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What a Tree Taught Me About Motherhood


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With the dizzying pace of working motherhood, you may find yourself constantly falling into a pit of stress, overwhelm and frustration. You're not alone. There are nearly 60 million working mothers in the United States and most all of them struggle under the pressure of career and family too

But, there is hope. Working motherhood can be a positive, fulfilling experience despite the chaos swirling around you.

Not long ago, I was gazing through the window at a huge oak tree in our backyard. To be sure, I had plenty of things on my mind that day but amidst all that chaos, all I could think was, “Gee. . . it sure would be nice to be like that tree. "

A healthy tree is strong, yet flexible in adverse weather conditions. It has deep complex roots underground, yet such beauty and simplicity above ground. It nourishes and gives life. It protects. It changes as the seasons change. . . all the while remaining alive and vibrant. It's constant. It's stable.


If you were to create a mental picture of a tree that mirrored your life as it is today, what would it look like? Would it be lush, green, and strong? Or is it barren, brown and brittle? This tree represents the state of your life; it's your Mother's Tree of Life.

To enjoy the fruits of a healthy Tree of Life there are just two basic care instructions: nourish daily and prune dead leaves. But before you can implement these simple steps you have to know more about your tree.


We're so much more like trees than you can imagine! If you were to fly over a forest of trees you'll probably notice how much they are alike. They share the same basic characteristics. But if you were walk amongst the trees you would notice the unique characteristics in each tree. Working moms are like that too. In general, you're a lot like the 60 million working moms in the U. S. But upon closer examination, you're actually nothing like those other working moms.

So, in order to grow your Tree of Life in a healthy, sustainable manner, you must understand its unique characteristics, of which there are two parts:


Everyone has an external story of their life. This is the life everyone sees - your job title, the kind of car you drive, the neighborhood you live in, the people you hang out with, etc. It's area of life where you identify and label your accomplishments and the things you do. Here you're focused on the busyness of life. You seek efficiency, function and management of everything.


Below the “shoulds" that are created from your “above ground" life, resides the desires of your heart in your “underground" life. This is the life people don't always see, but they sense - values, beliefs, purpose, spirituality, feelings and intellect. It's the area of life that tells others who you REALLY are, but without tangible evidence. Here you're focused on fulfilling your heart's desire. You seek purpose, enjoyment and meaning in everything.


When life becomes overwhelming or stressful, it's usually the result of imbalanced growth. Most working moms focus on their “above ground" life because quite frankly it's the part of life that seems most pressing. It's obvious and tangible. You can see when it's not working.

As a result, your underground life is ignored and left untended. You can feel when it's not working, but it's so much easier to blow off because it's not as concrete to you. That is, until your underground life affects your above ground life.

You may be familiar with the symptoms: you're quicker to anger, you can't get things done anymore, you dread work every day, your kids are acting out more and more, etc.


The best way to bring your Tree of Life back to optimum health is to just follow the basic care instructions: nourish daily and prune dead leaves.


Take a moment to consider your “above ground" and “underground" lives. Are there areas where you're placing too much (or too little) focus? What parts of your tree need your attention right away? Next, decide what you'll do to nourish your tree daily keeping in mind that the daily needs of your tree may be different day-to-day, week-to-week or month-to-month.


Your tree cannot flourish if you insist on keeping your dead leaves. “Dead leaves" are the things in life that no longer work for you. For instance, before children you may have enjoyed relaxing soaks in your bathtub several times a week. These days you're lucky to hop into the shower for more than a quick wash down. Instead of clinging to the stress of not having time for your sacred bath soaks, prune that dead leaf and allow new rituals that better fit your work/life to take its place.


With proper care and nourishment, your Tree of Life will sustain you through the ups and downs of working motherhood. Despite the seasonal conditions of your life you can rest easy and enjoy it knowing that your “above ground" life and “underground" life are in perfect balance.

To download “A Mother's Tree of Life" worksheet, go to: pdf

Reprint Information: ©2006 The Integrated Mother and Michele R. Dortch. All rights reserved. You are free to reprint this article as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link. Also, please let us know by email to where the article will appear. The attribution should read:

“By Michele Dortch, founder of The Integrated Mother and the creator of the only “mom club" to provide a flexible and effective mentoring program for success-oriented working moms. Learn more at ”


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