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Mother: noun: a term of address for a female parent or a woman having or regarded as having the status, function, or authority of a female parent.
Mother: verb: to bring up (a child) with care and affection, to give birth to.
From being slotted solely as a ‘noun’ back in the day, the dictionary now includes the meaning of mother as a verb too, signifying the act of nurturing or caring for another. Poets and artists have depicted it, we’ve seen it in movies, and in our own lives too. My own mother would rather lie to me saying she’s already eaten, if I’d ever ask for the last piece of chocolate. It’s the same familiar story we’ve carried down through our family trees.
In any part of the world, in any culture, the act of mothering has been synonymous with caring, nurturing and selfless love. So while they have this immense capacity to give, mums have the reputation of being the worst receivers. And this goes beyond mothers; I’m talking about anyone who ‘mothers’. Why is it that these ‘carers’ put their own needs at the bottom of the list? Even in an airplane, we are asked to safeguard ourselves first before helping another. As mothers, we would do everything for our family, but we have completely skipped the part where we need to mother ourselves.
If someone were to ask you if you think you’ve been a good mother to yourself, what would you reply?
Why self-mothering is so important
At the core of modern-day therapy is the idea that we carry wounds from our childhood. Simple, regular instances like remembering how your math teacher yelled at you in front of the whole class. It may seem trivial to others, but your seven-year-old mind stored it in your cellular memory as ‘rejection’ or ‘failure’. Inner child work is all about addressing these stories, soothing our hurt younger self, and putting those old beliefs into perspective.
The practice of mothering yourself is one way of healing these old wounds. Results may include the possibility of a more cohesive, integrated and grounded sense of self which can greatly contribute to our ability to show up for ourselves and enjoy a far richer quality of life.
How to introduce yourself to the practice of self-mothering:
1. Watch the internal dialogue
It all starts with what you say to yourself. You could be reading this and thinking, “I don’t have time for all this.” Or you could think, “It might be useful, I’ll give it a go.” Be kind to yourself, even in your thoughts. It takes effort if you’re used to always being hard on yourself.
2. Practise gratitude
An attitude of gratitude puts the spotlight on all the good things in our life. This helps us imprint these joyful feelings into our cellular memory and helps to rewire the brain away from self-criticism/judgment.
3. Take care of the little things
As mothers of toddlers, we take care of every little thing while planning a day out — snack boxes, change of clothes, wipes, sun hats, water bottles, etc. Do the same for yourself; remember the little things that you like and make an effort to get it. If you like flowers, plant your own or buy yourself a small bunch once in a while; if you like the beach, drive via the beach on your way to work; if you like your special ‘Zafrani’ chai, stop over and pick up a cup if you’re in the vicinity. Do little things for yourself.
4. Check in with yourself
My favourite time of the day was when my little ones would come home from school. Sitting with them for lunch and chatting about their day was incredibly precious. Similarly, finding those sweet moments for yourself is also a healing practice. Bedtime is perfect to check in, bring your energies together and think about how you’re feeling. Just focus on your breath, turn inwards, check how your body feels, or journal if you wish.
5. Healing hands
A mother’s touch can soothe a crying child, heal a scraped knee and even bring down a fever. There’s something about a mother’s loving hands, a tenderness, a deep connection, unspoken words. And you can turn this around for yourself too. Try it whenever you feel unsettled, upset, sad, anxious, angry. Just put your hands on your heart centre, breathe slowly and feel the warm energy from your palms reach your heart and soul. Standing barefoot on the ground, or grass is also immensely soothing.
Nourishing and caring for yourself can be challenging for many, but it is an important part of your overall mental, emotional and physical well-being. It is not about being selfish. You can’t, after all, pour from an empty cup.
Connect with Delna Mistry Anand across social media @DelnaAnand
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