This Goes Against Everything we are Taught, as Women.

0

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 6.6
Shares 10
Hearts 10
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 10
Total Ecosystem Rating 9.8
99 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.
39
5.4k
EDITOR'S PICK

Sitting in a restaurant across the table from my daughter, I turn my gaze toward the window, hoping to hide my tears.

I focus on the tree outside. With just a few lackluster remaining leaves, it has lost its autumnal glory. On this gray late November day it looks sad and lonely, eerily reflecting my own state of mind.

The anticipation of a meeting with a loved one is often the bigger part of the actual pleasure of the encounter.

It sounded great: I was going to meet my college sophomore daughter for a few days in New York around the holidays, so we could spend some quality time together, just the two of us. We both looked forward to this, frequently expressing our impatience to see each other, as we joyfully planned favorite activities to tightly fill every delicious day.

So then why, as I finally sit across from my precious firstborn, am I sad to tears?

Was it really that careless phrase she blurted out impatiently, which I could easily forgive if I spent some time processing? Or was it because this was one of many exchanges, between her and her sisters and their father, that have accumulated over time into a stunning realization that I am profoundly alone?

It goes against everything we are taught, as women.

For many years, I have lived with an undisputed conviction that my family is the most important thing in my life. It was taught by my mother and confirmed through societal messages all around me.

Even as a young, professional woman, I’d pay attention to the articles about highly successful women who rose to the top of their careers, but gave it all up to have children before it became too late, and never looked back, finding the gift of motherhood the ultimate achievement.

We are conditioned to believe that when we become mothers we finally step into the main role of our lives. As an heir to the throne must be groomed throughout his life for that momentous day when he becomes the ruler of a nation, so girls are conditioned from early childhood for the sacred role of eventual motherhood.

Except what is often missing in our upbringing is the respect, the reverence, and protection such a role should command.

Girls are not taught that we are sacred, that our bodies are magical containers for potential new life. We are not taught how best to take care of our own physical and mental well-being, so that we can be in balance and full awareness of what demands will be placed on us physically and emotionally.

Women’s lives and health are consistently marginalized, as evidenced by the continuous debate on whether to legalize abortion and funding cuts for centers for women’s reproductive health. From menstruation being viewed as either inconvenient or disgusting, to our inability to accept and appreciate the natural shapes of our bodies, women are taught self-hate from an early age.

By the time we have children, we are expected to be in full sacrifice mode. And we dive into that role with conviction and zeal. Any less than ideal experience is viewed as personal failure. Like everything else in our lives, motherhood has become another arena of competition for achievement.

Since women are raised with a sense of incompleteness and inferiority, we use every opportunity to prove ourselves worthy. Since a lot of our value in society is judged by what kind of wife and mother we are, our own lives become of secondary importance as we compete for the title of “perfect supporting act.”

By the time our children are born we have successfully integrated into our role of self-judge, comparing ourselves to Instagram photos and advertisement spreads of the perfect babies other women seem able to produce.

Most women I speak to suffer from guilt and constant suspicion that we are not being or doing enough, due to the misguided belief that we must produce perfectly happy, smiley, and overachieving people.

The dynamic is complicated because we bring to it our own unprocessed baggage from childhood: legacies of shame, blame, and unworthiness. So, when our children struggle, we do not see that as part of normal development, because it reactivates our own memories of suffering when we were their age. We then try to do everything to fix any arising problems, micromanaging our children’s lives to the extent that there is no longer room for our own.

The more we sacrifice our own lives in an attempt to shelter our children from any potential difficulties, and make them “happy,” the more statistics reflect the opposite effect. Our children are becoming increasingly unhappy, anxious, and medicated.

What used to be viewed as the normal emotional turmoil of growing up, is now corrected by pills, as we become unable to tolerate less than perfectly happy children, fearing what it says about us. As we strive to raise overachievers, we are willing to medicate them for better performance at school.

In our need to be validated as good parents, we remove any opportunity for our children to learn how to cope with difficulties, teaching them instead to eliminate inconvenient emotions through substances.

Most of us live with a mistaken perception that we are responsible for the happiness of others and expect them to make us happy, in turn. We then spend all our effort trying to achieve the impossible, in the process setting ourselves up for disappointment and constant frustration.

The truth is that love and happiness cannot be delivered from the outside, but come as a natural by-product of living lives in alignment with our own needs, desires, and natural proclivities.

Today, I know that the only happiness we are responsible for and actually have the power to achieve is our own.

In promoting self-love and self-responsibility among women, I face a lot of pushback. It’s a completely foreign concept for women with children to focus on self-care and on our own well-being. We are taught to give our all to our children and partners with the assumption that our own needs are automatically met through the joy of having the family.

In reality, the majority of women I speak to are struggling, battling disappointment, burnout, depression. Needless to say, this puts tremendous pressure on our families and all the relationships we engage in, perpetuating unhealthy relating and passing on a dysfunctional dynamic to our children.

Grounded in my own experience, I have made it my mission to educate women on the necessity of self-love and self-care as a cornerstone of good parenting and, indeed, a good life.

When we are well—physically and mentally—our state of well-being spills out to everyone who shares our lives. As we learn self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, and self-compassion, we become better parents and better partners, because we become more compassionate and tolerant of their humanity as well.

What we also fail to realize is that the way we treat ourselves sends a powerful message to our children and partners about how we accept being treated. If we are consistently putting ourselves last we should not be surprised when our partners and children do the same. Yet, when they become dismissive and disrespectful, we are hurt profoundly, taking it personally, feeling like a victim in the system that we end up perpetuating by our own unconscious behavior.

As I sit across from my daughter, I realize that our whole experience of motherhood is similar to what I feel now: bridging the gap between our Hallmark-worthy expectations and the inevitable messy reality of our human relationships.

No one teaches us that our children are not extensions of us. That they do not belong to us, nor are they here as a measure of our value. We must learn that we are just their custodians, responsible for their safekeeping until they are ready to fly off and lead their own lives. That, although we are family, each of us is sovereign.

As I process my own emotions I realize that none of it is personal. My daughter’s moods will not destabilize me, nor will I use them as a judgment of myself as a parent. I will not allow myself to recoil from this seeming slight and close myself in silent woundedness and resentment, because my love for her is within me—sacred—and will not be swayed by anything external.

Our sense of incompleteness as women and mothers comes from false beliefs that we have inherited through family and societal conditioning.

It is our responsibility to wake up to perpetuating this dynamic, so that we stop passing it on to our children.

Breaking this chain is important.

As I raise three young women and coach others, I feel the need to create a new belief system, a revolution, because our lack of self-love is no longer serving us, or anyone around us.

Bonus watch:

 

 

 

author: Galina Singer

Image: Author's own

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

0

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 6.6
Shares 10
Hearts 10
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 10
Total Ecosystem Rating 9.8
99 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.
39
5.4k
EDITOR'S PICK

Read The Best Articles of December
You voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares.
CLICK TO SEE WHO WON

Galina Singer

From Communism to Consumerism, from Atheism to Spirituality, from Victimhood to Self-Responsibility, Galina Singer has traversed several cultures and conflicting philosophies in search for meaning. The answers came when she took the time to look within, piercing through layers of dogma and multi-cultural conditioning and uncovering her authentic voice. Today Galina investigates reasons behind the depression pandemic and how to take back control over our lives through self-knowledge and self-acceptance. By peeling away layers of societal and family conditioning Galina helps clients to re-discover their authentic voices and wake up to the lives of freedom and fulfilment. Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Jenni Lynne Dec 19, 2018 5:26pm

This is beautiful. Thank you. <3 bow <3

    Galina Singer Dec 30, 2018 11:12am

    Thank you very much, Jenni!

Angela Eby Dec 6, 2018 9:30am

Just yesterday I picked up my 15-year-old daughter from counseling and we had this conversation. She mentioned that counseling revealed to her that she is more like me than she thought; she feels the “responsibility” to make everyone else in her life happy and yet feels alone when it comes to having her own needs met by others. I currently am going through a divorce (consciously knowing that while I participated in the making of the co-dependent relationship I am no longer capable or willing to continue to do so) and it has been hard on my daughter, who is saturated in a Christian culture that says it is the wife’s responsibility to hold the family together–at all costs. Luckily, being one of those women who never dreamed of being a mother, I never believed by children were an “extension” of me or that that “belonged’ to me. Instead, I have always approached motherhood from the stance of custodian and coach, and this has led me to a place of honest, vulnerable, and safe connection and communication with my children. Admittedly, I still have to practice “never take anything personally” (see Don Miguel Ruis’ Four Agreements), but I am so grateful my daughter and I can have these conversations of conscious revelations AND I am hopeful that as she becomes an adult, she will be much more aware of the cultural programming she has encountered and have the capacity to choose her own authentic response.

    Galina Singer Dec 6, 2018 11:06am

    Thank you for your comment, Angela!
    It is very interesting what you write about your daughter and that she feels alone when it comes to attending to her needs… We all have been brought thinking that we need to take care of others, so they can take care of us. That is the definition of co-dependence. What I promote is self-responsibility. I feel that if each of us takes care of our own needs, we would be much happier and would take that pressure off of others. I know it is somewhat different with children, but your daughter is of the age where you can certainly start introducing that concept to her. She will then no longer feel alone when it comes to taking care of her needs, but find it normal and, especially, will free herself from the responsibility of making everyone else happy. I think this is the single most freeing thing we can teach our children. In any case, as you de-condition yourself and through your wonderful conversations with your daughter I am sure she will be well-equipped to choose “her own authentic response” when making choices as an adult. Sending love to you both.

Lisabeth Hughes Dec 4, 2018 3:54pm

Galina, as the mother of a teenage daughter, I empathize and appreciate your article. I agree wholeheartedly. I have always been concerned how women are socialized and have been viewed throughout history, and have sought to change it in my life and that of my daughter. I work to reinforce the concept of physical, emotional and sexual autonomy with her, and to help her critically analyze societal expectations thrust on women and girls.
Thank you for articulating my thoughts! And for working to change perceptions and limitations.

    Galina Singer Dec 5, 2018 7:14am

    Thank you Lisabeth! I agree that change will happen if each of us wakes up and works to free ourselves and then our children from the outdated, stale and unfair expectations. Then our children will become the change agents in the world and will perpetuate this necessary work.

Judy McCord Dec 4, 2018 12:39am

Thank you for your words and your work that will bring forth a new generation of women able to take on leadership roles where their unique talents are sorely needed.

    Galina Singer Dec 4, 2018 3:22am

    Thank you, Judy! There is work to do, but I am hopeful!

michellesboggus Dec 3, 2018 5:25pm

It breaks my heart to hear in 2018 anyone believing their only role in life is to be a mother. I knew, not thought at the young age of 19 children were not something I cared about. I just didn’t.
In spite of that fact I raised 2 amazing adults who understood it was never my calling in life to be “their mother.”
I raised them to understand mommy had very defined “mommy time”, necessary for my survival. It was not to be breached – at all for any reason.
Since they are still breathing, the house never burned down, the bills got paid and they had food and clothes, I fulfilled my end of the parental agreement.
While neither of them are married yet, I cannot wait to see how my son treats his wife. He can cook, clean and iron his clothes because he was raised that way.
Should be an interesting next chapter.
I am glad you finally woke up and are sharing that information with other women.
Without being negative, it sounds like a 1st world issue. There are many women of color who never had the luxury to buy into the myth of motherhood. We always did what was needed to do for our children and our own sakes. At least, the group of women I evolved with have, did and do!
Thank you again for sharing.

    Galina Singer Dec 4, 2018 3:54am

    Thank you for reading and sharing your point of view, Michelle.

    I feel compelled to clarify that I do not believe that motherhood is our only role. Most women take on multiple roles, just like you and me, and I do not think color has anything to do with that.
    In my experience, despite of the fact that modern women do everything, most of us still feel that motherhood is our most important role – perhaps due to the responsibility associated with raising a human being – and struggle with the fact that, despite of the effort invested, we still feel like we have not done enough.

    Just like you, at 19 I “did not care” about children and was focusing on my education and work. Many years later, children did become important, but – unlike you – I could not detach emotionally from that responsibility. Judging by the responses I get to my articles on the subject and my conversations with other women, I see that I am not the only one. Many women feel the pressure of having to raise perfect and overachieving children and are drowning, because no one ever taught us that we deserve to take time for ourselves.

    I can only admire that you were able to structure your life in such a way that “mommy time was not to be breached” under any circumstances. I wish more women could live like that. I feel that you are an exception, but I am doing what I can to make it the norm.

    Thank you, once again, for contributing to the conversation.

michael mitchell Dec 3, 2018 9:34am

As a 60 year old man -I have meditated on this subject for 30 years having seen what my mother and other women in my life have done to themselves. I tried to help them but it seemed that conditioning , shame and fear had a tight grip on them. It broke my heart after many years of marriage to see them unconsciously leave without understanding why. When a man or woman as yourself wakes up and digs deep she begins to understand and grow in wisdom. Wisdom leads to grace and faith that we are alone and interconnected with so many forces at working for our good. A spiritual life involves knowledge of what is true and what is not. In a world that says bad is good and good is bad it can be quite confusing but love being a force with laws of its own will guide us there.
There is a loving God who wants us to figure out this life puzzle. I call this God Jehovah a Creator with a purpose and a hope for mankind.
Thanks for a great article .
Keep going deep!

    Galina Singer Dec 3, 2018 10:07am

    Thank you so much for your message, Michael! It is good to know that there are men out there who try to understand women and what we struggle with. I am sorry to know that your heart was broken, but your story confirms my observation that a lot of women’s struggles and dissatisfaction today are self-imposed. We are living unconsciously with values that no longer apply to us because few of us take the time to question and change. But the world is changing and I am hopeful. Sending you many blessings!

A Donnee Brito Dec 3, 2018 9:03am

So appreciate this article and your thoughts. Practicing self-compassion and self-acceptance has changed my life and relationships and helped me understand healthy boundaries. This message needs to get out to all women.

    Galina Singer Dec 3, 2018 9:59am

    Thank you so much! I am delighted to hear that you are living a healthy and balanced life.

Madeline Richard Dec 3, 2018 7:55am

This article describes exactly why I have always felt alone and different. I never felt compelled to bow to the societal pressures of being a woman. I actually rebelled against them. I never wanted to be married or a mother and I succeeded in those accomplishments. I am 64 years old now and I don’t feel like a failure or less of a woman. I actually feel stronger and less burdened in many ways because I never had that responsibility. I am feeling more – love, respect and authenticity.

I guess I realized in my childhood after observing life that being ‘in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant’ wasn’t appealing. I also realized that marriage or babies didn’t guarantee continuous or unconditional love. Nor did I ever want to manipulate or be manipulated.
I’m so appreciative of your article because we must realize and appreciate, as women, we have ALL the control. We just have to love ourselves more than we love anyone else.

    Galina Singer Dec 3, 2018 9:58am

    Thank you for sharing your story, Madeline! I find it quite rare that a woman thinks so independently that she allowed herself to completely come out of the societal prescriptions of what a life should look like. Especially since you say you felt this need to be free since childhood. Quite impressive. This was not at all my case. Although as a young woman I was quite independent and felt rather empowered, when I became a wife and a mother I just shape shifted into what was expected and only realized that many years later.

    The hardest thing for me to teach women is exactly the message you voice here: that we have all the control. Women refuse to believe that still and prefer to feel victimized. We still have a lot of de-conditioning to do, but I feel the momentum picking up and look forward to what happens next with excitement.

    Thanks again for your contribution here!

Tiffany Robertson Dec 3, 2018 1:00am

This is a beautiful post!
While I am not a mother, I can relate to this post… as people sometimes ask me about becoming one. There is definitely societal pressure in that area. I serve people daily, whether that be as a nurse or yoga teacher, and I don’t think I will get to the end of my life regretting those paths… and even if I weren’t doing those things, I would still be of value. Our value goes not come from our ability to reproduce, but just because we are… ourselves. Loved this, and the message you are sending to mothers and women.

    Galina Singer Dec 3, 2018 5:55am

    Thank you so much, Tiffany! And I agree with you wholeheartedly that whatever we “achieve” or don’t achieve in life, contrary to what we have been taught, we are already valuable just by sheer presence here. So glad this resonated with you even though you are not a mother. I am truly happy to know that my message is more universal. Thank you for your kind comment.

shruthi krishnaswamy Dec 2, 2018 4:52pm

“No one teaches us that our children are not extensions of us. That they do not belong to us, nor are they here as a measure of our value. We must learn that we are just their custodians, responsible for their safekeeping until they are ready to fly off and lead their own lives. That, although we are family, each of us is sovereign.”

Thank you Thank you Thank you. I love this paragraph. So poignant.

    Galina Singer Dec 3, 2018 5:49am

    Thank you so much, Shruthi! I am glad that this spoke to you <3

cvuille Dec 2, 2018 1:48pm

Dear Galina, Very interesting and insightful article. I would add that everything you said pertains equally to men. Further, many of the negatives are also positives, so the key is finding balance. Many of these struggles transform with strong mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness is both difficult and easy, but regardless of the quality of our practice, it’s always helpful! If the feelings or experiences are not too overwhelming, it’s important to stay with them, because they are part of what we are. Some are conditioned into us by society and culture. Many are conditioned via DNA, which floods our bloodstreams with chemicals designed for certain purposes of survival. Mindfulness short circuits them in part by training us to observe rather than immediately react like a puppet on strings. We are not trying to understand something via mindfulness. This is not strong practice! So it’s not exactly the same as scientific observation, although it could be useful there, as well. Relationship problems, in my view, are the best vehicle for understanding, so these experiences you describe are all wonderful opportunities for insight. These feelings we unconsciously regard as separate, but they are part of what we are, and resistance makes them stronger, and is part of the fundamental misunderstanding. The fundamental insight, which is like the blind first seeing light, is that all our divisions are arbitrary. That sounds intellectual, but the true insight is not, and involves our entirety. Everything we experience is what we are! Mindfulness is the key; you are the door!!

    Galina Singer Dec 3, 2018 5:48am

    Thank you for reading and your thoughtful response.
    I agree with you that some negatives become positives if we are capable to view them as lessons and vehicles for growth. I also agree that all of our relationships are opportunities for us to know ourselves better if we take the time to understand our own reactions and drives.
    What is interesting to me is that you tell me that everything I said pertains equally to men? I would like to know more about that – what you refer to specifically, for example.

Mary Jelf Dec 2, 2018 8:48am

Unraveling these stories we tell ourselves to open up to our real lives is so tough, and so needed, and so freeing… Thank you for sharing this.

    Galina Singer Dec 2, 2018 9:00am

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Mary! Yes, it is tough to unravel our stories, because our whole identity is built from them. But once we have the courage to notice them and to admit that they are making us miserable, freedom and ultimately a happier life become possible.

MElorie Dec 2, 2018 7:15am

That was an incredible article. Loved it!!!

    Galina Singer Dec 2, 2018 8:55am

    Thank you so much, Melorie! I am so glad you enjoyed it <3

drrusskennedy Nov 30, 2018 6:37pm

Totally agree there is a conscious and unconscious pressure on women to sacrifice for others. This pressure is not placed on men. From the very beginning, the act of gestating a child depletes the mother physically and then she is expected to deplete herself mentally after parturition. This has an evolutionary roots but the world is no longer one based on mere survival. Women can see the greener grass on the other side of the hill and they rightfully have claim to its lushness. It seems to be a matter of getting past the unconscious expectations of themselves they are saddled with (both from within and without) and consciously and unapologetically grabbing “deserving” by the ovaries. Galina, you are a voice for that deserving.

    Galina Singer Dec 2, 2018 6:38am

    Thank you so much, Russell! You give an interesting angle from the evolutionary standpoint. It seems to me that whatever may have worked for previous generations of women simply no longer works for us and will certainly have to change significantly for our daughters. We are now redefining relating within a family and that means re-defining how we relate to our partners, to our children and to ourselves. Many people find this to be chaotic, destabilizing and frightening. And it is destabilizing as we try to shake up the status quo. However, the changes are the force for good, so that we can live happier lives, because perpetuating status quo has produced depressed and medicated men, women and children. Thank you so much for your support!

      Louis D. Lo Praeste Dec 2, 2018 2:43pm

      I’m sorry but I need to address the comments of another reader– the entire system of moral ethics underlying western civilization espouses an incredibly explicit ideology of self-sacrifice and it starts with me and flows directly to women. In other words, ALL of us are entangled in it. It’s called Messianism–and the very idea that one should emulate its main precept–to DIE for another human being, has infected every living person exposed to it. Self-sacrifice is not restricted to women–it is expected from anyone brought up in Western Civilization. The dynamic duo of Virgin-Mother (the magical vessel-womb you speak of and claim not to taught to women) and beleaguered Savior-son as is the root of the ruling classes oppressive ideology. This oppression though certainly wrongly insensitive to women is not restricted to women alone–it affects all of us–every single day.

Christine Day Nov 30, 2018 10:13am

I have been guilty of many of the things you mention: self-hate, micromanagement of my children’s lives, the belief that I’m never doing enough. Thank you for such an insightful piece.

    Galina Singer Dec 2, 2018 6:43am

    Thank you for your response, Christine! If I have opened your eyes on a truth, I am grateful, but please – no more guilt! We all try to do the best with what we have, I have no doubt of that. What I try to shed the light on is that the old way of treating ourselves last is not serving anyone: not our children, not our relationships, and certainly not ourselves. But, please, no guilt – now that you “know” you can start to behave differently. I send you much love and encouragement.

Tiffany Cook Nov 30, 2018 7:37am

Galina, this is one of the most honest, most real, most vulnerable articles I have ever read. You have inspired me in this very moment, to immerse myself in honoring and sharing the very same mission, through my brand and my writing – and my life. Thank you so very much.

    Galina Singer Dec 2, 2018 6:47am

    Thank you so much, Tiffany! This is truly a gift to know that I may have inspired you. It is a worthy mission and I am grateful that we are many waking up now to make the world a better place to live and thrive for ourselves, our children and generations to come. Sending you many blessings!

Eroica van Langen Nov 30, 2018 7:00am

Thank you Galina for sharing so openly your feelings around motherhood and for stressing that we as women, by not properly taking care of ourselfs, are in fact not able to raise as happy children as we would love to. After working on my own life traumas, I know by now that you are right. Keep writing, I am sure you have a lot more interesting life experiences to share ?

    Galina Singer Dec 2, 2018 6:57am

    Thank you, Eroica! And yes – until we heal ourselves, we will pass our family traumas to our children, holding them prisoners in our ancestral soup. Traditions are beautiful, but the only constant is change and our children will live in a world that looks very little like ours and they must have the skills to deal with the new, the unknown and the unfamiliar and not get depressed when life is not “perfect.” And yes, of course, I will keep writing! There is no stopping me now 🙂

Basil Nalbantis Nov 30, 2018 5:29am

Such an honest and revelatory insight into the emotional conditioning of women and motherhood! Truly touching and a must read for mothers and daughters alike, not to mention how it will educate many husbands and fathers out there. Thank you Galina.

    Galina Singer Dec 2, 2018 7:02am

    Thank you so much, Basil! I am so touched by your message! It is interesting for me to see that as I speak honestly about my experience, I realize that our fathers and husbands are surprised by our struggles. Motherhood is believed to be a state of constant ecstatic bliss, because women mostly are afraid to reveal that it is not always so, for the fear of being judged as abnormal and bad mothers. It is exciting for me to lift the veil for men who care on our experience in the hope that you can understand us better and be more supportive. Thank you once again, this touched me deeply.