Pack™ supports Mother Nurture column
by: Rick Hanson, Ph.D
Obviously I know what I'm supposed to be doing
hour to hour in a day, but in terms of the big
picture, I feel like everything got turned kind of
upside down since I became a mom, like where I was
headed in life -- and this has all gotten more
confusing since I went back to work . . .
It's really natural to feel pulled in a million
directions when you're a mother. And,
unfortunately, some important goals or needs of
yours can get pushed to the back burner
To deal with this, it helps a lot to have some
sense of your guiding purposes and priorities.
This is not lofty and abstract, but a practical,
daily matter; it's like having a roadmap for your
life: then you know where you are headed.
OK, so first things first: Are you for yourself or
not? It may seem like a dumb, obvious question,
but actually many people have a hard time
seriously getting on their own side, so that they
feel mobilized to reduce their suffering and
increase their happiness. Here are some quick
• Reflect on how being for yourself – so that your
well-being and functioning improve – will help
other people, especially the ones you care about
• Reflect on how you want to treat others with
ordinary consideration and kindness. Then apply
the same standards of fairness and decency toward
yourself that you would naturally apply to anyone:
why not you, too?
• Consider children in general and your stance of
care toward them. Then get a sense of yourself as
a child and apply those feelings of caring to that
child you once were - who is still deep inside
• Inside your mind, wish yourself well, in the
form: “May you ____________ .” Such as, “May you
be happy. May you be at peace. May you be well.
May your heart be at ease. May your body be at
When you're for yourself, you want to support the
virtues and priorities that lead to a good life,
and contribute mightily to others.
• In your mind or on paper, list three or more
important virtues that you routinely embody. A
single word will often do, but it’s OK to have
more. Then go back over your list, and for each
one, take a few seconds for the sense of it to
sink deeply into your heart.
• Next, list three or more important virtues that
you would like to live by better. Do some
soul-searching here. Sometimes it helps to be a
little quiet in your mind and ask your innermost
being – or even God, if that’s meaningful to you –
for what it thinks. But remember that you are
being a good person in your willingness to
acknowledge where you could be even better. Some
classics: Patience. Restraint of anger. Courage.
Sobriety. Cheerfulness. Determination. Love.
After getting clear about these, think about what
would help you live more by each one. Then see if
you can make a commitment to doing that. For real.
• In your mind or on paper, make a list of major
areas of your life. Like Health, Spirituality,
Love, Pleasure, Marriage, Childrearing, Career,
Creative Expression, Finances. Have a few broad or
many specific areas, however you like.
• Next, make yourself put that list in priority
order. Sorry, no ties are allowed. It's just an
exercise; in real life we tend to pursue multiple
• When you have your priority list, take an honest
look at it, and tell the truth to yourself about
how you are and how you are not living your life
accordingly. Let that truth sink in even if it is
uncomfortable. Recall your feelings of being for
• Then make a real plan about what you could do,
concretely and practically, to live more by your
true priorities. Stare at that plan and see if you
can really commit to it.
To be blunt, we generally end up where we've been
heading. So it's vital to head in good directions,
and keep telling the truth to ourselves about
whether we're still actually on course. Then we
have the best possible odds of ending up with the
family, the children, the marriage, the life that
we deeply want and long for.
(Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a
clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson, M.S., L.Ac., is
an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are
raising a daughter and son, ages 14 and 17. With
Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the first and
second authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide
to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate
Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see
their website at www.nurturemom.com or email them
with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org;
unfortunately, a personal reply may not always be
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