Let's Not Make Our Kids Carry Our Baggage

‘Tis the season, right? The season of motherly sacrifice. This is perhaps the greatest time of year for moms to drown themselves in meeting the needs of their families. So what if you’re tired? Exhausted even? Secretly pissed off? Stuff that mess down, cause you’re a MOM. And moms are martyrs, right?

I’ve started to observe something – as I offer opportunities for women to connect, to build relationships, and to participate in something that will feed them – I get some resistance. RSVP’s on Facebook that never translate into attendance. Comments like, “I need this,” and then I never meet her.  As I ask questions, it becomes clear; often, our needs are the first ignored in favor of what our family needs.

What if, as mothers, we could really get it – the fact that the more we ignore our own needs and hurts and broken places in the name of caring for our kids…the more we actually HURT our kids?

Take some time, in a quiet spot, to think about your own experience growing up in your unique family. Think about the times you struggled as a kid and as a young adult, facing cruelty or loss or disappointment or failure. In those times, what did you need most? Can you remember times when you could feel your own mom’s pain welling up in response to yours? Did you have time where you could sense that her anger and fear wasn’t only because of your wounds…but because of her old wounds too? How did that feel?

The best thing we can do for our kids is to heal our own hurts and broken places. We serve them best when we nurture and feed and fix ourselves – otherwise, they’re forced to confront not only their own demons, but ours too. And that is a lot for a kid.

I think we all buy into the lie that if we’re supposed to just manage our “stuff” well, and then our kids won’t see it or have to deal with it. Yeah, it’s probably easy when they’re toddlers, but think back again to your own childhood. I have a hunch that you felt your mom’s anxiety, or depression, or loneliness – or whatever pain she carried - with laser clarity, even when she thought it was well contained. I certainly did.

If you insist on carrying your baggage around, telling ourselves you’re too busy mothering to deal with it, it won’t stay put on your back. As much as you try to keep it all contained, it’s going to spill out, roll over your back and crash to the ground, falling squarely onto the heads of the kids you have so tried to protect. Even if you are able to keep your emotions squashed and a smile pasted on your face, your body will start to take a toll. When I continue to ignore my own needs and neglect myself, I start to get migraines, back pain, nausea. It comes out some way, somehow, and our kids get a front row seat.

They’re going to have to carry their own baggage down their own road; let’s not make them carry ours too. I challenge you today to think about where you need to tend to yourself. Are you anxious? Lonely? Depressed? Hurt? Angry? Take a first step to healing; set an appointment, make a call. Tell yourself that you are doing this for your kids – breaking the cycle and modeling what health and healing look like.

So who is supposed to help us deal with our stuff?? It’s hard to do alone! You need other mamas around you. My mission is to help you get started building a village – a community of women who will support you, love you, challenge you, help carry your burdens and cheer you on as you work through your baggage. In my experience, this is essential to mothering well. Our kids can’t be our comforters, our validators, or our cheerleaders – but other women can and should be! Try gathering to make friends on purpose.