Hey folks! I’m back with Part Two of my version of the “Rocking Motherhood Challenge.” If you missed part one, you can catch up here.
If you’re the type to just skip ahead instead, I’ll give you a brief summary of what this is all about:
The “Rocking Motherhood Challenge” challenges mothers to write about ten ways in which they are winning at this whole crazy motherhood thing, and then to invite a couple more moms to join in. I was invited by Stephenie from Blended Life Happy Wife, and in my last post I not only accepted, but decided to take it up a notch by discussing the ways in which having PTSD has helped me ‘rock motherhood.’ My first five are in that Part One. Last chance to read it first because here are the second set of five reasons why having PTSD makes me an awesome mama…Therapist-Assisted Edition!
6. I am me, no matter what.
This is one of the ones my therapist helped me come up with. By the way, I showed up to our session that day with a silver sparkle stuck next to one of my eyes as an accessory.
I am me, no matter what. Sometimes that is met with encouragement, and sometimes it is met with mass disapproval. Other people’s reactions, however, do not deter me from being me.
I do engage in PTSD Survival Skill: Social Cloaking, which is basically when I change my speech patterns slightly to match those of the person I am talking with. It’s a way of helping ease tension, and making myself appear non-threatening in order to avoid conflict. I don’t do it intentionally, but after realizing I do it and examining why, those are the reasons I discovered.
That being said, however, my opinions and attitude are always my own. And while I am often terrified to relay them, I also often do just that anyway. Because after being abused, it’s important for me to be heard, and it’s important that my kids learn to make themselves heard as well.
Likewise, I don’t buy things just because other people have them. If I buy something, it’s because I want it. I just opened my Twitter and Instagram accounts last month because before last month, I didn’t want to have them. When my husband’s family visited last year for Penelope’s first birthday, his grandmother loudly and insistently voiced her disapproval at us purchasing a Laugh & Learn – Smart Stages Scooter by Fisher-Price. Because it was red and a had a boy on the cover. Seriously. I mean, I know that’s extreme even by conservative standards (right??) but the point is that you are NOT going to see me putting those kinds of restrictions on my kids. My daughter loves that scooter, by the way, and if you’re stuck on a first birthday gift, I totally recommend it…for a boy OR a girl. I love expressing myself however I feel like expressing myself at any given moment, and I let my kids do the same. If my kids want to dress up as princesses, they can dress up like princesses. If they want to dress up like firefighters, they can dress up like firefighters. If they want to don beards and mustaches and wear clothes from the boy’s section, they can totally do that too.
I value being me, and therefore I value letting my kids be themselves. In a world which constantly pressures us to conform, I think being a mom who expresses herself no matter is a great way of ‘rocking motherhood.’
7. I am sensitive to distress in others
After experiencing so much violence in my lifetime, I have spent an inordinate number of days feeling intense need. The need to be noticed. The need to be shown love and affection. The need to be understood. The need to be forgiven. The need to be heard. The need to be alone. The need to be with others. The need to be held. The need to be allowed to curl into a corner by myself. The need to be criticized, but gently. The need to be deliberately included. The need to be remembered. The need to be able to hide. The need to be helped.
How does that relate to motherhood? It allows me to be sensitive to the needs of others, especially my children, with whom I spend the most time. My eldest son is diagnosed with autism and is completely non-verbal. My middle child is only now developing the ability to articulate complex thoughts, and my youngest child is still working on stringing words into sentences. My ability to notice their distress is imperative. Even if they can’t (or won’t) tell me that something bothered them during daycare, or that something on our walk has scared them, I can tell. I can tell, and I can usually sense when they need a hug, or some alone time, or whatever it is. My own sensitivities and needs have made me alert to the sensitivities and needs of others, which is an extremely useful mom-tool.
8. I always provide a home-cooked meal
Ironically, we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner last night. So “always,” I suppose, is an exaggeration, but only a slight one. “Couch dinners,” like the one we had last night, happen maybe once every two months. The other evenings? We eat full home-cooked meals. They may sometimes be simple, but they are healthy, (mostly) preservative free, and delicious.
I think it’s clear how this relates to “rocking motherhood,” but how does it relate to PTSD?
I did not start truly healing from my PTSD until I got to Boulder, CO and was introduced to mindfulness practices. I had done yoga before, yes, but as a form of fitness rather than a meditation. Which is really great, especially Hot Yoga, though please find a way to do it besides using Bikram studios; he’s a sexual predator. I recommend CorePower. Tangent aside, I already knew about and loved yoga for fitness, but when I was introduced to moving meditation, my life changed–It’s no coincidence that I also got sober during that same time-period.
Yoga is a moving meditation, but I usually can’t manage it more than once a day. And I need a lot more mindfulness than that. So I created a contemplative practice out of cooking. That’s right. Cooking calms me. The process of cutting the vegetables, selecting the seasonings, and putting everything together soothes me, and it has enough sensory markers (scent, texture, the need for concentration) to help me stay focused within the meditation in a way which sitting meditation does not. Yes, this means it often takes a long time to make dinner, but it has also become such an important self-healing ritual that I almost never skip a home cooked meal.
9. I don’t take shit from anybody
And I don’t let people give my kids shit. As women, we are socialized to be docile. To “grin and bear it” in the face of a man’s ‘more important’ desires. This is rape culture. This is wrong. And it’s the reason I was abused.
I’m not taking the blame for my abuse, and I’m not letting my abuser off the hook because of the dreaded “Society.” I am, however, saying that the ways in which I was socialized to defer to men, to aspire to be desirable to men, and to keep quiet about my pain, harmed me, and contributed to my feelings of helplessness while I was being abused.
Society is going to influence my kids no matter what. And while we are making great strides forward, there have also been a lot of recent backward leaps. The best I can do for my daughters especially, but also for my son, is to be a woman of strength. If I demonstrate strength and resilience, they will naturally inherit some of those qualities. My hope is that this will help them speak up and speak out when they experience the inevitable acts of sexual harassment and discrimination which every woman in this world encounters at least once in her lifetime, and when the women and girls around them do as well. I want my kids to be champions not only for themselves, but also for their friends.
10. I privilege creativity
Creativity is important. I truly believe that a creative mindset is the single most important quality for a person to cultivate if he or she wants to lead a happy life. I know, I know; it’s ironic that someone who has lived the past couple decades enshrined in misery is now doling out advice about achieving happiness. But in those rare moments when I feel truly joyous and at peace, nine times out of ten, I am doing something creative.
Creativity leads to flexibility. If you can come up with creative responses to a variety of scenarios, then you can accept the possibility of a variety of scenarios. Creativity leads to innovation, and that can be in any industry. Creative thinking helps scientists, engineers, cooks, painters, writers, mathematicians, even diagnosticians. Creativity helps everyone.
I have always been a creative person, but having experience trauma has shifted my creative impulses from a passion to a diehard necessity. The ability to transmute my experiences into works of fiction has saved my life. It has allowed me to distance myself enough from the story of my trauma that I can write it without shutting down, and then review it. Which is actually a variation of a legitimate therapeutic practice for PTSD, called structured writing therapy. And when I’m too tired to write, even just scribbling furiously on some construction paper with a crayon can be a catharsis.
So how does this apply to motherhood?
I encourage my kids to be creative, every day. Our art shelf is literally sagging under the weight of all our crafting supplies. We paint, we draw, we stamp, we play dress up, we craft food and My Little Ponies out of playdough, we draw on the windows with our amazing (and truly washable!) Rainy Dayz Gel Crayons–available through Amazon. The floor around our table is permanently glitter bombed, and by the end of the day, all of us have washable marker or fingerpaint tattoos. And I don’t mind. In fact, I love it. When the girls’ bathwater leaves a multicolored ring on the tub, I know we’ve all had a good day. My kids may grow to have a lot of complaints about me, but they will never be able to say that I discouraged their creativity.
Whew. Okay. Well that was difficult.
But I did it. And it actually feels really good. I’ll be honest: There’s a part of me that feels guilty, asking, do I really deserve to praise myself? I screw up motherhood in so many various and eclectic ways, do I really get to say good things about myself? But that’s abuse talking; those little whispers of doubt reaching to me from The Ex’s fists into the present.
PTSD sucks. If I could cure myself of it, I would. Without question. But I can’t. And even managing the symptoms is an enormous, daily struggle. Taking the time to think about the ways in which my traumatic experiences have contributed positively to my life as a mother has been a big step toward healing.
I want to thank Stephenie from Blended Life Happy Wife for tagging me in this challenge. Part of the challenge is to also tag some fellow mama bloggers to follow suit. So, I’d like to tag Elizabeth Voyles who runs Worth Writing For, a blog I can totally relate to and which gives really useful, honest parenting tips; Vicki from Babies To Bookworms, which is my new favorite children’s book review blog because along with her excellent reviews she always provides crafts and activities related to each book; and Alex from Heart Home and Hope, who has been extremely kind and supportive to me even though we have radically different backgrounds. No pressure if you don’t want to participate (and apologies if you already did and I missed it) but, from someone who never does this type of thing: I recommend giving it a try!
Do you have something in your life that you typically consider a barrier? Try and think up three ways in which it may actually help you be a better parent or person, and leave them in a comment!