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Who do you want to be?


“I’m just surprised by the kind of mother I am,” I said.

My sweet therapist nodded as she listened with compassion.

I went on to tell her how I had assumed I would be the kind of mother my mother was. She was my primary role model for mothering, after all.

I thought I wouldn’t worry.

I thought I would be completely laid back.

I thought I would go with the flow and follow my instincts without wondering if I was doing it right.

But I had become a different kind of mother somehow.

I obsessed about sleep schedules, my milk supply, and whether I was playing with Penelope enough.

When I wasn’t with her I checked in with whoever was taking care of her regularly to see if she was okay.

(When I asked my mom if she had worried about my sister and me when she wasn’t with us when we were little, she told me she hadn’t. Her work of delivering babies and performing surgeries required her full presence. She couldn’t attend a woman in labor and worry about our nap schedules at the same time.)

To be honest, I didn’t really love being the kind of mother I had become.

It recently dawned on me (duh!) that I get to choose the kind of mother I am.

We all get to choose the kind of [fill in the blank] we are.

We get to choose the kind of business owner we are.

We get to choose the kind of wife we are.

We get to choose the kind of sister/friend/community member/artist/healer/employer/employee/leader we are.

There are some parts of my mother I definitely want to embody in my mothering: the healer, the intuitive, the listener, someone with a relaxed sense of all is well.

And there are some new things that I want to bring to the table, too.

While we all have inherent gifts and proclivities, what we choose to bring forth in our daily lives is up to us.

(I have a tendency to be on the anxious side, for example. I can choose to let my anxiety drive my mother bus, or I can ask it to sit in the back.)

We get to pick the parts of us that lead our lives. {Tweet it.} We get to pick_Tweet


Over To You:

So, what kind of mother do you want to be? What kind of sister/friend/community member/artist/healer/employer/employee/leader/person do you want to be? Tell me about it in the comments!


  • Bets

    Once again, your post is SO timely. I was in a downward spiral last night, thinking about how inadequate I felt in so many of my roles — Mother, Daughter, Wife, Employer, Employee (yes, both!), Friend. When there is so much room for improvement in so many areas of my life, I start to feel really down about myself.

    Do I feel better knowing that I have a choice of how to be? Yes and no. Complaining about it doesn’t help, that’s for certain. But knowing I have full control can feel overwhelming instead of empowering.

    I woke this morning reminding myself that my first priority is to fill my own cup first. I must do the things that make me whole and happy, and then I can address all of these other things. That is my one and only goal for the day. Today. One day at a time.

    • Kate Northrup

      I’m so glad that the timing of this is perfect for you Bets! Filling your cup is always a great place to start!

    • Randah

      I love how you said to fill our cups first. I always think of doing the most important things first on our top to do. but then, the most productive days I’ve had are the ones where i start the day with a cappucino and a croissant in a coffee shop (to see other people pass by). for some reason I didn’t know, I thought that those were my lazy days, the ones where i didn’t have to go to work right away. but then now that I think about it, those were the days that I’ve accomplished the most on all levels, work and family.

      raise your cup Bets :) thanks

  • Kim

    At this point in my life, with 3 adult children (18, 21, 25).. I want to be the mother that let’s go. I was a stay at home mom, and my kids were my whole life. No.. I am trying to figure out how to be me again. I am trying so hard to let them go.

    I also want to be the mom that my kids are proud of. I have been separated/divorced from their father for 9 years and I have grown so much as a person. I just hope that they will be proud of me some day.

    To my friends, I want to be that ray of sunshine in their lives. The crazy friend who laughs off mistakes, and brings joy to their lives. Who can listen and not judge.

  • I just love this so much! I’ve been thinking a lot about this and have started to work on getting really clear who I want to be – those qualities that I want to lead me and what I do – creative, authentic and positive. I’ve been setting daily intentions to step into these qualities and it’s really made a difference!

    Perfect post at the perfect time for me! Thanks, Kate!

  • Selena

    I couldn’t agree more! I thought I would be more relaxed as a new mom of twins girls. I honestly thought maternity leave would consist of playing with the babies and feeding while watching netfliks. ;) I want to not get overwhelmed so easily and not take it persoanlly when my girls cry or beat myself up because I may not be bonding with them enough. I want to be more confident when taking care of them alone and trust I’m having this experience because I can handle it. I also want to forgive myself that I’m not directly breastfeeding. I’m exclusively pumping because they are not great latchers and I run out of time BF’ing both and then having time to empty out and take care of myself before the next feeding. They are getting the milk and that’s what matters. I also want to feel like a mom who is grounded and protected by the divine. I got mastists early on and still releasing some anger that I didn’t know how to take care of myself. Anyway, I feel like I’m going on and on. You know what I mean. Don’t even have to say it. Thanks for posting this blog and helping me feel not so alone in this journey to become a mom I choose. :) xo

    • Kate Northrup

      Selena – the fact that you have twins makes you a super hero right from the get go. Rock on. And the fact that you’re feeding them breastmilk and that you’re sticking with pumping is a gargantuan feet. You deserve a huge congratulations. You’re doing great. I’m right in here in the trenches with you lady. Keep rocking it mama!

  • Yes! So powerful is that realization, right? I love your approach of deciding who gets to “drive the bus” and who doesn’t.

    The qualities that are important to me that I’d like to manifest in my life as a mother, entrepreneur, friend, healer, and lover are joyful exuberance, patient attentiveness, steadfast devotion, and intuitive pragmatism!

    What a lovely blog, Kate!

    • Kate Northrup

      Exuberance – what a great word! I love the qualities you’re consciously bringing in to who you are.

  • Caroline


    You must get yourself a copy of the One Minute Mother, certainly by the time Penelope is 2/3, if you’re feeling anxious now.

    I believe we are here to assist our children to becoming independent, respectful, loving, confident adults. We do not own them.

    If you are anxious they become anxious! That is not what you want.

    This poem definitely helped me

    If Children live with …

    Criticism they learn to Condemn
    Hostility they learn to Fight
    Fear they learn to be Apprehensive
    Pity they learn to feel Sorry for themselves
    Ridicule they learn to be Shy
    Jealousy they learn to feel Envy
    Shame they learn to feel Guilty
    Tolerance they learn to be Patient
    Encouragement they learn to be Confident
    Praise they learn to Appreciate
    Acceptance they learn to Love
    Fairness they learn Justice
    Security they learn to have Faith
    Sharing they learn Generosity
    Kindness & Consideration they learn Respect
    Approval they learn to Like Themselves
    Acceptance & Friendliness they learn to …
    Find love in the world.

  • Beautiful….simply beautiful. My babies are grown. I made the best choices I could at the time. I am eternally grateful for the awareness I have gained and for the opportunity to make even better choices now. Sending you blessing of pure light & love.

  • Regina

    I choose to be a woman who embodies love, joy, passion, and compassion in my work and in my life. I choose to have faith in myself and in the goodness of God and the universe no matter what is going on.

  • Ragnhild

    My experience, having four children is that this question is ever lasting relevant. And it almost becomes more and more vital to explore. Because, I believe, we bring our own experience from childhood into our own motherhood, and it’s not done in a day (or a year) to change the patterns that sometimes are not even visible…
    It can be hard, tuff, surprising, interesting and fascinating at the same time.

    • Kate Northrup

      It is such intense stuff Ragnhild – you’re right! I have had so much childhood stuff come up and P is only 6 months old! It is indeed a question I’ll keep asking myself.

  • Simple but profound wisdom in your article, Kate! I love that you are having this awareness now, rather than twenty years down the road. Of course, what better role model than your mother?! My “kids” are now 29 and 34. Gulp! How did that happen? I think so much plays into what/how we are. In Ayurvedic terms, I’m very Vata, so there was lots and lots of fear and anxiety. Meditation put an end to that, but I didn’t come to it until my late 50s, so my children didn’t benefit from it. And I’m a Sagittarius, so there’s a lot of pull for freedom and individuality. That was a challenge. I was (am) loving and nurturing, but always wanting to instill a sense of independence in my children, because it was so much a part of who I was/am. Interestingly, my daughter was always drawn to the sweet doting teacher or neighbor. Both of my children were adopted as infants and looking back, I think subconsciously, my daughter could never get enough mothering. Oh, I could go on and on! We are all so different – parents and children. It’s important that we recognize that. Enjoy the ride, Kate. Your little Penelope is blessed to have such an enlightened mother (and grandmother). xo

    • Kate Northrup

      Thank you for your comment Barbara. I think your kids have benefited from your meditation…you’ve never stopped being their mother and that calm and wisdom never stops being passed down, even if they don’t live with you anymore!

  • Hi Kate: I began listening to your mom’s radio program, Flourish, because of the qualities you mention. Her sense of calm, her intution, and her strength. I was a very anxious mother, which I learned from my own mom. I needed a female role model who could show me how to live better.

    Thanks to your mom, and other role models I have never met, I have been able to become the woman I dreamed of being. My anxiety has lessened. I have learned to trust my gut. I have found my courage. And I am beginning to acknowledge my power.

    I’m living proof that you can become exactly who you want to become. And then, of course, realize that it is who you really were all along.


    • Kate Northrup

      Ah – so good Elisabeth! I’m so happy that my mom and others have been role models for you to remind you who you really are!

  • I love this blog post! I love the mother that I was when my babies were young as well the mother I have become to my two sons ages 22 and 14. I followed my instinct to raise my boys through attachment parenting and this was when it was not well known or the “cool” thing to do. Everyday is a gift and I am always working on being present and grateful for every moment I have with my sons. Thank you for sharing.

  • Looking forward to being whatever type of mother I need to be in the moment, and remembering to honor the current space I am in. One thing that pregnancy is teaching me is that so much is out of my hands, and staying appreciative and present is the magic juice. It’s a constant + creative path to be present, but it always leads me to a place of deep compassion in the end!

    • Kate Northrup

      Yes – staying present and appreciative in the moment. That’s where it’s at Rose! Congratulations and blessing on this magical journey you’ve begun!

  • Monika

    Yes, thank you for this. Sometimes it seems so hard to be what we want to be! But what you said reminded me of a quote from Emma Watson which I really love: I am not what happened to me I am who I chose to be. (or very similar!).

    best regards

  • Kate,
    Once again, you have shared from the depth of your authentic heart. Thank you! You are a beautiful mother in mind, body, and spirit.

    As a mother of 2 adult children and several grandchildren, I am feeling that I have always done the best I could at the time. What kind of mother do I want to be now? I want to continue to be unconditionally loving. I want to always remember that my children are unique and get to live their lives with their vision and dreams, not mine. I want to always remember that they are not responsible for my happiness.

    • Kate Northrup

      Thank you Susan! And what a gift to know that your children are not responsible for your happiness. What a gift to them and to yourself!

  • Hello Kate and Happy Day to you. I would like to make a very important statement:
    Baby Penelope CHOSE her parents. Baby Penelope chose you and Mike to be her mom and dad. So it is all a Magical Deliberate Co-Creation. As to your question: What kind of coach do I want to be? I choose to live in my highest excitement in every moment which I understand is the path of least resistance for me to be the highest expression of who I really am. I have come to understand that if we all follow our bliss a little at a time more and more, we really begin to start living our own version of the lives we truly desire. For me this is a life of Awe, wonder and beauty which I feel so very blessed for. I stand in appreciation of the work you do. I stand in appreciation for the example you are to live your best version of you. I stand in appreciation of your own alignment which is the greatest gift you can give to everyone around you, esp. Baby Penelope. My highest Source within, Salutes Yours. Much Love and Blessings, Nicky

    • Kate Northrup

      Thank you Nicky – I completely agree that we choose our parents. And it’s so helpful to be reminded that P chose us so I can’t screw it up! What a relief. And your statement that following our bliss a little at a time leads to living the lives we truly desire is so true. Well said!

  • Julie McNulty

    I am considering going to yoga teacher training, and I want to be the BEST yoga teacher! If I’m going to do this, I want people to love my classes and praise me! I want to be the kind of teacher the inspires her students, and makes the students want to keep coming back!!!

  • Alison

    Kate, I think you are truly onto something. Today I was complaining in my head about my life, and then I realized, I can be happy with my life and still be trying to improve. I can choose how I feel about where I am and still want to try new things. I can still be able to make a life without having to hate where I am right now. How you do you want to be? BE HER! Drive your life with the person you want to be! Love this so much!

  • Oh, kate, beautiful question. So.. I want to be the mom who forgives herself and gives herself a new chance every single day. Why? Because that’s in the end what I want to teach my daughter – Self love and forgiveness. Because we’re all silly at times, do stupid stuff, or simply suffer from the horrible demons that rear their head in the time after birthing when we’re so vulnerable. We’ll able to handle any of these, as long as we give ourselves a chance to act differently. To try again. To lovingly hold ourselves when we stumble and fall. XO!

    • Kate Northrup

      Amen. Forgive yourself and give yourself new chances so that your daughter learns to do the same. That’s so beautiful.

  • Stacy

    I have a five month old baby girl. I love hearing your stories about motherhood and your little one. It’s a crazy journey isn’t it?! Learning how you want to be a mother?! My daughter has taken over my heart in a way I didn’t know was possible. I just want to be there with her – in the present moment. I also want to do what feels right for her, for me and our life together and trust that what feels right to me will take us on the right path. <3

    • Kate Northrup

      Being right there with her in the present moment. Good one. That’s what I want too. Sometimes easier said than done but I’m always recalibrating back to this intention.

  • And now my two children are in their double digits I feel ever present in how I behave is what is shaping them as individuals. I wrote a book (which I wasn’t sure about sharing) on choosing and now I see your timely post and believe that the word choice is so powerful. For each individual as well as the family as a whole.
    Thank you Kate for sharing your thoughts, you are a true inspiration.

  • Hi Kate
    You and all if us can take comfort in knowing you are not aline..millions have asked and agonized these same questions and values over beginning of time and motherhood. It will not let up…only change form and place as they grow up. My child is 40 and I still worry at times. So..settle in and enjoy every minute of the ride. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything!

  • Becky

    Kate, don’t beat yourself up about being too anxious. The downside to being relaxed can be too relaxed and careless, which can harm a delicate little creature like your daughter.

    I know what I am talking about. My mother always prided herself of not being a mother hen to me and my brother. But you know what? Some children need a mother hen. I definitely needed one and often felt neglected by my mother.

    It really depends on the kind of child you have and what needs it has, how you should be as a mom. My mother was very careless and neglecting, resulting in a fatal car accident of my 5 year old brother who would have needed better supervision. You can imagine that as a mother I would rather err on the cautious side then on being too careless.

  • Suzy

    Hi Kate,
    Thanks for your thought-provoking post. It’s always great to revisit our personal growth barometer, which can sometimes take a backseat to the busy life of a family where the children’s school, sports and social schedules take precedence. As a Mom of two active and incredibly great kids (under 10yrs of age), I am always striving to do better than I did yesterday. I have learned some valuable lessons throughout the years and have accepted that I am in no way a perfect Mom. I am however an optimist when it comes to parenting. I firmly believe, as you do, that we can be the type of parents we want to be.
    For me, that is the kind of Mom who:
    -Inspires my children to chase after their dreams, because anything is achievable if you really want it.
    – Encourages goals and challenges because wins are great but losses present important learning opportunities… it’s totally ok to lose sometimes.
    – Promotes individuality because being different is so much cooler than being like everyone else.
    – Pursues a life-long love of nature and respect for our planet. Let’s continue to walk barefoot in the grass and ground ourselves with Earth’s divine energy.
    – Instills in them an unshakeable self-confidence and radical self-love because they are unique and special in their own way.

    Finally, I want for them to know their Mom feels like the luckiest person alive to be their Mom.
    Love and light, Suzy

  • I want to graciously radiate and receive abundance in all areas of my life. I want to own and share my loving power. I want to help people heal and empower them with all natural tools for healthy development and self love. I want to help people reconnect to themselves, to others, to the earth and to source. To be a blessing. To be patient and loving and kind. To be fiercely and fully myself. To do my best and forgive all the rest.

    Thank you! Xoxo

  • I can so relate to all these worries. My milk actually dried up five months in with my daughter – first born. I think it was because I was so worried about everything. I was a lot better with my son; however, to this day I still worry about both of them. I am practicing surrounding them in white light when we are apart. I am consciously becoming less of a worrier and trying to be more of a supporter of their soul’s purpose, which involves trust. But you are WAY ahead of me learning this now – bravo!!

  • janine

    A softer mother.

    I’ve spent the last few days bawling. I cry until my lip quivers at any movie with a teenager, because my son is turning 17. I find myself craving days like yours when he was a baby and I was overwhelmed and busy with his every need. (Yes, Kate- you will miss it!)

    Then the most beautiful thing happened: I became enraged and annoyed at a young mother who talked to her baby incessantly, narrating every minute out loud to him with no pause for breath. Doesn’t she know she’s setting him up for neurosis?-I thought. She was a typical modern American woman- filling every space with nervous action and high pitched nurturing. Yes, she fit my judgment quite nicely. I wanted to punch her.

    Then I dropped down. Down between my hips. You know, Kate. I centered myself inside my own sacred portal where my son first took form. And I listened:

    “You talk too much, Janine. Soften. Give your son the space and quietude he needs”.

    Suddenly this annoying woman became my guru. My sister. Motherhood is the ultimate sorority. She helped me turn inward to that unimpeachable place where I trust myself and thrust myself into parenting anew. One day, one pleasure at a time….

    • Kate Northrup

      Oh my holy goodness. You are a wise one Janine! Your comment brought me to tears. Our teachers are everywhere if we’re willing to listen. Your son is one blessed guy to have you as a mama. Blessings to you beautiful lady!

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