A Fresh Start on Motherhood (with much thanks to NVC)

Apr 18, 2013

I knew I’d accomplished a serious milestone this past Christmas when I received a gift from my mother that touched me perhaps like none other ever has. The little wooden statue of a woman holding her child up in the air was immediately symbolic of so many positive things to me. As soon as I held it, the tears just came, and came.

Why all the emotion? Indeed, I’ve been asking myself that question for some time (last decade at least). Only since my move to the Netherlands three years ago, did I undergo something of a midlife crisis and dug deeply into some nagging questions, like: “Why do I do the things I do?” “Aren’t there different, more beneficial ways?” “How on earth do I go about changing?” Thanks to hitting some walls and getting some outside help (via personal coaching and nonviolent communication, or NVC training), I have found understanding, and that understanding has led to acceptance and that acceptance has led to a letting go of pain and opening up to new ways and new joys and a whole new life as mother.

Mother's joy statueMy little “Mother’s Joy” statue symbolizes first and foremost my mother’s (extremely meaningful to me) approval – she sees me embracing/enjoying early motherhood more than she did. It symbolizes my recently learned skill of self-empathy, which I was sorely lacking most of my adult-life – the art of being compassionate for myself and accept imperfection. In turn, I’m far more capable of feeling empathy, instead of judgment, for others. She further represents for me my new ability for self-connection, by which I mean quickly getting in touch with my feelings and my needs – seeing beneath frustration, impatience, or anger. This enables me to take ownership of my actions and stop blaming those around me. She also symbolizes my new art of self-fulfillment – I know better than ever what grounds me and how to make requests to myself and to others so that my needs (and often others’ too) can be met.

Someone commented recently on my “calm presence” and asked about my secret. I laughed in response – mostly out of joy, but also out of surprise to hear it. I attribute my calmER (than before) presence to my personal crisis that motivated me to break through old patterns and work out the “stories I was telling myself” in order to now go through life in a much lighter, easier way, seeing far more beauty than fault, more joy than pain, more in-the-moment than past or future thinking.

All of this has enabled me to have something of a fresh start as a mother. I experience less utter responsibility and frustration with my children and more of their vulnerable beauty. So precious to me – not one minute of time with them to lose to frivolities. I’m less rigid, more spontaneous, more understanding and far more compassionate. I look into their eyes more. I listen harder. I see little humans, not just children to be raised.

A few weeks ago, I found my husband nervously gluing pieces of my little “Mother’s Joy” back together. Before, I would have been really upset about something so important to me having been broken. Yet I remembered to engage in some quick self-connection . . .

“Why am I so affected by this?”

“Because she means so much to me.”

“And why is that?”

“Because of what she symbolizes – my starting over as the mother I truly want to be. . . grounded, calm, compassionate.”

“What does that tell me about this moment?”

“That I can be compassionate toward this man who cares very much about my feelings and is worried about my reaction.”

Besides, I thought to myself, she’s a greater symbol than ever . . . perfect in her imperfection.

My new leash on motherhood is so eye opening and refreshing, that I wish above all in my work to share the art of self-empathy, self-connection, and self-fulfillment. I decided that next to coaching individuals, to start mothers’ groups, where we share our experiences and try on these life skills. I never thought I . . . scared-to-become-a-mother-because-I-could-never-be-good-enough . . . me would be in this place, far from home, yet never feeling better in my skin.

Cara Crisler
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