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Grabbing Coffee With The Enlightened Mom

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Terri Amos-Britt is a spiritual coach, a former Miss USA, and a mother. Her initial struggles with the isolation of motherhood and pressures of perfectionism inspired her to apply her spiritual practices to childrearing in her latest book The Enlightened Mom. In this mother’s guide, Terri discusses why it’s important for women to abandon notions of “perfect” children, why they deserve love in the home, and why it’s urgent to stop “performing” as mothers.

You stress in your book that mothers need to eradicate guilt and that the feeling of guilt is extremely to harmful to mothers and not conducive to parenting. Why was guilt something that you wanted to touch on in your book?

Guilt zaps your energy and it actually makes you stay in lack. We want to shift from lack to abundance. We have to do it for our children. We forget about ourselves as mothers and so we think “I have to do this for my family.” But because mom is always performing, she’s creating more lack so she’s always feeling like “I’m not doing it right.” And so she gets angry, she gets frustrated and that creates more guilt. It’s a perpetual cycle. When mom can finally say “I’m going to honor who I am, love the way that I was created,” she sees that saying yes to herself is the loving thing to do. The whole intent of The Enlightened Mom is to clean up the beliefs that are causing her to feel bad about who she is and how she is doing things. But most moms perform trying to make their families feel love when it never comes from out there, it comes from within. Moms think that they are doing the loving thing by denying themselves.

But what happens is that when a parent starts respecting themselves and loving themselves, that respect is going to overflow to their kids. They’re going to speak differently. They’re not going to judge the child.

Parenting is about looking at yourself and saying “how can I be more of an expression of love?” The problem is that most people define love as dysfunction. They don’t know that it’s dysfunction. They give up themselves. Love is when you become more joyful, more passionate.

I find selflessness and denial to be a big part of contemporary motherhood, especially with regards to constantly keeping kids active and social. Mothers feel much more pressure to keep their kids on a tight and busy schedule.

A lot of moms think that they have to make their kids have perfect lives and that will make them feel successful and abundant. When it came to my kids, I had to look at what was right for me. And what was right for me was not to be schlepping them all over the place every day of the week. What I saw when I looked at my kids was how much they thrived on having their own creative playtime and being in the home having quiet time, and having time with friends — not being on the run constantly going from gig to gig to gig. I got clear and said that they could have two activities a week. I think it’s wonderful that kids are encouraged to try so many things but if you can get them early on to say, “you know what, I don’t want to take ballet. I’d rather go to take hip hop,” that’s important.

Because it’s instilling autonomy?

Yes, and becoming independent and knowing who they are and what they want.

You reference a lot in your book the “inner child” and how important that is for mothers. I like this concept because it acknowledges the needs of mothers which so often goes overlooked in many homes. Why is this an important idea for mothers?

For me, creating a loving parenting relationship with my own inner child allowed me to start shifting who I am. Creating the connection to the little girl inside of you is very powerful because every time you react to your kids, your boss, your friends, a spouse, there is something else going on.

You write that your kids are helping you learn about yourself. Can you please elaborate on that?

Oh yeah. My kids used to fight which is big problem for families. Mom comes home from work, she’s tired, she’s been fighting at work and the kids are going at each other and she wants to fix it. What I was shown is that my children are my mirrors, so instead of focusing on them fighting (obviously if they’re hurting each other, you’ll have to intervene) but if it’s just the little bickering type stuff, I stop. I give myself a time-out if I’m reacting. I checked in with my “little Terri” who told me “it’s not okay to fight,” which as an adult I know is not true. Fighting is how children learn to communicate and express opinions. But still, as an adult I felt like I couldn’t have arguments because of that belief. All of the sudden, I found more of voice and was able to debate more. But as soon as I shifted my mindset and gave myself permission to have arguments, my kids quit fighting. Every now and then, they’ll have a tiff but it’s not the stuff that so many families struggle with.

You tell readers that it’s really important to shift the cycle that’s been handed down from generation to generation. What cycle are you referring to specifically?

When a parent is not connected to their heart space and doing that performance martyr thing — like my mom did. What happens for me is it becomes about performance-based approval rather than love and that’s how the cycle perpetuates. My step-son was a real catalyst for me because he was the first child who came into my life and then I had my girls. I started shifting because I didn’t like who I was with him. I can remember sitting by his beside crying saying “I don’t know how to love you. I don’t know how to do this.” I had all these rules initially because I thought that’s how I was going to bring him love. I never once told him as a child that he was bad, but it was all of those imposed beliefs about you have to act this way, you have to do this, that he took to mean that he was bad. That’s the cycle.

As we do acceptance with ourselves, we can allow our children to be who they are and they no longer take on the belief that they are bad.

Your spirituality and God are big parts of your experience as a mother. How has your faith influenced your parenting?

I was raised Christian but I was forced to get saved in the sixth grade. I didn’t have an experience of a connection because it was forced, but I was always looking for that connection to God. But for me as a child, God was hellfire and brimstone. It was very fearful. Ironically, it wasn’t until I started going to healing school, becoming an intuitive healer, that I had an experience of God. For me, it was about knowing that I am not alone. So many moms feel all alone and that we have to control things. To sit down and meditate into this unbelievable loving energy is what I teach in The Enlightened Mom and it’s different for everybody. For some people it might be Christ or Buddha or a spirit guide — whatever. My role is not to impart on you what to believe, but for you to find your own belief. Through doing this process, I was able to come from a place of never thinking that I was going to get God’s love to knowing that I am worthy of all the love and abundance in the universe because I have created a connection to that love.  For a lot of us, religion has taken us to see that the truth is outside of us. The Enlightened Mom is really taking the path that the truth is inside of you. Let it be your counselor. Become that example for your family to find their truths.