I’m not sure how I ever got that title of “Super Mom” or why people want to use it loosely with me…
it could be because I have a bunch of kids whom I’ve managed to keep alive,
because I stay at home with them 24/7,
because we home school,
because I have a strong-willed child whose challenges I now speak openly about, or
maybe just to encourage me in all of these things.
I’m not sure, but it’s definitely not a term I would’ve ever given myself.
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I do always try to stay positive, especially when it comes to social media and dealing with the challenges I face as a mother. However, I sometimes ONLY post the positive or the really funny things that are just so bad that I have no choice but to just laugh through them. (Laugh to keep from crying, right?) So because I’m only posting my “highlight reel” of positivity, maybe people think that I’m that way all around.
Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m not. If you’ve ever played the comparison game with me, I’m about to burst your bubble. While I don’t want to ever portray motherhood in a “negative” sense… I do want to be real with you here. It IS hard. It IS real. And sometimes it’s raw and emotional – even for me.
There have been times where I feel like I’m “killing it”… but for the most part I actually get really overwhelmed, stressed out, and anxious fairly easily as a mom – especially when we aren’t in a good routine and I don’t feel like I’m managing things well (which is not unusual for this season we’re in). I’m working really hard to “give myself grace” in all the areas, but it doesn’t keep me from feeling these things and feeling out of control.
This is something that I never really noticed about myself until I was a mom, but as I read the chapter about “Highly Sensitive People” in Anne Bogel’s book “Reading People“, it was like a light bulb went off. It was me.. to a T. I don’t say this to use it as an excuse – certainly not. But I do find it ironic that this motherhood gig brings about many of the triggers that tend to affect me as a highly sensitive person. It’s the only thing that has pushed me so far out of my comfort zone and made me realize these things about myself. I truly and firmly believe that while we think our children are put here for US to raise and teach and grow, they actually in turn, do the exact same thing for us as parents. God has used my children to teach me so many things in life – things I would’ve never faced or dealt with otherwise.
“Being highly sensitive means that you have a highly tuned nervous system, and it affects 1 in 5 people. High sensitivity describes people whose nervous systems are more receptive to stimuli than those of the general population. This means they are more attuned to subtleties in their surroundings and are more easily overwhelmed by highly stimulating environments.” -Anne Bogel
Common Triggers for Highly Sensitive People:
1. Noise… Sometimes it’s loud noises, but for me it comes when there is “non-stop noise of any sort” (aka kids).
2. Clutter… Messy spaces are draining because of all of the visual input (aka kids).
3. Texture… This one affects some people, but doesn’t affect me too much personally.
4. People… People can definitely be overwhelming (aka kids… yall noticing a trend here?).
5. Consecutive errands/meetings/appointments… This one comes from having constant, varied input with no time in between to recover. I deal with this on shopping days because I have to go to multiple stores since we are out of town. I’m no good for anything productive the rest of the day when we get home.
6. Big Feelings… Emotions are overwhelming to me, so I avoid them usually. There’s no such thing as a little bit sad or a little bit happy or a little bit tired…. We feel things very deeply.
7. Information Overload… While I LOVE learning new things, there are times that I have to just turn it all off.
8. Media… I notice this one affecting me when something major gets a ton of attention in media, especially when it’s something that would cause me to have those “big feelings” I try to avoid.
9. Decisions… Decisions are a major source of energy drain. Decision fatigue kicks in sooner with HSPs and lasts way longer. I make a bazillion decisions in a day with my kids, and my personality type makes it even worse.
Anne Bogel says, “Armed with a little knowledge, you can be more prepared to deal with your highly sensitive responses to the world. Sometimes simply understanding brings instant relief. You understand that you’re not alone, and you’re not crazy. And in addition to bringing relief, knowing you are an HSP can bring a new appreciation for not only the hardships of bearing the trait but also the benefits.”
Giving an HSP What They Need:
- Quiet… Whether working in an office or staying home with ten kids, HSPs need some noise-free zones in their day. (This used to be why I would wake up at 4:30am, but that’s proving to be harder and harder when I’m also waking up with a newborn during the night. However, I might have to strive a little harder to accomplish this one – just for my own sanity.) Another way to get a little more “quiet” is to have some automated systems and routines so that I don’t have people asking me things that they can answer for themselves, “Taco Tuesday” for example. If we always have tacos on Tuesdays, that’s one day they wouldn’t have to ask me, “What’s for dinner?”.
- Peaceful, Clutter-free Environments… Not always, obviously, but especially when it’s time for an HSP to recharge.
- Privacy… When HSPs need to focus, they often prefer to work (or read or walk or think) alone. They notice all of the little things that others wouldn’t like sighing, laughing, keyboard clatter… things that seem miniscule to others, can put HSPs on high alert.
- Downtime… HSPs have to be deliberate about this and do something that actually fills their tank instead of draining them more.
- Minimal Information Intake… Smartphones make this especially hard because it’s tempting to listen to a podcast during downtime or check emails, social media, etc. but all of these are just additional stimulation that I need to take breaks from.
- Routine… Smooth routines makes for fewer decisions. Since HSPs are more prone to decision-fatigue, consistent routines help. They also give the bonus of “less talking” which can zap energy from an HSP.
- Boundaries… This should be the goal of HSPs so that they don’t intuitively take on the negative energy of other people and places.
“HSPs can be intense. They are passionate by nature, and can make others feel their passion too. They have laser-like focus and dedicate boatloads of attention to the things they care about. They’re able to explore issues in depth, seeing the nuances that others miss or choose to ignore. They’re extremely perceptive, picking upon all sorts of things nonsensitive types miss. They are creative and able to turn their hyper-awareness within to generate new ideas. When we think of high sensitivity in that light, it sounds like a super power.” -Anne Bogel
In addition to knowing what I need as a highly sensitive person, something else I’m working on is portraying motherhood in a positive light instead of a negative one. This is something I’ve been convicted about lately… there was a series of posts made on Instagram by my friend (I’m claiming her as my friend), Phylicia that really hit home with me. There are so many memes out there that portray motherhood in a negative sense and just focus on how hard it is. Yes – motherhood IS hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but as I said earlier… I believe that God uses the hard things in our lives to teach us and to grow us. Even the hard things, like motherhood, that we choose and desire for ourselves. Here are the things Phylicia encouraged me in… maybe it will be an encouragement to you too.
“What if we as moms united around our SUCCESS instead of around our FAILURE? We might love our motherhood more.
When we trash talk motherhood in front of the world, we’re telling them Jesus isn’t good for what He promised.
It’s not ‘Take heart, for I have overcome… unless you’re a SAHM’. It’s ‘Take heart, I have overcome’ everyday you disciple your children.
Christian moms, we have a responsibility for how we portray motherhood to the world. Do we portray it in the lens of our worldview, which is that Christ has overcome the world, or do we focus on the negative and the hard?
There’s no denying that there are hard days. And Not all motherhood memes are bad. And yes, there are some situations (foster /adoption /special needs) that do demand more from a parent. But we need to be a voice for positive motherhood and emphasize the GOOD much MORE than the hard, and let that be our uniting factor.
In those hard days and seasons, learn to ask yourself…
What part of this can I control?
What part of this do I need to release to God?
How can I live out my identity as an overcomer here?
We are capable of more.” -Phylicia Masonheimer