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  • Writer's pictureHelen Cottee

From crying in the bath tub

I did my first major reform when I was 30 and parenting two small kids. I didn't know I was reforming at the time, and I had no map so the process was messy and complicated... but I was reforming non-the-less. 

I had two pre-school children and a job that I loved as well as a husband and a home to look after and all the normal stuff in life. From the outside, I had it all - and I felt like I should be so much happier than I was. This was the life I had always wanted and intentionally built. But I was struggling, sad, unfulfilled, and finding life incredibly hard. 

Of course, very few people knew this, because what sort of mother tells people she's had enough and just wants to go live on her own for a bit? What type of person gets the whole gig then wants to give it back??

I felt so ashamed at how badly I felt and how much I wasn't coping so I got up each morning and dragged myself through another day, finally falling into a bath with a glass of wine when the kids were in bed. And sobbing. Most days. 

I started to reform the day I said 'there has to be another way'.  I knew I had to change something, I couldn't keep tolerating a life that was slowly killing me. The thing was that I didn't know where to start. You see, I knew I loved my kids utterly and completely - they were and are incredible human beings. I knew I wanted to be a mum and a wife. I knew I wanted to work part-time. And so I couldn't find the end of the string that needed pulling to unravel it all. 

I wanted everything I had and yet I wanted to quit it all. It took a while and lots of conversations with a friend and fellow life coach, but I finally realised I didn't want to quit my kids, or my home, or my marriage or my job... I wanted to quit the rules I had been handed about what each of these roles meant. The people weren't the problem, my kids weren't the problem - the problem was the 'script' I had been handed about what being a mum meant. Little by little I rewrote my script. I rewrote the rules of all the 'shoulds' and 'shouldn'ts' around my time and my energy and my role and my needs... and little by little I started to thrive. And guess what? So did my kids. I hadn't seen how the way I had been gripping my role so tightly had impacted my son in particular. As I started to let go, he started to settle and relax.

I thought letting go would mean everything would fall apart, but in reality, it simply let the whole system finally breathe. I went from being stressed, anxious, over-controlling, angry, and sad in my role as mum to being more open-handed, freer, more playful, and more quirky. I found myself dancing around my kitchen to Disney music at the end of the day instead of crying in the bathtub. So many of the scripts we are given, the shoulds and shouldn'ts, are broken. They are a culmination of other people's expectations about who we should be and what we should do, how we should spend our time and money and energy. My first clunky, scrappy reform journey taught me that only I can create a script that brings me fulfillment, because I am unique, just like you are. What I need and what you need are different. Who I am and who you are are different. What causes me to thrive and what causes you to thrive are different. So these cookie-cutter roles will only squeeze us into shapes that were never really us.

Wherever in your life you are struggling to thrive, is a place where you have an ill-fitting script about who you have to be and what you have to do. For most people, you know you don't want to quit your role or your job or yourself, but you also know there has to be another way - a better way. 

And you know what, I suspect you're right. 

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