Moms, It’s Time for a Little Kindness to Ourselves

Here's an open letter to mothers across America: Would you tell your daughters what you tell yourself?

It has come to my attention that we mothers are universally terrible to ourselves.

Have you ever taken inventory on what you routinely say to yourself?

Over the past week, I did just that and here’s a snippet of what I found floating in my brain:

“You need to exercise more. What’s wrong with you?”

“This time, you really have nothing good to write” (I’m working on a book).

“I am a bad wife, a bad daughter-in-law, and I need to step up and be nicer and more involved with my husband and mother-in-law.”

“My grandkids need me to babysit more.”

“I shouldn’t be so tired all the time.”

“Other women don’t forget as much as I do. I need to work on my memory.”

And so it goes. And the thing is — I should know better (see? I did it again).

Terrible self-talk makes one depressed, anxious and, well, kind of miserable. But I think I’m in good company. You probably do exactly what I do but your “tapes” say different, nasty things to yourself. If you are a mother feeling down, exhausted, discouraged, fat, out of shape — whatever — let’s do something important for ourselves this Mother’s Day. Let’s take a break from the self-flagellation and say things to ourselves that we would say to our daughters or best friends.

We would never say to our daughters, “You need to exercise more, you lazy girl,” or, “You should work harder than you do,” or, “Why are you so tired all the time? Get off the couch!”

Let’s try something for a day or two. Let’s give ourselves the gift of saying to ourselves the things we would say to the girls and women we love. Things like “Wow, you did a great job with the kids today,” or “You are so disciplined with your exercise! Take a rest day.”

We post-feminist mothers have fallen into the trap of “never being enough.” We create lists in our minds of all we should do in a day, but, because these lists are so demanding or exhaustive, we can never finish them. And when we finally lay our heads down on the pillow at night, we think of all of the things we should have done, should have said, should have been.

If you can’t find the strength to thank yourself, then pretend you are talking to your daughter or best friend.

Then we beat ourselves up in resolving to do better tomorrow.

So how about tonight, after a day of refusing to accept the “should, can’t and you aren’t” in our minds, we say to ourselves, “Good job!”

Yup. Show ourselves a bit of appreciation for what we were able to do, be and say — for the whole lot of good things we did with and for our kids, spouses, co-workers and friends. And those good things were enough.

If you can’t find the strength to thank yourself, then pretend you are talking to your daughter or best friend. What would you say to her as she falls to sleep?

Then say that aloud to yourself.

This Mother’s Day, celebrate with kindness to yourself!

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project.