My older sister Laura and I have had just one conversation where she asked for health coaching tips. As a mother of two, our gatherings, texts, and phone calls center around the kids: their potty training progress, sleep patterns, and cute stories from daycare or the home front.
Then recently, my sister asked about recommendations for snacks. She said, “I’m too exhausted to remember lunch and later in the day I am too hungry to think about it”. Without too much thought I mentioned the snack I’d had that afternoon, an apple with a portion of almond butter. One of my favorite combinations, yet in response, she laughed. “Cutting up the apple? That’s already overwhelming! I need something cut and dry.” In sibling relationships as with coaching and any meaningful relationship, the learning process goes both ways. I learned that no matter how much I love my nephew and niece, there is no way for me to know what it is like to be in their parent’s shoes today. So, I continued exploring her question from a place of compassion.
While I was in nutrition school, I taught many hours of yoga and pilates. New mommas and mommies-to-be would check in, asking for modifications postpartum, or how to adapt their practice during pregnancy. More often, they asked about how to get their body back and lamented about the strength they had lost during those weeks outside the studio. Often, I responded by countering their concerns. I’d remind them of the miracle of childbirth, and how “outside the studio” was synonymous with “inside life”, where they had literally been bringing lives into the world. Again, I learned to focus on the compassionate response.
Over time, I made it a point for myself to keep questioning what systems had led them to internalize these worries in the first place. After all, there’s no “body to get back”--these bodies ARE the ones conceiving, birthing, and raising the children. There is no other body.
What we see at Discover Health, especially from patients with young children, is how much care goes into the pregnancy and childbirth. As soon as the baby is born, we’re now expected to parent all the time, forever. Meanwhile, the societal expectations can make us question parental instincts along with our self-worth, as we have entered the ever-exhausting era of not good enough. The author David Foster Wallace refers to the “water” that we swim in. And when it comes to physical health, exercise, nutrition, and body image, it can be helpful to acknowledge this harmful yet pervasive messaging in our culture.
There are more spaces these days, blogs, podcasts, and local communities included, that talk about authentic motherhood. Thankfully, there’s a wider acceptance that a parent doesn’t have to be perfect 24/7, that vulnerability is courage, and that in particular when it comes to mental health “getting it right” can look lots of different ways.
In our practice, we emphasize to young moms, in particular, those in the first year, that self-care is ultimately caring for your child. Though for many mothers and fathers alike that is not easy guidance to accept without feeling guilty. It is still always worth taking a deeper look at what self-care would feel most realistic, supportive, and accessible. In her book Self-Compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff offers powerful reflective questions to ask yourself when you think something might be getting in the way of you taking care of your own health and wellness: Discover Health offers various coaching programs to suit your unique needs. Book a complimentary discovery call with health coach Babette to learn more about pediatric and family nutrition counseling options.
“What types of things do you judge and criticize yourself for—appearance, career, relationships, parenting, etc? What are the consequences of being hard on yourself? Does it make you more motivated, or does it tend to make you discouraged and depressed? How do you think you would feel if you could truly accept yourself exactly as you are? Does this possibility scare you, give you hope, or both?” Discover Health offers various coaching programs to suit your unique needs. Book a complimentary discovery call with health coach Babette to learn more about pediatric and family nutrition counseling options.