My stress and overwhelm can be performative.
I don’t know how to ask for help and I fear people will say no if I ask.
So sometimes when I start to feel slightly overwhelmed at holding space for toddler feels and Mitch is around, I exaggerate the stress I am experiencing.
My conditioning says that in order to get help, I need to be perceived to be in complete overwhelm or hopelessness. That I am not worthy of help unless I am about to crack.
And when people can see that, they have to help.
I don’t know how to have a calm, respectful and reciprocal conversation about my needs and wants (and those of Mitch). I feel guilt in starting to really struggle to parent an incredibly active toddler whilst 27 weeks pregnant. I feel guilt at wanting to spend more time doing what makes me feel joy, whether that be in my business or for fun.
So, it’s easier to just perform in order to get a small morsel of what I need.
I don’t have to have the conversation about how I need things to change, address the gender stereotypes that are playing out in my family unit, discuss and debate a culture that undervalues caring work and reinforces intensive mothering. I don’t have to explain why. I don’t have to problem solve and be vulnerable.
I get that this reaction is unconscious. I get that it has played a role in keeping me safe. But it is not constructive.
I don’t want this to be a part of my reality going forward. I want to be able to express my needs and wants and be open to hearing someone else’s.
When I take a moment to extend myself compassion and analyse these interactions when I am in homeostasis, I can start to see where these reactions may have come from and how some of my conditioning would be at odds in this situation adding to its complexity:
- A good girl does what she is told, she is compliant and does not make a fuss. She doesn’t assert her needs.
- A good mother is perfectly capable of meeting all the needs of her children without requiring anything for herself. She is completely and utterly fulfilled in her role.
Mmmm. Explains the inability to assert my needs and wants in a calm and respectful way. Explains the guilt I feel at wanting more for myself.
The belief and trauma work behind these interactions is much more complex than I can start to unpack here. It involves complex family relationships and being a part of the movement to create a different culture around motherhood. But I wanted to share this part of my reflection today for anyone else who may be experiencing something similar.
For me, this comes back to continuingly committing to getting to know myself and gain confidence in asserting my needs whilst being able to hear someone else’s. To be able to respectfully engage in clear and open communication.
It comes down to being a part of changing a world that currently values and puts on a pedestal the perfect mother and intensive mothering.
I NEED so many other amazing elements of my life along with my role as a Mum. This is only one aspect of my identity. I NEED help to be able to manage my nervous system and live in joy.
I am always working on the guilt I inherited for feeling this way. What I know to be true is I do not want to live a shadow existence of believing my value is in the completion of household tasks and ignoring who I am.
I love the shit out of my life right now, not when my kids are at a certain age and I want more of what makes me feel good.
I am deciding, over and over again, that this is not asking too much. And yet, sometimes I wonder if it is the world I am trying to convince, or myself.
And there’s the work.
How do you go at having constructive conversations about your needs and wants? What has worked for you in the past? Have you ever experienced something similar to me?
Image: in the centre left of the image is a picture of me in an archway shape. The picture is in black and white. I have my arms extended to my side and I am looking down. Flying upwards from my hands are blue, orange and yellow butterflies. Surrounding the image is the text ‘My stress can be performative’.