There is no denying that there is a certain amount of pressure on women and on mothers in our current society. We are expected to do it all: to have a career; be hands-on with every part of our children's lives; have toned and attractive bodies, glowing, radiant skin, fantastic hair, a sense of humour and kitchen skills that would make Jamie Oliver look like a high school home economics teacher. All this, and so much more, whilst being sexy but not slutty, confident but not arrogant, attentive but not overbearing, self-made but not a workaholic, all while living in a magazine-worthy home furnished with homewares on rotation like the gravitron ride from the 1980s we love/hated so much.
This is just a tiny fraction of the expectations placed upon us as women. And the worst bit is that this is somehow expected amongst us, our own gender. Because we place this expectation on ourselves from what we see curated and shared in magazines and personal blogs, we are setting an example for those around us. The truth is that it is impossible for one, solitary woman to properly manage any combination of these expectations at once and so instead, we are left feeling inadequate, like we are simply a hot mess for not keeping up.
There have been a gazillion times I have stepped out of my messy old car (in today's world, an 8+ year old car is old, when compared to the ever changing rotation people seem to have yearly) with unbrushed hair, morning breath, an empty stomach and most likely the knickers I wore to bed with some random piece of clothing I found on the floor that didn't smell too bad. As I wish my children a wonderful day, remind them to drink ALL their water, I hope that nobody fucking sees me. Then BOOM!!! The fancy car rolls up with *Yolanda* stepping out in her fancy shoes, hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, slick enough for a Calvin Klein 90s runway, makeup done but so chic you can’t tell if her skin is immaculate or the result of the $1000 caviar face cream she told you she was just “trying out”, wearing PE Nation or Prada's latest collab of activewear, takeaway coffee in hand and smelling like a fucking baby being born in a pool of lilacs!
I smile, because, of course she’s seen me, but also to mask the tiny part of me that dies inside as I mentally tell myself, I am that person again: that hot mess of a woman, stressed, lacking sleep for the past 10 fucking years, and always a few steps behind what day it is. So like a rat escaping daybreak, I scurry back into my sardine tin of a car and speed off feeling like shit.
On the drive home, I wonder how the hell someone can have time to get a takeaway coffee at a café on the way to school drop off? (I can't even empty my bladder after waking!) How does one manage to get hair that slick without any bumps or random post baby fluff? And don't even get me started on the trailing scent of lilacs she leaves behind as she walks! How is it, I wonder, that she can manage all that, and I can't manage to brush my hair and teeth in time for drop off, let alone get a full glass of water from the water filter I stood in front of all morning, whilst tending to the 129,387 demands of my kids?
How is it that I have dedicated my life to supporting other women and helping them to feel empowered and yet be so disempowered outside of my business? Well, honestly, because I am trying to do the best I can in every situation. I am trying to (at my own expense) be everything my Mother was not and doing it all without any support. I often forget that there were others involved in my upbringing. In fact, I was shipped to and from other family members’ homes and lived with my grandparents at least 60% of my childhood. Whether you have a narcissistic, self obsessed mother or not, it takes a village but I felt their annoyance at having to step in to help take care of me because my Mother would not. And I feel it now, because while I am trying to have some sort of life long dedication that one may all a career and bake the daily sourdough, wash the copious amounts of clothes, clean the millions of pieces of paper cuttings off the dining table, figure out how to get rid of that dog piss stench on the rug and being perplexed with how much dust can accumulate in less than 24 hours, I count down the minutes to when my husband is home – I feel every hour he is not here. He leaves before we rise, in the dark hours of the morning and returns as dinner is on the table. We are doing this journey alone from the bottom up, no grandparents to help, no support, no real community to step in and help pick up the pieces when we cannot. We are doing it all blindly, stumbling around with no elders to help guide the way or vast amounts of funds to pay for any kind of support.
My dreams consist of silence and a full-time employee who just does laundry every day, so I never have to do it again. I dream of nights full of romantic feasts (a meal that actually takes over an hour to cherish), orgasms by candlelight and intimate connection. I dream of a full 10 hours of deep sleep. Oh how I dream! You see, my work, which I create and hold within The Ritual, is the one place I can show up and feel human, truly human, truly alive amidst the messiness of everyday life. It is the one place I feel a connection to others and can have the openness to share parts of my journey, and be held accountable to self-regulate1; to keep up and be kept up by the union of like-minded individuals coming together, having a little laugh, and seriously knowing how powerful we are for not quitting ALL that hot mess bullshit of womanhood.
Life is hard, really hard. It throws people your way who masquerade themselves as knights in shining armour; who present themselves and offer you the world whilst secretly taking one brick of your hand-built home away one brick at a time until, without ever even noticing, it all comes crumbling down around you. And when you suddenly realise every time they come over for a visit, a brick went missing, when you ask them about it, they blame you for letting your house fall down around you and you’re left wondering, what the actual fuck just happened?
I love creating a good old analogy, but that is precisely how it feels. You are left to live in this brick house with walls crumbling down, resembling a game of Jenga gone wrong, and you don't know how it happened. They took one brick at a time to make their house taller, stronger, larger and grander. Then somehow, you have to find the strength to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on the wheel of life, starting again from the bottom up but now with the awareness that vermin can and will disguise themselves as rainbows and Mother fucking Theresa.
So how do we keep moving forward without repeating the same old crap? How do I first choose to fill my well before that of my family, my business and others I love?
We begin to self regulate1. We begin to let the demands, chaos, drama, needs and wants of others become second and stop. Stop to take a breath and ask ourselves, is this urgent? Is someone being hurt or injured, or is it unsafe to not act? When you force yourself to stop for that brief moment, 99% of the time, your answer will be no, it’s ok to wait five minutes and help ME first.
This simple check-in with myself has completely changed how I parent, run my business, and maintain my household. I am constantly forcing myself to close my eyes, take a deep breath and ask myself (before reacting and telling my kids to stop nagging me): is this genuinely urgent, is everyone safe? Is everyone ok? Is this life and death? And suddenly, the overwhelm, the bubbling of anxiety and cortisol rising in my body subsides, and I come back to earth out of my head and into my body and state out loud that I am taking care of myself right now and will help you in a moment. This does not mean the nagging and demands stop; it just means that whomever I am communicating this with (mostly my husband and kids) is witnessing me putting my needs first, truly practising self-care. I have seen my oldest daughter begin to mimic this with her younger siblings and that is what we all most likely missed out on: our mothers modelling self-care, a mother who could self regulate and take care of her own needs, whilst respecting those around her. We have forgotten the Mother.
There is so much healing to be done within all of us, all genders and cultural backgrounds. We all carry with us some form of the Mother Wound, which created the society and expectations we have today. Most especially the expectation that demands so much from everyone and is not prepared to meet you halfway. We have all been reduced to imitating robots, machines: to be a commodity that feeds back into a system that only serves the 1%. When we break free from this, when we begin to practise self-care and putting our own needs first, we heal. When we do what FEELS right for us, rather than what feels right for *Yolanda*, stepping out of her Maserati SUV in head to toe PE Nation activewear, we heal. *Yolanda* has her own Mother Wound to tend to and is also trying to keep herself from drowning in the swamp of societal expectations we all are in - she too is doing the best she can with what she has. And we are simply different expressions of the same collective wounding: the abandoned, young child searching for approval, validation and love without conditions.
Accept yourself as you are. Make your own choices and love yourself because vermin dressed as rainbows will always be around. Tasks and to-do lists will only grow longer in life. All new flashy cars will become old and be replaced with updated shinier ones, but this moment right now is the only true moment you have. This moment to yourself, within your intentional deep breath and pause, is the moment that leaves you feeling sustained and nourished.
So the next time you see someone that makes you feel less than or the next time someone offers to cut your grass only to come close enough to your home to steal a brick, rise back up, dust yourself off and give back to you. Because we are all learning to come back to ourselves and these will be the lessons that carry us forward.
**Self-regulation is the ability to understand and manage our behaviour, emotions, and thoughts. When we are dysregulated, we are acting from panic, flight or fright response and our nervous system is on overdrive, causing an overproduction of cortisol and adrenaline. The effects of dysregulation include irritability, being involved in drama circles, anger, sadness and in the long term, it may look like anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalances, illness and disease. For further reading and research on regulating the self, I highly recommend learning about the Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges and the Vagus Nerve and Shame workshops by Carolyn Cowan, a dear friend and trusted mentor of mine for many years, truly a master in this field. I always believe in learning and being guided by those who have dedicated their lives to a cause.