I would be the perfect parent: always available, constantly attached, nursing on-demand, staying at home… a domestic goddess who loved every minute of it.
I was determined to see my vision through and mostly succeeded – for the first 3 or 4 months. Then sleep deprivation settled in and so did disillusionment. I started teaching again, which I loved, but really just added yet another thing to my plate.
A year later, I had lost 10lbs, my skin was sallow, my daughter still wasn’t sleeping through the night, I snipped at my husband constantly, and I felt wretched. I continued to put enormous pressure on myself to live up to my ideal and consistently felt like I was failing in every area.
It took another year before I finally hit bottom. As the last nursing hormones drained out of my body, I was officially depleted.
I had nothing left to give – to my family or myself.
Thankfully, around that time I found a wonderful holistic doctor and then began life coach training with Martha Beck. Over the next two years, almost everything I thought I knew about taking care of myself and of others had to be reworked. While I never stopped eating healthily and exercising, my definition of what was healthy had to shift to accommodate healing the inflammation from an auto-immune disorder and rebuilding my endocrine system. My thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about the dramatic identity shift to ‘mother’ had to be examined.
Most importantly, though, I had to learn two very important things to finally find balance: how to listen to my body, and how to value myself.
I knew from years of being on the spiritual path that my body was often wiser than my thoughts (that could seemingly prove any random idea as accurate), and that I was a being worthy of love and respect simply because I existed. However, the practical application of both of these concepts failed to be realized, especially as I succumbed ever more deeply to the extreme exhaustion and depletion of my health situation. Like many, if not most, people in our society, I had been taught to think and achieve in order to succeed. Growing up, I measured myself by good grades and top rankings in competitions and felt most valuable when I was productive. ‘Perfect’ was an almost daily self-expectation. Apparently, these patterns were still pretty ingrained, as I sought to be the perfect mother and constantly berated myself for not being good enough because I wasn’t achieving enough – personally or professionally.
As I went through coach training and learned more concrete ways to dismantle these painful habits I started to realize that what was missing most in my transition to motherhood was me. I gave constantly, to my daughter, husband, and students. Yet, if I wanted anything for myself, especially alone time, I wrote it off as selfish and believed we couldn’t possibly afford it. I had become the epitome of what Caroline calls MartyrMom, and it had contributed enormously to the breakdown of my health, relationships, and work.
I had denied my body sleep, play, and rebooting time, and I had valued myself as a teacher or as a mother, but not as Angela, who just wanted time to read and meditate and process my life over a cup of tea with a good friend.
I admit, I still struggle with these concepts from time to time, but when I do give my body and soul the rest and space they crave and acknowledge that I have needs as an individual, my health improves, my family is happier, and I start to finally feel a bit more balanced.
Angela Winter wants to live in a world where peace prevails, the arts are a part of daily life, and everyone feels free to express their authentic selves. As a certified life coach and holistic voice instructor, she’s been twice recognized by the National Association of Teachers of Singing as one of the top young voice teachers in the nation and has been featured on Classical Singer’s Auditions+, The Natural Singer, The Clean Yogi and Vibrant Vocalist blogs. When she’s not exploring sound and its connection to the soul, you can find her reading, creating, and visiting the Smithsonian with her husband and 3-year-old daughter, practicing crow and half-moon poses, or taking a much-needed nap. Her latest program is SoulSinging, a 6-week group class in Northern Virginia, to help people release their authentic voice through a unique blend of coaching and singing. Learn how to express yourself with confidence, clarity, and soul-level authenticity at AngelaPetersonWinter.com.