When you are a mama with a history of trauma, it can be a struggle to be present with your kids while also feeling activated and overwhelmed. Many of us have done deep trauma work and are surprised to find out that our children can cause old memories and feelings to bubble up to the surface again. This doesn't mean that all the healing didn't work. It means that our children are reminding us that trauma healing is a lifelong process and that we continue to heal throughout our lives.
Being a mother with a trauma history can cause us to feel shame and guilt. Our trauma responses can cause us to feel numb toward our children, lack patience, or react out of anger. Talking about how our past trauma affects motherhood is not a topic that is regularly discussed and this feels isolating. Although rarely talked about in daily life, trauma is not uncommon. The prevalence of PTSD in any given year is 5.2% for women (source). That is around 6.5 million adult women in the US per year meeting the criteria for PTSD. That is a lot of people. Let's shift the narrative and talk about it more. Mothers need to feel connected and included in society, not isolated and shamed due to their trauma responses. The mom yelling at her kids in the parking lot needs our support and understanding. She needs help to see that there is a better way.
Trauma affects millions of women per year yet we rarely talk about how the effects of trauma can affect motherhood. Already lacking the village, motherhood for anyone is hard in a society where families are fragmented and most households require two incomes. Add in a trauma history and motherhood can feel almost impossible. Experiencing trauma can cause mothers to lack the trust and relaxation to truly enjoy motherhood and many mothers can find themselves hypervigilant and worried all the time. Mothers can become paralyzed in fear and not know where to turn.
As a society, we need to shift into a culture where these mothers can turn to us for support and help. Mothers who are feeling isolated, triggered, and overwhelmed need helping hands and listening ears. They need breaks to get out of the house and recharge. They need a community that recognizes their labor and the efforts they are making to be good parents despite the challenges they face every day.
On top of having trauma responses and lacking support, many mothers who have experienced trauma want to be the ones to stop the cycle. They want to be respectful, conscious parents who don't perpetuate the same trauma that was passed down to them. This can feel like a monumental task due to the lack of support, criticism, and emotional struggle that mothers deal with daily.
Mamas, I see the work you are doing. To try to be a respectful parent while managing your trauma responses and dealing with a hostile society that does not value gentle parenting. There aren't many of us trying to do this. Although this work is challenging, it is possible. There are many mothers out there doing this cycle-breaking, healing work. Band together with them. Find your community. Find support. Forgive yourself when you falter. This work doesn't have a finish line, this is a lifelong healing journey. The journey is the destination.