Tag Archives: motherhood

‘Just one child’

The other day I overheard someone asking a mom “Do you have just one child?” and it stopped me in my tracks — “JUST?” as if one child is not enough. As if your legitimacy as a mother is measured in how many children you have. That is just absurd.  

This post is for you moms— all of you. Whether you have one child or ten, whether you carried your children in your womb or you adopted them, whether you are a step-mom, whatever your status is you are still a mom. You are still in the business of raising child, you still understand the worry, the struggle, the loneliness, the unconditional love, the passion, the devotion, the satisfaction, and pure joy you get from seeing your children happy. 

No measure of motherhood

There is no measure that determines “how mom you are.” Having a child is a huge life change, it turns life as you have previously known it upside down. Whether you have chosen to stop at one or are unable for other reasons, you do you. You need to do what is best for your family, for yourself, for your sanity, and forget what the social pressure around you is saying. You need to take care of you, and you don’t need to explain your reasoning to anyone. 

As mother’s day approaches and puts into perspective just how hard our moms work, and how much we should honor and respect them, hold your head high — feel proud no matter what being a mom looks like to you. You deserve a pat on the back. You are the cook, teacher, maid, nurse, therapist, coach, and leader your kids need. They would not be who they are today without you. Relish in that accomplishment for a while. Take a deep breath, treat yourself to a massage, and count your blessings. Being a mom is hard work and it is also so incredibly beautiful. 

Anxiety as a mom: Turns out, its part of evolution

I have always struggled with a small degree of anxiety, but I was not prepared for what happened after I had kids. Now my anxiety is full blown. I worry a lot, nit-pick at my spouse for not doing the dishes fast enough or right (aka the way I would have done them). I have feelings of my heart racing and my head overflowing with worry all too often, but why? Why is my anxiety so much worse as a mom than it was before?

It turns out a lot of it has to do with the brain, and the love hormone: oxytocin. 

Oxytocin first surges during pregnancy and continues to surge to promote bonding after the child has arrived, according to researchers. The hormone increases with a simple look from a mom to a child, a snuggle, or tears from a “boo-boo.” And moms aren’t alone, researchers have found similar changes in the brains of dads who provide a lot of caregiving (source: theatlantic.com). 

The Oxytocin Effect

The same hormone that creates those feelings of unconditional love, strengthens bad memories. Research by Northwestern University suggests oxytocin could be the reason why events that cause emotional pain, such as being bullied at school or tormented by a boss, can have effects that linger long after the event is over and can trigger anxiety in the future. The hormone has been shown to strengthen the social memory of the brain.

Researchers found when a negative or stressful social experience takes place, the hormone activates the part of the brain that intensifies the memory. Oxytocin also increased feelings of being fearful and anxious during stressful events occurring long after the original event. 

So, yes the same hormone that is increasing feelings of love and making you drool over your child. The same one that makes you want to pick up and cuddle your child—even when they are keeping you up all night, or getting snot all over your shoulder —is the same one that is increasing fear and worry of bad things happening. Is it really the worst thing if the dishes aren’t done the way you want them? 

The good news is now that we know about the double-edged sword of oxytocin, we can use the power of other parts of our brain to reign it in. To stop and assess the situation before immediately getting to high-anxiety level. To be mindful. While you are in the midst of imagining the worst that could possibly happen to your child, your child is playing quietly next to you. Rather than sending yourself into a tizzy, stop, breathe, and talk to yourself about what is happening at the moment, right here, right now. Find out if there is immediate evidence that makes you feel this way, if there is no evidence and you still feel overwhelmed by anxiety then it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. Call a qualified counselor, such as the Women’s Therapy Institute, where we can help.

“Maternal Gatekeeping” Can Destroy Our Relationships

Maternal Gatekeeping Sandra gets home from work and finds her husband bathing their toddler. She marches up to him and said, “You’ve got water all over the floor! Stop! Let me do this!” Her husband fires back, “Fine!”

Traditionally childrearing is considered a woman’s job but the world is changing. Today women are excelling in education, succeeding in careers and entering into relationships holding their own weight. Men are also stepping outside of their social gender role, and are 3x more involved in their children’s lives compared to their father’s generation. Most mothers rejoice over this trend, yet a good 21% consciously or unconsciously engage in “maternal gatekeeping” that may dissuade fathers from taking on more childcare tasks.

Whether due to natural instinct or societal expectations, many mothers identify themselves as the primary caretaker of their children and hold this value dearly. Maternal gatekeeping happens when mothers believe fathers are not as competent in the caretaking tasks due to the same set of societal expectations, and behave in a way that discourages the fathers’ effort, thereby obstructing collaborative parenting.

It is understandable that mothers want to do what’s best for the children. We need a small dose of maternal gatekeeping to keep us parents organized and get things done, but too much of it can hinder father-child bonding and affect couples relationships. Having it keeps mothers overwhelmed and experience maternal burnout. Raising children is a tough job and mothers need support, especially those who are working outside of home.  More men are willing to step in nowadays so moms, you can allow yourself some rest. You deserve less stress.

How to prevent yourself from being a “Maternal Gatekeeper”?

  • Notice it – Sometimes our maternal instinct is so ingrained that we don’t even notice we are being the “gatekeeper.” Having an awareness of our behavior can help us make conscious decisions as parents.
  • Let go of high standards – Your partner has his own style of parenting. It’s unrealistic to expect your partner to do everything within your standards.
  • Focus on the big picture – Your kids will not remember the water splashing on the floor, but they will remember the fun times when their daddy made silly soapy hairstyles for them. (If the kids are old enough, you can coach daddy to have them clean up the mess together.)
  • Communication sandwich — If you need to communicate with your partner on how he can do things differently, consider talking to him after the fact when you two are in a good mood, and use two compliments to buffer one criticism.
  • Talk to a professional — Therapy can help you gain some relaxation skills so you can be happy even with soapy water on the floor.

Mabel Yiu is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in girls’ and women’s mental health at the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach her at mabel@womenstherapyinstitute.com for more tips or tools, or schedule an online appointment.

(Image source: GettyImage)

Blog Response: Should You Teach Your Kids to Share

Children SharingI recently came across an article on PopSugar called “Should You Teach Your Kids to Share”. In the article, author Beth W articulates that she doesn’t teach her son to share because the act of sharing teaches children 1) that they can have something that belongs to someone else, and 2) that they can act without regards of others.  While I think Beth W has some good points, her article only shows one side of the story…Let me show the other side.

The Evolution of Sharing

From an evolutionary standpoint, the prosocial act of sharing and cooperation has helped various species survive throughout times. Human beings are social animals; we share food, resources, and knowledge for support and protection. If the caveperson who discovered fire didn’t share the knowledge, the human race would probably have died from cold weather or food-borne diseases.

Sharing in the Modern Times

In our modern world, sharing is equally important. Until we solve the problem of inequality and poverty, many charities and activists still need donations from the “haves” to help the “have nots”.   When we teach kids not to share, teaching them that helping those in need is not important.

Sharing is also crucial to our cultural growth. For centuries, we have been sharing ideas and knowledge so that our arts can be more vibrant and our technology can be more advanced. If our kids guard their ideas so tightly, they will inadvertently limit their own world.

Sharing in the Work Place

On a micro-level standpoint, sharing is an essential part of our day-to-day work life. I am a therapist in a community health agency, and everyday my colleagues and I rely on each other’s support to provide good care to our clients. Often times I need to leverage resources from another department to help my clients. I don’t speak Spanish, and it would be difficult for me to work with a Spanish-speaking client if I cannot “borrow” a Spanish translator from another department.

What to Teach Kids About Sharing

I agree with Beth W’s article that there are downsides to sharing, but teaching kids not to share has its pitfalls. So how should we teach our kids about sharing? I believe the process needs to be fluid because I don’t think the all-or-nothing approach works well in our dynamic world. We will need to set some guidelines about sharing when it comes to our own belongings and public belongings (ie. school, parks and rec centers). We can teach our kids the positive aspect of sharing and encourage this prosocial behavior, while teaching them that they have a choice whether to share or not.

I believe we can teach our kids about coping with disappointment and making good choices in sharing at the same time.

Mabel Yiu is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in girls and women’s mental health at the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach her at mabel@womenstherapyinstitute.com for more tips or tools, or schedule an online appointment.

Image Source: Babysitting Academy