Katherine Stone and Cheryl Contee led the Pathfinder session of Blogging as a Change Agent : they recommended this book: Archetypes by Caroline Myss. I finally got a chance to check this book out from the library this past month. I am still reading this book. I am savoring it, and I am really reflecting on the message of this book.
A different archetype is covered in each chapter. I have identified with many of the archetypes in this book already. The chapter on the Caregiver archetype seared into my consciousness. “Caregivers are haunted by a deep-seated belief that any act of self-care is the height of selfishness. Because you are naturally compelled to reach out to others, you habitually put your own concerns last.” So much of my struggle with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety is traced back to the idea that I had to take care of everything. I had to be Supermom. I immersed myself solely in working and parenting. I had to be coaxed out of the house on solitary errands. I felt guilty for being absent from my girls at all. I felt like I needed to be there for them all the time, especially since I worked full-time. I only had a limited amount of time with my family, so I made it a point to spend every waking moment with them.
When I finally got help, exhaustion, burnout and severe anxiety were my constant companions. It took me several therapy sessions to realize that I was a better mom when I practiced self-care consistently. The media plays up the myth of the supermom, and the parenting magazines also play a part in fueling the mommy wars. I realized that I was my own worst enemy. I heaped so much judgement, guilt and shame on myself for my decision to return to work full-time, for my decision to supplement some with formula instead of being able to exclusively breastfeed, for my decision to take medication, for attending therapy, and for being a crappy mom in general. I felt like the world’s biggest fuckup as a mom. I felt like I did not deserve the amazing daughters and patient husband. I truly believed that they would no longer loved me if I put myself first.
Looking back on my experience, I realize how much more patient and understanding I am when I also take care of myself. I know what fills my tank: reading, writing, running, yoga, dancing, singing, weightlifting and sleep. If I place my needs below everyone else, I cannot take care of my family. I am no good to anyone when I am ill and exhausted. Chronic sleep deprivation and stress contributed to my microscopic colitis. When I manage my stress levels, everyone benefits: my family, my employer, and my community.
To my friends who are still struggling and to anyone out there who is still struggling, I promise that you are an amazing mom. Tell that critical voice in your head to take a hike and leave you alone for good. I will repeat until I am blue in the face that self-care is NOT selfish. Self-care is NOT selfish. I am NOT a bad mom for making myself a priority. Let that message really sink in and hear me. You are an integral part of your family. Do not discount the importance of taking care of yourself. You will be well.