Thanks to the Internet and social media, we now live in a world where our lives are on constant display. It’s a territory that our generation is navigating for the first time in history- raising kids in the era of the Internet. I can’t help but think that this culture of show off, do more, glorify busy, and be picture-perfect doing it has an impact on our “IRL” (in real life) relationships too.
Vulnerability is already hard enough. Allowing another person to see some of your faults and realities is overwhelming because it opens you up to judgement. But when we’re used to being able to filter out all the junk, edit our image, and share only what we want on-line, I think our ability to practice vulnerability in relationships is even more challenging.
Ever since I got married I have struggled with the concept of vulnerability. Prior to marriage I felt the freedom to be myself- with all my faults, insecurities, and chaos- but once I got married I felt like there was an unwritten rule that I had to have it all together. Coincidentally, this was also right around the time that Facebook was really taking off. I suddenly found that I was self-conscious in conversation, reluctant to share my fears, struggles, and realities even with my closest friends. And then when I became a mom, it was like the universe doubled-down on the “must have it together” rule. I felt like I was supposed to raise the perfect kids, have the adorable home, be a great hostess, find success and fulfillment in my career, cultivate some hobbies, volunteer, stay fit, remain relevant, and do it all with a smile on my face and a sense of accomplishment when I laid my head down at night. But all it really left me was exhausted and longing for more. And in the midst of trying to “do it all,” I felt like I couldn’t even tell my best friend that I had a bad day because admitting that I had a bad day might be admitting that I’m not as good or as capable as she thought I was or that the image I was trying to maintain would be damaged.
Here’s the deal- motherhood is hard. Life is hard. But when we close ourselves off to key relationships, fail to share some of the truths in our lives, and isolate ourselves in an effort to maintain the perfect image, we run the risk of feeling very alone and very weary. I want to find freedom from this perfect image rat race. Freedom to be myself, freedom to celebrate other women right where they are at, freedom to own my emotions and my realities. And I want anyone reading this post to feel that freedom too.
So what can we do to start cultivating the art of vulnerable motherhood?
Here are some things I am working on:
- Making time for in-person connection with my mommy friends– without kids! If you don’t have time with friends, how can you ever connect on a deeper level?
- Taking a risk and sharing something with a close friend that I am struggling with. Often I think relationships lack depth because both parties are scared to be the one to open up first. But the truth is, when we are able to be vulnerable, it frees others to follow suit. And whatever it is that is weighing on you- odds are your friend has experienced it too.
- Embracing myself and my life right where it is. Until I was able to sit down and accept how exhausted I was and how some of the things in my life were draining me, I wasn’t able to move forward. Own where you are so that you can make a plan for how to get where you want to be.
- Asking for help! I am terrible at this. We live in a culture that so values self-reliance that we have become awful at partnering together in life. Here’s an example- I have friends that do a childcare swap once a month. They watch each other’s kids so the other couple can go on a date night without worrying about paying a sitter. And every month I just sit back with envy. Hello? I want that. But I have been too scared to ask for it.
- Practicing self-care. Developing deeper relationships is hard work, and sometimes it might feel awkward or exhausting especially if you are an introvert like me. Honor your need for alone time. Schedule time every week to do something for you- something you enjoy that is relaxing and that “fills your tank.”
- Telling people how much I value them. I can think of at least five women off the top of my head that I truly value, but I can’t remember the last time I took a few minutes to just encourage them- tell them they are a great mom or a beautiful woman, tell them that I value them as a person. In encouraging and celebrating others we are able to let go of some of our own pride, our own need to be recognized. And when we learn to celebrate others right where they are, we are better equipped to celebrate ourselves right where we are.