What is a Giveaway Mom?
A Giveaway Mom gives away too much of herself, repeatedly moving her own needs aside to put others first. I get it. It is hard not to do this. I mean, I wrote a book on it and I still find it super challenging!
The reasons for this “giving it away” are complex. On the one hand, society sends conflicting messages about what it means to be a good mother. On the other hand, we all are influenced by earlier life experience and sometimes trauma. Then there’s our culture and religion too.
I am passionate about letting moms know that they don’t have to sacrifice so much to be a good mom. In my book, Stop Giving It Away, I help moms understand why and how we give it away and more importantly, how to reverse this energy appropriately in our lives.
Overspending: What Giveaway Moms Do
1) Giveaway Moms focus too much on their children.
Yes, we can and often do focus too much on our children. When women become mothers, the self-sacrifice starts immediately: body, mind, sleep, time, career. In the beginning, self-sacrifice comes so easily; it can even feel good. And some of this is so important!
How can focusing so much on our children be a bad thing? If we derive all our value from motherhood—if we allow parenting to be the only thing that gives us our purpose—then we are putting way too much psychological pressure on our children and ourselves.
I met Nastia getting my nails done. She proudly showed me a picture of her 20-year-old son. She commuted three hours to take him to dance lessons, often sleeping in the backseat of her Chevy in freezing temperatures while waiting for him to finish.
Nastia and her husband both worked two jobs to support their son’s dancing.
“His dancing is my life,” she said. You get the picture. Nastia’s son crushed her when he quit for his new girlfriend.
I love my kids so much that it could be easy to let other parts of my life fall away.
Mother’s Day Takeaway: Children need space and room to grow, separate and individuate. Moms who are over-functioning in their children’s lives can take comfort in a little bit of separation—it’s not a bad thing.
I let my son bike to the lake by himself recently. We live in the city and it really terrifies me for him to be out on his own on a bike. This was hard but I know I need to loosen the reigns.
2) Giveaway Moms let guilt be their guide.
We mothers often talk about guilt being the status quo in our lives. One friend of mine refers to this as “mom disease” and says every mom has it.
We feel guilty when we don’t take care of everyone else. We feel guilty when we implement a consequence, we feel guilty when we don’t. Aaaahh!
Giveaway Girls feel a lot of guilt, and they sometimes don’t know where to go with it. It hampers their decision making and makes them question themselves—not a fun place to be.
Guilt arises from shame, which is one of what I call the “big five” emotions—along with anger, sadness, happiness/joy, and fear. Shame ranks as the worst of the five, or at least as a runner-up to fear.
Usually, the guilt that comes from this shame is unearned. Let me repeat: the guilt you feel is almost always unearned. It is just society pressure and the rules you have bought into. Sometimes it’s self-doubt.
Mother’s Day Takeaway: Try not to let feeling guilty be your guide to good parenting. After all, it is important that your child experience and know what it is to be disappointed, frustrated, and yes, feel bad too. It isn’t your job just to make your children happy. It is your job to be there for them when things don’t go their way too.
3) Giveaway Moms buy into the “Myth of the Ideal Mother.”
Aspiring to be the “ideal mother” puts too much emotional pressure on the mother and devalues the role of the father in a child’s psychological growth.
It is easy for Giveaway Moms to feel as if they are completely responsible for their children’s welfare. Moms may then take on more than they should, thereby exhausting themselves and preventing their partners from taking a more active role in parenting.
When so much is leveraged onto one person, it’s hard to let go. Plus, a lot of partners out there are unwilling to pick up the ball and meet these moms halfway—an issue I discuss more in depth in my book.
Mother’s Day Takeaway: Caving to society’s pressure to assume responsibility for everything—accepting the “ideal” mother myth as reality—plays out to everyone’s detriment.
All of these examples of Giveaway Moms make up the culture of self-sacrifice that many women live and work in day after day.
When I told my 92-year-old grandmother about my book, she was aghast at the concept that self-sacrifice as a mother could be construed as a bad thing.
“That’s what being a mother is,” she exclaimed. “It’s all about sacrifice!”
Giveaway Moms and their cohorts, Giveaway Girls, have grown up in a world in which they have been taught like my grandmother to give to and sacrifice for others. In my 20-plus years of counseling, I have seen it over and over again: women self-sacrificing to the point it becomes detrimental. Enough already.
When the needs of your children are ever present, where and when can you make the decision to self-nurture? Ask yourself …
• How do you give your kids what they need while maintaining your individual emotional integrity?
• Can you recognize the difference between your child’s real needs versus wants?
• Do you allow yourself to be manipulated? How do you draw the line between caretaking of self versus others?
• What have you been putting off about your self-care since you became a mom?
This Mother’s Day, think about these questions. If you think you might be a Giveaway Mom, be compassionate with yourself. We moms are the first to beat up on ourselves—that’s is the last thing we need.
Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, is a psychotherapist, coach and counselor living in Chicago, Illinois. She is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked extensively with both women in trauma and as an individual and couples counselor. She is author of the new book Stop Giving It Away: How to Stop Self-Sacrificing and Start Claiming Your Space, Power and Happiness. Join the conversation on Facebook page and/or subscribe for updates on my blog. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus.