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your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live
Sherrie
That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
Gary
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
Niko
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
Megan
Because of your blog, I know that it is possible for me to have the love that I want one day and that I don’t have to be alone.  — Indepthwoman  on space2live
Indepthwoman
I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman
Your words are my lifeline.  I sit down to your posts and as I read I can feel my acceptance of myself and my needs grow.  Your words validate my feelings about my life, motherhood, relationships and it is something I hold onto.  And during the times when I feel like I am not able to be a mother or a wife or a sister or a friend or whatever someone needs me to be, I go back to your words and find some peace…I send your posts to my husband when I need him to understand that I love him but I need …
D.R.
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
M.G.
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.

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Self-Actualization and the Suburban Mother

Three years ago a friend asked me, If you could have anything in the world what would it be? I immediately replied, Freedom.

Burned Out Mommy

At that time, I felt trapped and desperately out of sync with my self.  I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from the care and activity of three children, a husband and a high maintenance home.  Not because they were especially problematic, but because I had completely lost myself in the upkeep. I wanted to do everything so well. I felt stifled by obligations. There was no me, just a shell of a caregiver, and a worn out one at that. I kept thinking there has to be more than this.

I couldn’t get to calm or peace or any spiritual balance. I was a hamster on a wheel.  A fly buzzing at the glass.

I would never downgrade the value of the work of mothers. Children need/deserve meaningful care and a mother’s touch is priceless. But nothing felt meaningful. Everything felt like an item on a check list. I was going against my very being. I was meant to act in a thoughtful, deliberate way. I longed for depth and quality but settled for getting through the day. I did everything to prove my commitment and accelerate the development of my kids. Of course, my husband wanted quality time with me as well. There was never enough of me to go around. Frustration and guilt danced daily on my shoulders.

I met other women going through the same turmoil. One friend silently cried most weeks as she drove her children to dance lessons in a distant town. Her kids sat unaware in the backseat as tears slid past her sunglasses and down her cheeks. Several moms’ inner conflict manifested physically. They found themselves fighting infections and taking antibiotics continuously. Many more were on anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication.

There seemed to be a mismatch between what we were doing and who we were meant to be.  We all were bright, devoted, loving women. We were knocking ourselves out. But feeling empty. This wasn’t as simple as being in a dead-end or unfulfilling job. You can’t quit motherhood but you can feel shame for thinking about it.

Women bring much of this angst and judgment on ourselves.  My own mother-in-law once told me when I was considering going back to school, In ten years you can do whatever you want.  The kids will be gone.  Ten years!!!  It felt like she asked me to hold my breath for ten years. What if I died before that?

I’m not advocating tossing aside your children for a better you.  You chose to have children. Love them and raise them but keep sight of your own light.

Feminism and Self-Actualization

During this time of questioning I picked up a copy of The Feminine Mystique.  I stopped reading it about 100 pages in.  The feelings of unfulfillment described by housewives in the 40s hit so close to home I could not bear to read and re-live their unhappiness.

Feminism as society most commonly views it — equal rights for women — is different than self-actualization. Rather than focusing on equality, self-actualization focuses on rising to your full potential.

I did not go back to school but I did get an invaluable education by choosing to opt out of the life-draining mommy track.  I became very selective about my endeavors.  I listened to my own voice and dabbled in open-minded environments – writing classes, guitar lessons, group meditation. I found ways to incorporate them into the family schedule.  I’d do them during the day when everyone was at work or school.  I took music lessons at the same place where the kids took theirs.  Meditation was a once in a while Friday night splurge.  Each excursion felt like a giant gulp of pure air, sustaining and energizing.  I felt like I was driving my life rather than being dragged behind the swerving truck of societal expectations. My step became lighter, my smile more prevalent and genuine.  I shook off the heavy North Face mom- coat and slipped into a sensuous cashmere sweater.  I felt beautiful and alive. I wanted to share this feeling with my family and others.

Free Living

I encouraged my children to pay attention to their instincts and interests when it came to after school activities.  Their dad and I put limits on the amount of driving we were willing to do and the amount of bologna over-achieving we would endure.  Our kids don’t participate in cut-throat athletics or get tutored for a shot at perfect ACTs.  We want them to be kids, to be free.

As mothers, do you ever wonder what is more important — dedication or passion?  How can you self-actualize and parent lovingly?

**It must be mentioned that in the midst of this personal development my marriage ended.  The divorce was intricately woven into all of the learning that took place in this phase of transformation.  Heartbreaking as it was, I don’t consider it a failure.  I consider it a trial that taught us both meaningful lessons in communication and vulnerability. We are better people for loving and hurting each other.

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9 Comments

  1. Dana July 14, 2012 at 11:44 am - Reply

    As a healthcare worker it seriously disgusts me that there is such abuse of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. That bored housewives feel that a little Paxil or Xanax will cure them of the guilt of selling themselves out. Clinical depression comes from chemical imbalances in the body, not from being unsatisfied in where your choices in life have led you.
    On that note: there are many of us out there that find pure joy and passion in being a mother! We made the choice when bringing these new beings into this world to put their needs first! So sometimes we gave to wait 10 years or more to pursue things we neglected to pursue prior to becoming a mother; or figure out a way of pursuing it in a way that will not compromise your primary responsibility to your children. Why are all these empty shell moms focusing on skills their children “need” (soccer, dance and such) when the real focus should be building a solid foundation of character. Great, your daughter is now an accomplished ballerina; who is lacking the self worth to not injur herself with purging and starving herself to perfection! On behalf of children: Thanks for focusing on YOUR needs rather than theirs.

    • brennagee July 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm - Reply

      It does bother me that our society has become so keen on quick fixes regarding our health – mental or physical. Sadly, I’ve known of physicians willing to prescribe anti-depressants without much digging into the true reasons for the lack of joy in life. Chemical imbalances should be treated – and I know there are holistic and scientific methods of doing this but this is not the subject I want to cover.
      I hope you don’t think I find it impossible to believe that motherhood in itself can be fulfilling. I absolutely know this to be true. I have learned so much and grown with my children. I believe this is the natural way of things.;) Sacrifice is necessary and part of parenting. Teaching your kids self-respect and a willingness to learn and go outside the lines is invaluable as well.
      I have to add, the number one code of conduct that my ex-husband and I follow is put the children first.
      Kids find freedom and choices when they see their parents experiencing all the flavors of life, making mistakes and consistently expressing love.
      Thanks so much Dana for your valuable input. I always enjoy your perspective.:)

  2. Kimber July 14, 2012 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Lovely Brenda. Such a breath-takingly sweet note to moms struggling out there. The whole post just breathes.

    • brennagee July 14, 2012 at 11:39 am - Reply

      Thank you dear Kimber. I guess this is my message to the world.:)

  3. Dominique Santos July 14, 2012 at 7:28 am - Reply

    So powerful. Really loved this. It spoke to me as a human being, a mother and a feminist (who sees motherhood and feminism as completely complementary… but is interested in making child rearing a part of a practice of community rather than the burden of an over-determined individual). Thank you! x

    • brennagee July 14, 2012 at 11:38 am - Reply

      Yes! Community is essential for powerful living. I have learned that over the last few years. For a while I kept everything internal but I’ve found the most magic and meaning comes from sharing and working with others. Thanks for your beautiful comments Dominique.

  4. kateshrewsday July 14, 2012 at 4:47 am - Reply

    I have trodden a very similar path to you and this post rang so true. If I could work all day, every day and pursue my own goals I could fly: but I accept a compromise, writing on my own blog and teaching a couple of days a week, giving me time to be with the kids. Life does seem very unbalanced some times: but if I take one thing away from reading this, it is to throw away the guilt I feel when I’m pursuing my own stuff. We become better people if we carry on our own paths. Great post.

    • brennagee July 14, 2012 at 11:33 am - Reply

      Thank you for commenting. If anything, I want space2live to say that self-actualization and parenting are not mutually exclusive. We are deeper richer people for exploring and living consciously. Our children can only benefit from that, our examples.

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