• Leslie Bley

Where Do I Stand?


Identity can be a crisis when our lives are put through the blender of becoming parents. The season of pregnancy often brings feelings of anticipation, excitement, nervousness, and a nesting in preparation for a new baby. For some mommas, birth means a temporary pause in vocation. For others, it can bring an ending of a particular vocation or an uncertainty. Whatever the case, a new and entirely different vocation is beginning; that of becoming a parent. Whenever there is a new role pushing through {pun intended}, there can be a feeling of crisis.

Is crisis the right word? When you’re in a sweet bonding moment with your newborn, crisis may not fit the description. It might, however, hit home more poignantly after a string of days without restorative sleep, during a week of nothing but rain, or in the middle of the night when there’s nowhere to go with your anxious thoughts. The rub of “who am I now?” can come when we least expect it and it can come whether you work outside of the home or stay at home. It is not a discriminator of persons.

I call this crisis feeling an identity attack; the overwhelming feeling of “I am not okay.” The signals range from a shortening of the breath, a feeling of heaviness in the chest, a powerful taste of jealousy, a sunken feeling of failure, to an experience of sudden anger; our shoulders tensing up.

In other words, we are wondering, “where do I stand?” A friend and fellow counselor has forever impacted how I understand this important question. Essentially, we are asking ourselves, “how well am I doing as a mom?” In the first months of postpartum, most aren’t quite coming up for air yet. It is a few months later that we begin to wonder how we are doing. Are we doing as well as we expected? Better? Worse? Not sure? It is in this intense and tender place that the beginning of comparison in the mothering world ensues. A warning: it’s a blood bath out there.

Comparison is a delicate game that few can win very often. Wait, what does winning even look like? Is it when your child doesn’t have the same issues as another child? Is it when you’ve figured something out that another mom has not? Is it when you’ve been more empathetic than someone else in a mom gathering? Is it when your particular hardship is harder than someone else’s suffering? Okay, see how crazy this space can be!

Want to know the bottom line? We have about three choices in the midst of an identity attack. We can hunt for ways to stand above someone else, stand below someone else, or stand with ourselves and others.

When our identity or value is under attack, the most common temptations are to either find someone you can stand above or find someone you can sink into martyrdom beneath. Typically, standing above looks like finding someone you feel you outrank in some way; maybe you’re thinner, have an easier time staying organized, have a more understanding spouse, have a more intact career, etc. The goal here is to feel better by comparing “up” to assuage the “not okay” feeling. On the other hand, we can be tempted to over indulge our suffering in order to feel better by having a worse story than someone else. In this case, we might judge someone who has more than we do and angrily decide they know nothing of sorrow. Or we might find power in the fact that there are no solutions to our crisis and therefore no one can offer any real help.

The only solution that brings any amount of healing and peace in an identity attack is to make the vulnerable choice to stand with; stand with yourself in that feeling of “not okay,” and to stand with others when they are feeling it too. What does this look like? To stand with yourself is to see your value ~ not compared to anyone else ~ but to give yourself permission to feel and think whatever is going on in you. It is to validate how hard it is to not feel okay; to struggle in this huge transition into the new role of mother. Standing with others is to see them in their struggle and want more for them as opposed to offering advice from a higher place or stealing from their suffering by one-downing them with your own. My hope for all of us as moms is that we stand with ourselves in our ups and downs and offer to stand alongside other moms to build a healthier and more abundant community.

Leslie Bley, LPC

Leslie has been counseling for over 13 years and earned her MA in Counseling in 2004. She currently practices in Austin, TX and she is a mother to two wonder twin boys. Leslie believes we were made for MORE and she provides counseling for individuals and couples. Her focus areas are motherhood challenges, sexuality, couples counseling, shame recovery, and female life stage transitions. She runs a counseling group called Brave Motherhood where she helps moms navigate through the many challenges of motherhood.

Website: www.lesliebleycounseling.com

#motherhood #counseling #baby #LeslieBley #selfcare #mindfulness #coaching

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