Cultivating Deep Wells of Joy in Motherhood // Guest Post by Sarah Harmsworth
Motherhood is full of contradictions. It’s beautiful but difficult, rewarding and yet so costly, profound while also mundane. There are highs and lows, there is learning, stretching, failing, and then growing. In the whirlwind of emotions, and needs from our children, and tasks having to be completed it’s easy to forget that motherhood is also something that we are created to deeply enjoy. In some seasons the enjoyment comes easily, but more often I find we actually have to work for it. We have to engage with our inner life, our thoughts and feelings, to see what is hindering enjoyment, and then make the necessary changes to see that breakthrough. When I find myself needing to breakthrough to deeper levels of joy in motherhood, here are some of places where I start looking.
Unmet Expectations, Resentments, & Lies
A conflicted heart will struggle to find joy even in the most joyful situations. If I am having a hard time enjoying motherhood a good place to start is an honest conversation with myself. Do I have unmet expectations that are causing resentments toward motherhood or my children? Do I have unforgiveness? Am I letting frustration fester? Am I believing lies about myself or my children?
If you recognize any of these thoughts inside of you, first be kind to yourself. There is no shame in having these feelings and on the other side of them is more freedom and joy! So find a safe space or person with whom to process your thoughts and feelings, and then do the work to walk in forgiveness and healing.
Speaking out radical thankfulness is not a new idea I came up with, but oh my goodness it works! There are so many difficult things we face each day as mothers, and if we can make it a habit to reframe situations from a negative to a positive through thanksgiving it can have a profound effect on our enjoyment of motherhood. Try speaking your thankfulness out loud and keep going until you feel the heaviness or frustration lift. An added benefit of this is that you can teach your children this skill as you practice it.
A Yes Mindset
A huge shift in my enjoyment of motherhood came one day when my firstborn was two years old. I asked him what he wanted to do and without skipping a beat he said, “paint your face!” I laughed it off and said no. But then I stopped & thought, “Why not? What could it hurt?” So we got out his paints, and I stared at his precious face while he painted mine. I loved every moment of that experience, and it was a changing point in how I choose to mother. I realized that we have the most fun, the most laughs, and the most peace when I second guess my initial reaction to say “no” to anything too weird, out of the ordinary or inconvenient. Often a “yes” leads us on our best adventures.
Play is the love language of children and something so many of us have forgotten how to do, so let your children teach you! If you feel in a rut as a mother or that you’ve lost some of the joy, practice having a “yes mindset” and letting your children teach you how to play! Get out on that jungle gym with them, sit on the floor and play toys with them, engage in their imagination, sing silly songs, chase them around! Hopefully you’ll find joy and laughter and silliness filling up your home.
Social Media & Mental Health
My last suggestion is to be extremely conscious of the effect that social media has on your mental health and inner life and to put in place strong boundaries to let yourself thrive. Social media can inspire us, connect us, and give us a voice. But left unchecked it can also monopolize our time, keep us perpetually only half engaged, and magnify our insecurities. There is no quicker killer to enjoyment than comparison, and social media can be a breeding ground for comparing your reality to someone else’s highlight reel. So use it to your benefit, follow people who inspire you and uplift you, and then be quick to unfollow any accounts that make you feel less than or insecure!