Comforter, yes. Punching bag, no

As mothers we are prone to taking stuff on. We take on our kids’ emotional stuff and our partner’s bad day. We take on more than our fair share of tasks and duties around the house (regardless of whether we have a career ourselves or not). We take on our children’s fights. We take on illnesses, sibling rivalry, nightmares.

Often we’re more likely to end up with everyone taking out their stuff on us, venting to us about things that went wrong, moaning and whining to us about their problems. What we’re less likely to be doing is putting up boundaries, drawing some uncrossable lines, saying NO.

It’s a wonderful feeling to be the “mother”. It’s a role most of us took on willingly and even with some enthusiasm. But being a mother does not mean becoming a dumping ground. Comforter, yes. Punching bag, no.

What I’ve noticed with the moms around me is that as well as taking on all the psychological and emotional baggage of those around us, we, almost symbolically, take on everyone’s actual baggage as well. We carry all the shopping, we lug school bags and sports’ bags and lunch bags. We even carry everyone’s rubbish.

Sometimes we have to say no. Even to our own children. We have to learn to protect ourselves, to shield ourselves when we have more than enough to handle already, to get the people around us to carry their own stuff.

I’m all for making little changes. When we leap too far out of our comfort zones we tend to leap right back into them. But if we make small changes, and these small changes accumulate over time, we find that major things alter without us feeling too much discomfort.

What I’d like to see is mothers learning not to take on everyone’s baggage; learning to say no. And to create an awareness of this with a small and manageable change, start by refusing to take on the rubbish. When your child comes at you with an empty sweet wrapper or a lollipop stick or the remains of a cupcake they no longer want, simply point them in the direction of the dustbin. This gives a small, but meaningful message, that you are not a dumping ground.

Obviously, if your children really need your help or comfort, you are there for them. But you are not there to be beaten up when someone is in a bad mood, or to be shouted at when someone needs to let off steam, or to carry everyone’s junk around for them.

You are not a dustbin. Make it clear!

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