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Pleasure in Motherhood

If you identify as a mother, ask yourself this: When was the last time you thought about pleasure? Specifically, when is the last time you thought about YOUR pleasure? Not what might be pleasurable for a partner, not what your kids might enjoy, not even what might make your team at work excited or happy. When was the last time you focused on what is pleasurable only for you?

The idea of doing something pleasurable just for the sake of feeling good disappears from the list of priorities when we become parents- and some of us may have been raised to believe that engaging in pleasurable activities is frivolous or is simply the behavior of

someone that doesn’t take life seriously.

What if prioritizing YOUR pleasure is the first step to a better outlook on life, less stress, and more connection with yourself and others?

Moms always work hard

In my practice, I work with mothers that are navigating parenting, city living, burnout and professional ups and downs while trying to keep their relationships healthy and their kids safe. Some clients are managing depression or anxiety, parenting children with developmental differences or mental health difficulties and/or caregiving for older adults in their lives. They are stretched so thin that they could break at any moment. They don’t come to therapy with the goal of making their pleasure a priority- they come for help keeping their heads above water.

It's not hard to see why. Women in this society are taught from birth that our reason for being is to care for others. This idea is ingrained in men and women alike; our culture hails the white man as supreme, and the written and unwritten rules and messages passed down to girls and women over time reinforce that being “good” in this life means putting others’ needs before our own.

The expectations of women are never-ending. Everyone’s needs take priority in our lives, and we lose our sense of self. This is easy to do in a culture that celebrates the values of selflessness and self-sacrifice in women. Daring to choose ourselves over others- even once in a while! - makes us selfish, self-centered, guilty- descriptors women use about themselves in my office. Being selfish feels worse than being burned out, overwhelmed, depressed, anxious or rageful. Women are afraid to step out of the role that has been prescribed for them, even if it’s killing them.  

Enter: Pleasure

Adding big and little moments of pleasure back into our day-to-day lives brings us back to ourselves. In the fun, the excitement, the peace, the connection, the dopamine hit, we nurture ourselves and our spirit. By centering ourselves in our lives, life becomes more joyful and caring for others can become less challenging because we've met our needs before trying to meet others'.


Here are some obvious- and not so obvious- types of pleasure you can make more time for in your life.

  • More sexual pleasure. Alone, with a partner, and/or in any combination you desire. Make time for thinking and doing research (reading, watching, listening) to help you get clear about what turns you on and tell the people in your life what you want and need.

  • More time to just be, without expectations, a schedule, or a plan. How often do you leave the house- for an hour, for an afternoon, for the day - with absolutely nothing on the agenda but doing what you want to do? How can you give yourself permission to ask for help from the people around you to make this happen?

Laughing with friends
  • More time alone or with people you care about that are NOT your family members.

  • More activities- alone or with others- that you choose for no other reason except that they light you up.

  • More sensual pleasure. Sensual simply means physically pleasing through the use of your five senses. Sensual pleasure doesn’t have to be connected to sex, although it can be. Some examples include:

    • Self-soothe with a light, “velvet touch” on your arms or your body or get or give a massage- not because you need it, but because it feels good. Wear pajamas that are soft, silky, etc.- whatever feels good to you. Sleep naked if that feels better! Cover yourself with soft blankets when you watch TV, wear the softest robe you can find. Prioritize coziness, whatever that means for you.

    • Surround yourself with things YOU see as beautiful or that evoke a specific feeling in you, from the colors or art on your bedroom wall to the keychain you carry and see 10x a day.

    • Burn candles with scents you love for no specific reason. Seek out smells that you enjoy- the flowers blooming in the trees, the cut grass in the park, the campfire burning. Take a moment to allow the scents to wash over you- it may bring up memories or become part of a new one that is forming.

    • Play music that pleases you in any way- soft, loud, aggressive, gentle, words, no words, even silence. Sing, dance, move your body or sit and take the song in. Listen to podcasts or audiobooks for pleasure, NOT to learn something!

    • Eat foods that you enjoy, that offer a texture or a taste that feels exciting and makes you pay attention. Cook or order out the things that you enjoy, not that everyone will eat.

Mother kayaking
  • More of what YOU KNOW makes you feel good. Whatever it is, make time for it. If you're not sure what makes you feel good, take time to explore and experiment. Starting a family changes us and many times the things we enjoyed in the past are different than the things we might enjoy now now.

Do you need help prioritizing your pleasure in your life? In my practice, I help women get clear about what they want and support them as they build the courage to live more balanced, connected, joyful lives.

Ready to get started? Contact me today!

Michelle Deely Burned Out Moms in California

Michelle Deely, MFT specializes in helping burned out moms find relief. Michelle offers in-person therapy in San Francisco and online therapy to clients throughout California.

Michelle Deely LMFT Burned Out Moms California


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