Defending my worth as a mother
Last week, I got a message from my husband saying he wasn’t excited about the kids spending an extra night a week with me because the ‘kids sleep better etc.” when they are with him.
Hmmm, that’s interesting: Etc. Etcetera? ETCETERA?! What the $&*! was that “etc” supposed to mean? I’d like to say I was initially interested in understanding what he meant with the “etc,” but really I wasn’t interested in much understanding at all. I was interested in one thing: DEFENDING MY WORTH AS A MOTHER.
I’m a few months into a separation-headed-for-divorce from my husband and partner of 18 years, and the father of our two beautiful daughters. I am equal parts sad, happy, angsty, euphoric, contracted, and breathtakingly free. Although I know this is the right path forward and will allow me to live my most authentic and fulfilling life, it is hard to stay grounded and centered in the midst of my completely unrecognizable life. I am committed to being a woman grounded in her true self, operating with an open and vulnerable heart. And yet, when I am confronted with jabs of disapproval like the “kids sleep better etc” text last week, it is hard to stay the course.
In moments like these, my body alerts me that I have strayed from my commitment. My heart beats quickly, my chest tightens, and my brain becomes a jumbled mess of confusing, conflicting, and unproductive thoughts.
This new life of mine is going to take some practice, I know, and so is this commitment to being true, open-hearted, and vulnerable. Pause and Recalibrate has become a powerful way to practice. When I find myself in an uncomfortable situation (like, say, being told that the kids “etc.” are better when they’re with their dad, or negotiating finances, or maybe realizing that I forgot to put my weekend work trip to Florida in the family calendar), I pause and feel into my body. I acknowledge my body sensations, my emotions, and my feelings. I put my hand over my heart and repeat, “I am okay. I am safe. I am love.”
I am immediately aware of a shift in my nervous system. I can breathe deeply, my thoughts stop swirling, and I feel a calm rush through my body. In this state, I am not called to defend myself and prove my worthiness. I am able to honor my commitment to myself and to my family and act in a way that feels authentic and expansive.
When I noticed my sudden need to defend my motherly honor over the “etc” that apparently I was failing at, I paused and recalibrated before responding (and thank God for that!). In this much calmer state, I really did get interested in what that “etc” meant and simply asked him. Like, really curiously asked him. Weird, right?
And, guess what? That’s right. It turns out my worth as a mother was not under attack and there was nothing to defend. Imagine that!
Pausing and recalibrating not only helped me avoid making a GIANT mess out of misunderstanding and defensiveness, but it also helped Josh and I open a new dialogue about parenting and what it looks like to be authentic and present with our kids while trusting that the other parent is doing the same. It became a great opportunity for us to pause and recalibrate too.
We’re okay. We’re safe. We’re love.
Kara Valentine is a Founder of Threads Worldwide, a social enterprise that provides life-changing work to women around the world through the fair trade of artisan jewelry. She is also the mother of two beautiful girls who inspire her daily to be courageous and honor her passions.