I vividly remember the day my body said, “No more!” I was stuck in my head telling myself I needed to do more even though I was already a frequent member of the Tired Moms Club. I was tired of doing it all and desperately needed to stop relying on a wish and a prayer to get by. I needed to get clear and communicate. But there I was trying to manage the whole household by myself, run my business, be a super mom, and great wife.
I had told myself that it was my duty to maintain the house and children since I was not working a typical 9-5. Me telling myself that I had to do it all quickly went south as I grew more resentful, fearful, hopeful, and overwhelmed. I was trying to mimic what my mother had done which had never been an aspiration of mine. I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom nor handle most of the household tasks. I have always been a believer and implementer of an equal opportunity household, but some kind of way I convinced myself that there was no equal opportunity if I was not "working."
If you have ever found yourself with a mismatch between expectations and reality, I pray this blog post encourages you to confidently speak up and out.
Did you know that 67% of mothers surveyed (for Motherly’s State of Motherhood Survey) indicated they needed more caregiving support? Sixty-seven percent is very high. Sixty-seven percent of mothers surveyed desire more help raising kids, doing “housework,” ordering groceries, handling the laundry, etc.
Moms, we already know what we do, but these numbers are so shocking yet unifying at the same time.
When I found myself ruminating about all the tasks I had taken on, my body eventually said, enough. My knees buckled, tears streamed uncontrollably, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I had no idea what was causing so much overwhelm. But at that moment, I knew I needed to do something. I didn’t pressure myself to do something at that moment because I was quite confused. After a few weeks of deep thought, I concluded I needed to revisit my expectations around raising my children, managing my house, and using my time wisely.
For me, that looked like reading several self-help books about mindfulness and journaling. Journaling helped me capture all my thoughts and remove the intensity from my mind to the paper. I was able to clearly determine my desires and needs which was followed by me communicating them to those who needed to know.
In the blog post, Finding Yourself: A Seven Day Challenge, I share journal prompts for breaking through the noise and finding out what your desires are. This is a critical first step as without this step, communicating your needs can become quite messy resulting in more frustration, overwhelm, and burnout.
Nedra Glover Tawwab, author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace, describes exactly how to communicate your expectations a.k.a. boundaries. She indicates that most of us go about communicating our boundaries in a hopeful way. That simply means, we perform some behavior and hope the other person will pick up on the clues we send, thus changing their behavior. This is actually a passive-aggressive way of trying to communicate. In fact, Dr. Tawwab states there are four ways we should not communicate our boundaries.
- Aggressive - When we aggressively communicate our expectations, we attack the other person. We often blame others and use intimidation to get what we desire. An example of aggressive behavior is yelling at your partner (or kids) to make them do something.
- Passive - Whatever happens is often the mindset when we passively engage in this communication style. When we are passive, we tend to be fearful of what others will think and do. Therefore, we suffer in silence. We are people-pleasers and put others’ needs and desires well ahead of our own. An example of passively communicating is preparing all the meals for your household even though you despise cooking. You only do it because you were asked to do it or saw no one else was going to do it.
- Passive-Aggressive - When we use passive-aggressive methods to shift someone else’s behavior we might act out how we feel while also denying how we feel. This is a hopeful tactic. We hope the other person will notice and shift their behavior. Those of us that use passive-aggressive methods really hate confrontation. An example of passive-aggressive communication is angrily or aggressively sweeping while hoping the other person will notice. When they do notice and inquire about what is wrong, we deny that anything is wrong. Dr. Glove indicates that this is the most common way people try to communicate.
- Manipulative - Manipulation occurs when we try to trick someone into doing something by making them feel guilty. If you pity someone you may have been manipulated. An example of manipulation is withholding affection to make someone feel bad and then do what it is that you desire.
These four methods of communicating are unhealthy and keep us on the cycle of burnout which keeps us tired.
The most effective way to communicate an expectation or boundary is by being assertive. Directly state your desire or need (period). Providing explanations or engaging in long discussions about your reasonable expectations may only result in being manipulated, invalidated, or you being aggressive. Therefore, it is best to just state it and be done. Dr. Tawwab shares a three-step process in her book.
- Be clear and straightforward by using language like “I want…,” “I need…,” “I expect...,” This language helps you get right to the point and dramatically decreases ambiguity.
- Directly state your need/expectation using the language in step one.
- Deal with the discomfort you will get after doing step two. When we make a stand, we will probably experience discomforting emotions like guilt, remorse, and awkwardness. Go ahead and plan for this prior to stating your expectation. You may want to create affirmations like
- I desire to have my boundaries upheld.
- A part of caring for myself is stating my needs.
- I deserve to feel safe, respected, and whole in my relationship.
- Stating my boundaries helps me maintain a healthy relationship with myself.
Communicating your expectations may be challenging but are well worth the short discomfort. When I got clear on what I needed, I shared it with my husband. We created a schedule for cooking, bath time, downstairs cleaning, etc. This has helped both of us operate in a more loving and mutually valued way. From time to time, an expectation is not met. When that happens, I don’t go pouring out my tea because it is cold. I simply provide a touch-up.
I can recall times in my life, some more recent than I’d like to admit, when I used all four of the communication tactics described (aggressive, passive aggressive, manipulative, and passive). Knowing what I know now, has helped me think differently about how I honor myself and those in my life. I really try not to lean on the ineffective strategy of hope as it leads to resentment, anger, and burnout.
Wanting more support means communicating the need. It also means there needs to be shifts in how society views and portrays mothers. Us communicating our needs in a clear manner is only half of the battle. The other half is the willing parties who openly accept the call to action we issue. If you know any organizations, influencers, etc. that are helping to shift how moms are viewed, please drop them in the comments.
As always steep tea and just be,