Do you have the sense that something is missing in your life?
Perhaps you’re not sure what it is, but there’s a longing for something different.
This is not unusual in motherhood, for a number of reasons, including:
- Motherhood is often not what women expect.
- We’ve spent our lives pursuing the things society has told us we should pursue and we haven’t learned to tap into what we truly want for ourselves.
- We prioritise everyone else’s needs before our own so our true dreams and desires don’t get the attention they deserve.
- We don’t feel we can be our authentic selves in our relationships due to shame, guilt, feelings of inadequacy or not having the deep, safe connections in our lives that allow this.
- We’re not sure how to create meaning with and in our lives. To contribute to something beyond us. This could be mothering work, however, in a society that undervalues mothering work, our conditioning means that this does not always feel enough. We may also long to create meaning beyond mothering, which is normal and ok, even though we are told that motherhood is meant to completely fulfill us.
This week, I interviewed Charley Bryant, from The Family Fairy and I want to share her story with you. She knows exactly what it feels like to know deep down that something is missing in your life.
Charley left her Pediatric Nursing job to travel from the UK to Australia on a carefree adventure. She was enjoying her job in a pub, when she met her partner and then months later found out she was pregnant. Suddenly, she realised she wouldn’t be returning to the UK, but would now be raising a family in Australia with her partner, away from her family.
Becoming a mother was overwhelming and Charley experienced domestic violence, postnatal depression, anxiety, and a eventually, a mental breakdown. She didn’t know who she was anymore and wondered “Is this it? Is this what my life is going to be like now?” It was hard to accept that her life would be this way for the next 18 years as her son grew up.
Without family support and with her relationship eventually ending, she knew she had to figure out what was missing from her life and how to get it.
How do you figure out what is missing in your life?
At first, Charley didn’t know what was missing but she was determined to find it, with support. She sought help from her doctor for her depression and anxiety, found a therapist and a mentor, and worked on getting to know herself again.
Little by little she tried different things and figured out what brought joy and meaning to her life, such as getting a part-time paid job, going for walks with her baby, and improving her eating habits to feel better in her body. As she discovered the things she valued she kept on incorporating them into her life.
She didn’t know exactly what her life was going to look like after this journey of self-discovery, but she was willing to get curious and experiment to move forward.
This is no small feat, given most of us have been taught that we need to know our destination or goal and then start working towards it. We’re told there is a right and, therefore, a wrong answer. But in reality, this isn’t always how things work. There is no one right way to live your life, only what feels right for you. You may already have an idea about what is missing in your life, or you may have no clue at all. Either starting place is totally fine.
In her book, “Untamed”, Glennon Doyle says:
“Discontent is evidence that your imagination has not given up on you. It is still pressing, swelling, trying to get your attention by whispering “Not this”. Not this is a very important stage.“
The key is, are you willing to start exploring and moving forward without knowing exactly where you will end up or what the answer is?
Can you tune into yourself and your responses to see what lights you up or makes you contract, what you long for, and what you want to leave behind? These are all clues and we need to get curious to see them and make sense of them.
Here are some questions you might like to reflect on to start getting curious about what is missing in your life:
- What is the truest, most beautiful story about your life that you can imagine? (from “Untamed”, Glennon Doyle)
- What are the things that you do that make you feel the angriest and most resentful? What are the things that you love to do, or that make you feel warm? (from author, coach, and speaker Martha Beck)
- If you were completely free, what would you choose to do?
When reflecting on these questions, try going beyond just thinking about them, to writing your thoughts down or talking them out with someone. When we have to create a narrative to articulate our thoughts it helps bring clarity.
Talking ourselves out of change
Let’s get back to Charley’s story.
Finding what was missing in her life and filling the gaps wasn’t all easy. Like many mothers, Charley was so overwhelmed and tired that change felt hard and it was tempting to keep things the same. She found herself making excuses about why she couldn’t do things such as going out to connect with other mums. This makes a lot of sense because our brains are designed to keep us safe. Anything new and unfamiliar is scary and potentially threatening, so we do a great job of talking ourselves out of things and keeping ourselves in our comfort zones (even when they aren’t particularly nice).
Charley moved past this by:
- Writing all her excuses down and challenging them, seeing that they weren’t necessarily true and therefore, she could move forward regardless.
- Adopting a “just for today” approach where she accepted that if she did something different today and it didn’t work out, that would be ok. She would figure out how to handle it. By giving it a go, every time it did work out, it built her confidence that change was possible.
One of the particularly difficult excuses was her children. There were certain things she wanted to try that just didn’t seem possible given her caring responsibilities. For example, she really wanted to go back to pub work but had no one to look after her children during at night while she worked. But the pub work wasn’t appealing because it was pub work. What made the pub work meaningful and fulfilling for her were the social connections and fun. Charley had to get creative about where she could find that experience elsewhere, and she realised that spending time with other mums and their children created the same feelings.
When we feel like there is a very real barrier between us and what we long for, it can be helpful to get deeper and figure out what that experience gives you that you may be able to find elsewhere. Additionally, you could consider how you can bring little bits of your desires into your life now, while you are in a season where the full desire isn’t possible.
Grieving your pre-motherhood life
Sometimes we feel like something is missing from our lives because we are holding tightly to our pre-motherhood life and expecting we can go back rather than embracing the evolution of ourselves and our lives and focusing on what is meaningful and important to us now (matrescence changes our values and priorities). We can’t go back. We are forever changed and so are our lives.
Charley views the transition to motherhood as the death of your old life and says it is natural to grieve the loss of this life. Society tells us that motherhood is beautiful but it’s also messy and hard, and when things are hard, it’s normal to miss the time when things were easier. That’s why Charley allowed herself to love the beautiful parts of motherhood while also grieving the loss of her pre-motherhood life.
If you feel like something is missing in your life, know that you don’t have to stay in your “not this”. Even if it feels scary and almost too hard, you can allow yourself to just be curious and imagine what could be. You can take little steps forward to see what feels good and move closer to a life that is fulfilling and meaningful for you.
I asked Charley for her top 3 tips for mums who are feeling like something is missing from their life. Watch her response below.
You can watch the full interview with Charley in my Facebook group for mums.
What is one little thing you will do to start figuring out what is missing from your life?
About Charley Bryant