Crown House, is available now. She also supports business women grow in confidence whilst growing their businesses. To find out more, please visit Sarah Hart's website

Blog Stats

  • 24,243 hits
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: