This post was inspired by two books I’m reading currently: “The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality,” by the amazing and inspiring feminist Avital Norman Nathman and “Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message,” by Tara Mohr. (affiliate links included).
Let me first warn you that my inner mother critic is not me.
She is no where close to being me.
She is pretty much the opposite of me, which is why I can safely encourage, mentor and inspire mothers around the world to live their authentic mothering journey with ease.
What a relief!
This morning, during my morning me time, inspired by two books I’m reading right now, I set out to do two things.
First, inspired by the book “The Good Mother Myth,” I was going to make a sarcastic list of what makes a good mother. But the list never seemed to complete itself. I wanted to keep adding to it. Keep perfecting it and tweaking it and editing it. It grew longer and longer. And more and more terrifying.
Until I finally abandoned THAT idea, which was the best idea I’ve had all month.
Second, with that crazy list in hand and inspired by the book, “Playing Big,” I was going to describe my inner mother critic by creating her character — her persona — as suggested in the very first chapter as a way to hush your self-doubts.
Without a list to work off, I set out to create my inner mother critic persona with what I know to be true about her and what she expects of me to stay safe in my little mother box.
Meet Stella — my inner mother critic.
She is bright and cheery – a beacon of light.
She is a mother of three, maybe five kids. She never sweats. She never yells. She empowers her kids all day long. She never needs breaks from her children because they are so well behaved and sweet. She dresses well and wears the latest everything and has the latest everything and does the latest everything.
She is also quite the know-it-all. She pushes one thing and one thing only: Be perfect. Be perfect. Be perfect.
She peeks out over her sunglasses to tsk tsk at the me who is covering my ears from all the noise while rushing out the door on her way to the next big social event.
She haunts me in the most ridiculous places, too. Like today, she was haunting me in the Halloween aisle at Target tsk tsking me about not doing any orange-themed baking this week for Halloween. Or any baking at all this month.
Or this season.
She’ll haunt me a lot this upcoming holiday season, in fact.
She’ll haunt me when I haven’t created the perfect holiday card or wrapped the gifts well enough or bought enough. She’ll haunt me when I haven’t the energy to even cook dinner and yet she’ll be there nagging at me to send the grandparents that long overdue set of pictures.
She’ll tsk tsk at me over my two-pairs of shoes that aren’t at all like the fancy boots the other moms wear at those school functions. And she’ll tsk tsk at me about that red cozy fleece sweatshirt I love to wear but, seriously, isn’t at all in and maybe never really was, to be honest.
She shows up in the middle of the night, too.
Laying right there next to me in bed she asks me a ton of questions and she keeps me awake for hours. Did you pack the lunches? Why didn’t you write a sweet note or a joke yesterday?
Everyone else does, she whispers.
And then she continues …
You didn’t read long enough or ask enough questions. Why do you think your child is acting that way right now? Why are you so tired all the time? When will you finally get that room looking nice? Did you return the library books on time or will you have a fine … again?
She sits with me and holds my hand in the hardest mothering moments, too. What a darling.
She points out my errors, my incorrect words, my inconsistencies. She points out my mistakes. She wags her finger in my face in those awful moments when what I really need is a good dose of fresh air and a warm hug.
Well, you didn’t handle that very well, did you? she shouts in my face really close.
She sometimes shows up in the good moments, which is perhaps the most frustrating.
You should be laughing more. You should be a better wife. You should try harder. Play more. Have more activities ready. Make your own food. It’s healthier.
Or, she’ll counter all the good with things like this … Something will go wrong. This won’t last. What if you get sick? This will ruin everything!
You’re going to mess this up. You always do.
At which point, I am ready to just scream at her … HUSH ALREADY!
And so, now that I’ve met and defined my Inner Mother Critic (does she sound at all like yours?), I get to talk back to her. I get to tell her exactly what I think of her when she pops up and stands over my shoulder.
- I’m doing my best.
- You don’t know my children very well.
- I am not perfect.
- I’m going to do it my way, anyway.
- I’ll be fine.
- You’re actually pretty wrong.
- I’m not listening to you.
- You’re just scared.
- You’re a bit of a coward.
- You can’t make me feel bad.
- I’ve got this.
- I am doing it the best way I know.
- You don’t really know much about the real world.
- Let’s agree to disagree.
- I know how to take care of myself.
- It must be so easy to mother from the sidelines.
- You’re sweet, but please leave the room.
- I’m enough today and I’ll be enough tomorrow, too.
- I’m turning you off. Good-bye.
Our inner mother critics are really just the voices of many other people in our lives we think are doing things better than we are in this journey. This persona is purely fictional and even a tad overly dramatic to prove a point and one point only.
Our minds wreak havoc on our inner peace and our inner beauty.
Our minds are on a mission to destroy our happiness all in the name of trying to keep us safe and in our comfort zone.
And we really need to stop listening to the Stellas of the world.