So if it is true we can’t love our children any more than we can love ourselves -how do we practice self-love and what are warts and gold to do with it?
The moment you become a mother this really hits home. ‘I love you’ isn’t a sentimental greetings card with a couple of bears on it. It is dragging yourself from the fog of hard won sleep to soothe soul-piercing cries 4 times a night. It is changing the bed sheets at 3 am and finding a way to manage the urge to scream.
And on top of that is not just what we do, it is HOW we do it.
So love is also the atmosphere we create whilst doing. I know this because my daughter is very intuitive and age two was prone to frequent, explosive hour-long rages. It took all my resources to try to be there for her. Afterwards I would feel all shaken up and need to re-group. She had other ideas.
Tension free she was now up for life in the fast lane again. I remember raging inside at the injustice. Couldn’t I just go through the motions while I managed this hornet’s nest in me?
She picked up on every cue though and faking it wasn’t an option – it just felt like I’d abandoned us both. Service as usual wasn’t what was needed it. Showing some loving kindness for myself was.
How can we give ourselves love when we are in the thick of things?
One sleep-deprived day when both our children were poorly my husband asked me to stop a second and tell him what I needed. I answered with a few expletives and a big dollop of self-righteous sarcasm about holidays in Bermuda. But it is a good question and so easy to forget to ask ours – ‘what do I need now?’
Even hearing the need is an act of love – a way to reconnect with yourself with loving kindness.
I can’t ask myself what I need because…
There are a thousand and one reasons not to ask it. Sometimes we fear if we ask the question we will be flooded with feelings about our unmet needs. We forget the feelings are there anyway and we can and do manage them all the time.
Sometimes we fear stuckness – the same old needs we ‘always’ have and don’t know how to meet. Sometimes we’re lost in doing it all and taking the moral high ground. And, though we may not like to admit it, sometimes we don’t ask because deep down we don’t believe we deserve this love and attention at least until…
What have warts and gold got to do with love?
The lives we live can be bumpy at times. It may take a ‘whole village to bring up a child’ but many of us don’t have that whole village. Many of us may not have learnt how to genuinely listen to ourselves and probably not to love and value what we hear as if it were gold- warts and all.
Asking ourselves what we need is an act of love because it is a willingness to listen to what our experience really is. It is a way of facing our warty imperfect selves and seeing the value there. It is like being our own wart charmer – that village elder who bought warts for gold and knew the value of our blemished selves.
In this way we expose the lie that you don’t deserve love/rest/happiness/ until… you reach that ever-receding finish line.
If we manage to pause and ask ‘what do I need now?’, we show our children about self-care. That is the hugest gift and the hugest challenge in our often under-resourced lives.
Loving yourself is not a self-help cliché it’s a practice.
It takes courage and a stop button when you are on autopilot. It seems a zillion times harder when you have a deadline or any other time pressure and even harder when you have done something that you regret.
Love is a practice that you can challenge yourself to take. How many times today will you pause and ask ‘what do I need now?’ It is hard and bumpy at times and worth gold.
I’d love to hear how you have found ways to love yourself after motherhood:
Do leave a comment below.