Mother's Little Helper has evolved over the years. Now, women who might be careful with pills and alcohol, find themselves overcome by more subtle, insidious vices.
Over and over again, the same four destructive habits show up in the lives of conscious, thoughtful, sophisticated mothers.
And maybe they don't seem so secret at first, I mean, people know you do it. But the depth to which you feel powerless to stop is a shame you keep sealed tight.
I believe these four destructive habits say something about the world we live in and mothers' fundamental needs that are not being met.
Let's get into it....
1. The Facebook
Or Instagram, or Pinterest, or simply email. You keep checking and staying longer than you meant to. You may be escaping the boredom and overwhelm of children, seeking adult conversation, or hoping for the joy of novelty. The strength of this addiction comes from intermittent reinforcement. This means that you never know if the next time you check or the next story down is going to be the one that brings you pleasure and satisfaction, so you stay, and you keep checking, and you post and hope for the likes and the hearts and the replies.
2. Online Shopping
This is also a check, search, and scroll behavior but the rewards are different. You get to control getting something you want. And it feels like magic and it feels like free. You click, you wait, you get. You get the joy of newness, of choosing, and of not feeling any cost. Then the thing arrives a few days later and you're not so satisfied, but that's okay because you can one-click your way to the potential for happiness again right away.
3. Emotional Eating
While the two above are considered 'process addictions', emotional eating is both a process and substance addiction. Most often, women share that they have a stash of sugary chocolateness or baked goods and eat them in times of stress, fatigue, and anger. You body loves the quick hit and your psyche loves the momentary relief from suffering.
4. Never Enough
I believe that this is the invisible, mental habit that all the other habits are trying to soothe. The degree to which mothers criticize themselves and never ever let themselves stop thinking about the next thing they need to do is astonishing. If we're not careful, we encourage each others' never-enough-ness by constantly talking about how we could be better disciplinarians, short order cooks, housecleaners, and room mothers. We've come to believe that the only way to be a good mother is to always feel like a bad one.
So what do we do?
Each woman has her own story of how her habits serve her. Maybe you are lonely, and Facebook gives you adult connection. Maybe you are in a loveless marriage and cinnamon rolls blunt the pain that is too difficult to address right now.
First, explore what the unique payoffs are of each habit for you personally. The fastest way to figure it out is the refrain from doing it, even just once. In the absence of satisfying the urge to scroll, or shop, or binge, or self-attach, the particular discomforts you are soothing will show up.
Secondly, have compassion for the fact that habits become self-rewarding. Regardless of the initial, deeper motivation for a compulsion, over time your brain and body come to love doing something on auto-pilot no matter what it is. The brain releases soothing biochemicals simply because you are doing something compulsively, even if you are telling yourself not to.
Lastly, if you want to unhook from your particular compulsions, you need a plan and you need human support.
Here's my plan for helping you with your plan....
Since Facebook and social media seem to be the #1 plague that is robbing mothers of time, energy, and happiness, I am teaching a free class on Facing Facebook Addiction.
On Wednesday October 21st, you can learn the neurobiology behind the compulsion, and get a step-by step-plan for unhooking from the scrolling and clicking habit.