Dear Ambitious Mother,
You don’t know me, but I know you. I see you at the school gates weighed-down with mum-guilt. I see the constant tug of war which goes on in your head – when you’re with your children you feel guilty you aren’t more present for work and when you are working you worry you aren’t present enough for your children.
I see you denying yourself your dreams and ambitions because you fear people may judge your motherhood. I see you not being completely honest with family and friends, worrying they will question why you aren’t satisfied with what you have – “isn’t motherhood enough?!!”
I see you worrying your ambitions will somehow damage your children’s wellbeing – didn’t you read that somewhere??? Anyway, ambitious women are masculine, aggressive, and bossy and no-one likes them, right??!!
I see you, I hear you, I am just like you
I too have kept my ambitions to myself, as though they were a dirty secret never to be uttered out loud.
I too have judged myself more harshly than is humanly possible for daring to want more for ME – “how dare I be so selfish?!!”
I too have worried my ambitions may have fu**ed up my kids, and I’m a psychologist who should know better!!
Now at 52 years old quite frankly I couldn’t give a flying f*ck what anyone thinks of me, my drive and my ambition. I am unapologetically me, and by the way – I know I am a great mother!!
What I know now to be true has always been true, I just wish I could have told my younger self and spared myself years of unnecessary self-criticism and worry. So, allow me to gift you the wisdom I have gained over the past five decades:
- Surround yourself with like-minded women
Find your tribe. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon your other friends – just know all ambitious women need to have a sounding board with other ambitious women. Actively seek these women out in your workplace, through coaches, mentors or mastermind groups. If you run your own business it is even more important to do this as soon as you start out. Not only will you be able to truly be yourself; opening up about the challenges you face, these women will become lifelong friends, and collaborators not competitors.
- Be realistic with your expectations
No-one is wonder woman – despite the comic book and film character. It is simply impossible to be able to do everything to an exacting unrealistic standard – so stop berating yourself for an ideal which just isn’t possible! Be honest with yourself and others about what you can and cannot do AND where possible delegate tasks. You don’t have to do all your household cleaning for example, if you are financially able to pay someone to else to do it and other tasks – it clears more time for you to play with your children, or go to the gym! Ask friends to help with school pick-ups and remember parenting is not just your responsibility – it is your partner’s too and they should share the load!
- Be fully present when you are present
Now this one is my own Achilles heal and a personal work in progress. When you are with your children, be fully present. Put down that work phone, walk away from the laptop, and be fully PRESENT in those moments. Everything else can wait! Our children need very little of our undivided attention to thrive and the time is a very worthwhile investment.
- Leave comparison at the door
Why do we do this to ourselves??? There are always going to be some pretty self-righteous mothers who will extol the virtues of being a stay at home mother and how their choice is the right choice. These are not your people. Stay in your own lane and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Most mothers are open-minded, accepting, and let’s face it, are more worried about being judged themselves than judging you. Be true to your ambitions, your goals and aspirations and you will naturally attract the right people to you. Every family is different, with differing personalities and family dynamic. There is no one size fits all formula for success, so focus on what happiness looks like in your family.
- Practice self compassion
We are so good at being compassionate to others yet not to ourselves! It’s time to drop the constant self-criticism and cut yourself some slack. Ditch the ‘shoulds’ and embrace ‘good enough’. It doesn’t mean you’re lowering your standards or accepting less – it’s about being real and protecting your sanity and wellbeing. Do not try and make up for mum guilt by agreeing to do more than is reasonable. Whenever tempted to take something on through guilt remember ‘no’ is a complete sentence – oh alright “no, thank you”!!
Remember when you truly step into who you are, unapologetically, you model to your children what it means to be themselves and that my friend is the greatest gift we can give our children.
Ambitious woman Maryhan, and badass mother! x