Loosening up about mothering is something which just comes with confidence, same as with any skill in life. We all start off a bit nervous and tense about it. If at any stage you sense that you've lost your sense of humour, then the stress of parenting might be getting to you. Other than renting a video, a night out at the Comedy Club, or a holiday away from the kids and partner, (none of which will actually solve the inner conflict), it will require stepping back from your world of troubles within the psychology of your being, and here regular Yoga Nidra and meditation are the tools. Not only do they relax the tension of the situation but they also work on the blockages to your joy and fulfilment. In meditation, sometimes you can just feel yourself smiling and even laughing as the drapes of depression drop away and you rediscover the clarity and humour of your life. I find the key to help remaining sane in the midst of household madness, and to appreciate the funny side to many things, is to cultivate a transcendental awareness, that is to practise seeing yourself and your situation from outside. You are right there in the moment, but you are also viewing it as a witness. It involves being able to take the "I" out of the problem, once again, a process identical to the art of meditation.
Becoming More Real
In the beginning of your mothering career, so much of it is actually a pretence. Shocking, but true. Just like children, when we don't know what is going on, we imitate others to get the feel of how it should be, and this is quite natural. As you gain your own experience and knowledge, the pretensions drop away - or they should. The trick is to make sure that you don't maintain any of those immature personas beyond their training usefulness, becoming, in fact, someone other than your real self. The ways in which this can happen are very subtle.
So much of our mother-ness is pre-formed by the time we actually become one, just as so much of our womanliness was preformed before we become one. We imitate our mothers in play as a child; we imitate media images of older women in our teens; we plan and imagine how we will be as a mother when we watch shows and ads with "TV mums" in them. So when a baby comes, so often we simply end up emulating motherhood models which are largely externally defined.
Firstly, we may emulate our own mothers. Their good advice, their good example, no doubt contains much we should embrace and numerous times I have advocated developing a close mentor relationship with a more knowledgeable
mother-figure in your life. But you are not her, and your baby is not you, so there will come times when you will need to express your individuality as a mother. This of course is a moot point, as many new mothers reject any advice from their mothers, saying - "Thanks mum, but I'd really like to try and work it out for myself". This may or may not be a true expression of their individual-ity. It may simply be a knee jerk rejection to years of being mothered domineeringly, or a childish way of pretending to be grown up.
Secondly, beware of unconsciously emulating the stereotypical mum of the advertising world. Even the ones they try to make look like real mothers are hopelessly fake. They are simply creations in harmony with the product they wish to sell you and, despite the skills of the actors, are not based on real beings but on mothers in society who are themselves not real but caricatures of previous stereotypes (e.g. the 1950's housewife or the 1990's Supermum). In your search for true motherhood identity, it is important that you do not take on the mother-ness of such phantoms.
Thirdly, from mother's groups, or from public observations, be careful that behaviours and models of motherhood are not adopted based on either insecurity or popularity. Before childbirth, a woman may have been an extremely self-confident person, but with the big changes since then and possibly a birthing experience which was out of her control, many women have found they lose that confidence (albeit temporarily) whilst new motherhood starts to make sense. During this unsettled time it is easy to adopt personas which are not fully real.
Even taking on the advice of books such as this, please, make no mistake, the idea is not to become something other than who and what you really are. It may take some time of experimenta-tion, some amount of imitation, until your true nature comes to the fore. Many of the ideas I have described are ways to get women thinking about being more true to themselves. In discussions I have had with so many women and mothers, they all admit to being untrue to themselves to some extent. "Oh, I wish I could do that. I'd really like to, but I just can't". "Yes, I know I should be... more... but..." These may equally be the comments of someone who would like to be like others, or may be from someone who doesn't want to be like others. Either way your aim is to be real, irrespective of others.
This then requires a definition of "real moth-erhood". Real motherhood can only be one thing: a mother who lives