When my son was born it was meant to be the happiest time of my life. He was very much a wanted baby and I thought it was the perfect time to welcome a bundle of joy into our life.
But I hadn’t anticipated that it would be one of the biggest challenges of my life so far. I started to burn out and faced some dark times. This was made worse by the fact that I was a successful executive coach – oh the shame of not having it all together!
The guilt I felt about not being enough was overwhelming. I tried desperately to mother like I didn’t work and work like I wasn’t a mother.
I tried cutting down on my work. I also tried not working at all for a while (interestedly this didn’t help!). But the real change came when I started to change my life from the inside. It was this journey that inspired me to start Wisdom For Working Mums.
One of the things that helped me to find more ease with my mothering journey was to understand my drivers. The concept of ‘drivers’ originates from the theory of Transactional Analysis. This is a model for understanding human personality, relationships and communications.
Our drivers are our inner patterns and clinical psychologist Taibi Kahler identified five drivers that can unhelpfully influence us.
When I understood how my drivers were showing up in my mothering journey I was unable to unpick myself from their unhelpful impact.
Our drivers tend to get imprinted in our childhood and they influence our thinking, feelings and behaviour. They influence how we see the world and how we experience it. But often this happens out of our awareness as they tend to be unconscious.
And the problem with something being out of our awareness is that we can’t control it. We can’t change what we don’t notice. The more conscious we become of what is driving us, and the assumptions we’re making, the more we can make intentional choices about how we want to behave.
So I share these in the hope that you can understand them and work out if they are unhelpfully influencing your mothering journey.
The five drivers are:
- Be perfect
- Please (others)
- Try Hard
- Be Strong
- Hurry Up
In reasonable quantities, these drivers are helpful and help us to function and succeed in life. But when overdone they can be unhelpful and cause us stress.
Here’s an overview of the five drivers…
The ‘Be Perfect’ Driver
People with a Be Perfect driver are driven to do things right. They aim for perfection in everything, produce the perfect work and set high standards for themselves and others. They tend to struggle to take risks and embrace uncertainty.
The ‘Please Others’ Driver
People with a Please Others driver are driven to seek approval. They tend to be pleasant, understanding and very helpful. They’re reluctant to say no and tend to avoid conflict. They often struggle to be assertive.
The ‘Try Hard’ Driver
People with a Try Hard driver are driven to give their upmost and are persistent. They often have difficultly relaxing and may not know when to give up and let go.
The ‘Be Strong’ Driver
People with a Be Strong driver are driven to cope and be independent. They have the ability to stay calm in any circumstance. They often struggle to show their feelings and ask for help.
The ‘Hurry Up’ Driver
People with a Hurry Up driver are driven to achieve and as quickly as they can. They tend to be efficient and responsive. They often struggle to relax and the thought of wasting time fills them with horror.
Do you recognise any of these drivers in your own life? If you do, then great! As the first step in ensuring we keep our drivers in the ‘helpful’ zone is to become aware of them. What we are aware of we can start to consciously control. Remember each driver has its strengths, but we need to ensure that we don’t overuse them as they can then turn into a weakness.
Typically we are driven by one or two of these drivers but sometimes we can recognise and relate to all of them.
Looking back on my mothering journey I realised that I was overusing several drivers. I was trying so hard to be strong and perfect. I desperately wanted to be the perfect mum and didn’t want to ask for help. My hurry up driver meant that I struggled with the early days of having a newborn and having no control over my time or feeling like I was achieving anything. As I write this I know how crazy it sounds as the biggest achievement is nurturing a newborn baby but it was something I really struggled with at the time. My desire to please others meant that I struggled to put my own needs into the equation so didn’t nourish myself as much as I needed.
All of these, I believe, contributed to my postpartum depletion. It was only after I started to recognise my drivers and how they were unhelpfully guiding my mothering journey that I was able to move from surviving to thriving.
As I prepare to welcome baby number 2 into the world in a few weeks I’m much more conscious of my drivers. I’m hoping this will help me to keep them in their helpful zone…….I’ll share how this goes!
In the meantime I’d love to hear about your drivers. Which do you recognise and relate to? How do you keep yours in the helpful zone?