When I was a little girl I was the mother to 6-8 children. Mostly cabbage dolls and one Cricket doll. I ran a school. I owned a business. I was a painter or fashion designer. I had a big garden. I wore dresses every day and piled my kids into my “car” and rode all over the places. I had time to love them and talk on my pretend phone.
I also had a husband named Daddy Dog but he wasn’t around much to help out at home. He just showed up for dinner time. At some point it was communicated to me that my vision of being a mama was not realistic. I couldn’t have businesses and babies. I could only have so many babies and only do so many things . I would have to choose. I couldn’t be Kelley the creator and Kelley the mama. I am not sure where that belief came from. My own mama walked a tightrope of career success and loving mother. She was present and driven. So the example was there in many ways. However somewhere I accepted that I had to choose myself or choose to be a mama. That to be the mama, I would have to sacrifice me.
Even as a grown woman I saw the message that my worth as a woman was tied to my ability to secure husband and produce life. I see it now. And at the same time we are told that ourselves, our needs, our dreams will have to wait, even die to be the mama. I see it all the time. Part of my own practice is based in re-imagining that narrative. Who I am as mama and as Kelley is mine. I get to choose me and this role. There is a way to do so many of the things in my own way and time… Who gonna check me, boo?!
It’s a place I often find mama’s around me struggling and stressing. We hold this vision of the perfect mother. We never measure up. We beat ourselves up, living in a cycle of comparison and suffering. We are in a society that leaves the mama alone to figure it out. Sure we have a million books about the best way to birth, bath, feed, and “raise the babies”. Most of them caused me more stress than help. And not once did I see the book about how to honor me. All around me I see mamas encouraged to choose between themselves and their children. For most of my adult years I chose me over being somebody’s mama. I didn’t want to sacrifice me.
I realize now I have the power to be the mama and Kelley I want to be. I know that taking care of me, listening to my inner wisdom and treating myself are not only good, but necessary. We all come to being a mama in different ways. We all have different support or no support. I want to share 10 ways how I re-imagine this for myself.
- 1. I treat myself with the same loving tenderness that I treat my babies. I feed myself, in a timely manner. I listen to and honor my feelings. I hold myself. In any way that I will and do show up for Palmer and Duke, I show up for myself or do my best to. I forgive myself when I stray. It’s a practice not perfection.
- 2. I remind myself that all the love/joy/acceptance I want starts with me. The love we are told will come from a partner of the kids will always evade you when we look for an outside source. When I want someone to smile at me or tell me I am doing a great job, I look in the mirror and say that shit to myself. When I feel like I knee deep in chaos, I turn to the only thing I can control. My breath, my movement. I want more peace, I move move peacefully. I want more love, I am more loving. I desire more joy, I create joy for myself.
- 3. I shut down my own lies and false narratives. We have stories. Some others gave us. Some we wrote based on past pain and trauma. I just know that for a very long time I was heId hostage by those stories. I would talk myself out of most of what I felt drawn to. I had ways to shut myself down. Now I listen to the story and Then I shut it down. I literally say out loud, “THAT’S A LIE!” Those stories have no place here.
- 4. I speak to myself to affirm the truth. I spend my moments of solitude, in the shower, just after the boys fall asleep, just after I wake up, speaking to myself. Reminding myself. Encouraging myself. Sometimes I have to fake it. Sometimes I have to turn to mantra. I reclaim the spaces that might find a negative, fear based story and I put the words I need. In that way I create.
- 5. I ask for (and accept) help. We bought the lie that a good mother can do it all. She should try to at least. THAT’S A LIE! It’s not possible. We shouldn’t even want to do everything. We are not meant to navigate this space alone. It is hard because we do not naturally have the community and village we are meant to have. We live far from our families. We live in neighborhoods, but aren’t in connection to the people sleeping 50 yards from us. And still we can ask for help. We can accept the help offered to us. I ask the boys to help me when we are home alone. I accept the offer from the bag person to wheel my groceries out. I ask myself to pause and breathe when I feel overwhelm setting in.
- 6. I show up as a human for my children. I talk about my feelings. I apologize. I cry. I acknowledge my mistakes. I am honest about the fact that I do not know everything nor can I fix or solve everything. Showing up authentically for them is a major point of liberation for me. No hiding. No Superwoman syndrome. Keep It Real Kelz lives on.
- 7. I go to sleep. Sometimes with dishes in the sink. Often before I send the promised email or have the clothes laid out. I deserve rest. I can do that one last thing tomorrow. I can also sleep in. I love sleep. Sleeping has been different since becoming a mother however, I don’t play about the opportunity to get some shut eye. I don’t squander it with chores or errands. They nap, so do I. My bedtime is just after theirs. Phone off, covers over my head. I tuck myself in. Lol.
- 8. I say no. To anything that is not in alignment with my needs. I have to say no to the boys. I have to say no to family, friends, “opportunities”. Amber Karnes reminds me often that a no to one thing is truly a yes to something else. In this case, a no is always a yes to me. It may equal down time or an earlier bed time. It may mean ease to my week or knowing that I am committed to the care of self. No is a complete sentence for me, even with the boys. Mostly those nos have to do with my personal space or need for privacy. I am allowed those things. Our survival depends on it actually.
- 9. I breathe. Deep breaths. Cleansing breaths. I take time to bring my hands into my body. One hand on the heart space, the other on the belly. I notice the rise of my chest, the expansion of my belly. That pause is a reset. It is an opportunity to fully step into the moments that follow deeply connected to my own truth and peace. It is a hard stop for the moments that would seem to pull us off center.
- 10. I say yes. To meals alone. To reading a good book. To traveling alone. To naps. To walks as a family. To building deeper understanding of self. To making new patterns of self care. To radical self acceptance. To ease. To abundance. To joy. To love. To liberation. To myself.
I am curating an experience of motherhood that is all mine. I am not vanishing behind this role. I am walking more fully into who I am. I am reclaiming the narrative of what it means to exist inside and outside of this role. I am lovingly holding up my own mirror and celebrating what I see.
This piece was originally published via www.peacefilledmama.com, shared with permission from Kelley Palmer.
Kelley Palmer (she/her) is a writer, wellness advocate and community organizer committed to using the tools and philosophies of yoga to cultivate liberation, joy and peace for herself and others. Her focus is making this healing practice accessible to all, connecting to communities that are normally excluded or ignored in mainstream wellness circles. Being a mother of two liberated souls has created a point of focus that brings these tools to the way she is mothering them and also calling her to share this with all parents. Kelley is also a founding member of The Sanctuary in the City, a North Carolina based nonprofit organization focused on creating access for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) to healing spaces, education and liberation through programs, grants and scholarships. Kelley’s writing, offerings and more about her can be found at www.peacefilledmama.com, on Instagram at @iamkelleynicole, and www.patreon.com/kelleynicolepalmer. She also currently shares her ‘Race & Equity in Yoga: Disruption As a Practice’ training in collaboration with the Accessible Yoga Training School. We recommend tuning into the rich conversation that Kelley had with our Bliss Baby Yoga guest presenter, Maria Kirsten, and Chara Caruthers on the Live Like You Love Yourself podcast.
If you are passionate about offering nurturing, holistic yoga classes with safe, appropriate and nourishing practices designed specifically for pregnancy and postpartum recovery, you may be interested in our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training course. We also offer Online Extension Modules to enhance and further your learning in this area, covering topics including Prenatal & Postnatal Anatomy and Physiology and Pelvic Floor Anatomy and Physiology for Women’s Health.
Further Reading related to this topic:
- The Sādhanā of Motherhood: tips for integrating yoga into daily life by Nadine O’Mara
- Giving Back: A Conversation with Atira Tan – founder of Art to Healing
- Classical Yoga Lessons for Parents by Ana Davis
- Rosie Matheson talks Conscious Conception, Birth and Parenting
- Self-Care Tips for New Mamas by Star Despres
- How Yoga Can Support Postnatal Mental Health (Including Three Simple Practices) by Maria Kirsten