Author, Entrepreneur & Cancer Survivor Heather Chauvin Shares Her ‘Dying To Be A Good Mother’ Story

The notion of “Dying to be a good mother” is a familiar refrain to many mothers worldwide. Especially now with the impact of COVID-19 laying bare the systemic inequalities that exist for mothers and women, there is a need to completely reset the cultural narrative when it comes to expectations placed on motherhood, and how mothers empower themselves beyond the narrow status quo.

For author, entrepreneur and survivor Heather Chauvin, her story of “dying to be a good mother” was almost literal. In her new book ‘Dying To Be a Good Mother’, released on International Women’s Day for a timely conversation, Heather doesn’t hold back with details about becoming a single teen mom at 18, living in poverty, starting a business from scratch after eventually having two more kids, being diagnosed with a late stage cancer and realizing that the way she was living her life nearly led her directly to death’s door. Something had to profoundly shift, and the journey she went on is nothing short of inspiring, eye-opening, but also affirming to so many parents who recognize themselves in the constant burnout she describes.

We had the opportunity to chat with the author, who also hosts the Mom Is In Control podcast, who spoke about challenging limited beliefs, why women need to stop thinking their are selfish to focus on their own needs first, and doing the work to go from “survival mode” to thriving.

First up, congrats on the release of your new book! How does it feel to have your story out there for the masses?

It feels like a relief. Something I’ve desired for so long – having the courage to tell your story, the journey to become who you need to become to put this out. It was a lot of intentional effort, I’m grateful. She (the book) is out there now, doing her thing. 

It was released on March 8, International Women’s Day, and given the focus on how COVID has impacted mothers especially, why was it important for you to share your story now? 

When COVID hit last year it felt like déjà vu, I kept feeling like I’ve been here before. Dying To Be A Good Mother is my journey back to myself and the life I wanted when I had to fight to survive. I had to make a conscious daily (sometimes moment by moment) choice to feel alive. Now more than any other time – I think women will understand this need and desire. Culturally we were surviving before, COVID just put a light on how unsustainable women’s lives truly are. This book shows you how to turn it around.  

There are so many women who can relate to the unrealistic ideals placed on motherhood, where we are almost expected to die in order to seek approval from society. Why do you want to change this harmful narrative?

When everyone around you is drowning the last thing they need is someone to join in. It logically doesn’t make sense to ‘kill’ off parts of yourself to meet other people’s expectations of who they think you should be (your needs/dreams/desires etc…). Truly the only people who are going to change these unrealistic ideals are women themselves. When you hold the boundary, stand firm, repeat “thank you but I do not have the capacity for this right now” your life will change before your eyes. 

Your mother did the best she could, now it’s your turn to continue to be the change you want to see for our children. 

You talk about literally almost dying, being diagnosed with cancer, and how that became a turning point in your life. What do you think it will take for our culture in general to stop looking at mothers who focus on themselves as “selfish”?

For women to stop looking at themselves as selfish, bad for considering their needs and to catch themselves when judging other women for doing the same. 

The chapter about becoming a mom for the first time at 18 is such a compelling read, and you were so open and vulnerable about it. With so much stigma around teen moms, what kind of changes do you think we need to see to push back on that?

While pregnant I read a book called You Look Too Young to Be a Mom by Deborah Davis. It was gifted to me from a friend. This book was filled with success stories of teen moms. It gave me life and hope. I held onto that belief that change was possible and realized very quickly not everyone held the same belief. If you want to see any kind of change we need to start having compassion instead of judgment towards anyone we meet. Please don’t purposely put themselves in those situations, they know judgment is coming. Compassion and hope go along way. 

How has your own transformation and healing impacted the lives of your children?

I don’t think I will ever fully understand how to answer this question because motherhood has forced me to heal. It was the thing that cracked me open before cancer. Cancer was just one part of the story. Without my children I don’t think I would have ever been forced to start my healing journey. Motherhood forced me to look at my own childhood wounds and healing. Cancer forced me to look at cultural wounds and healing. 

Mental health has certainly been talked about more because of the impact of COVID, but mothers have been suffering in silence for too long. How can we break down the stigma that exists around mental health and motherhood?

By having the courage to tell our own stories. Stories heal. Every time I use examples from my own life and say ‘me too’ it’s no longer an us vs. them. We are in this together. We need to stop pretending we aren’t human. 

Throughout your book you also offer reflection points for the reader. Why did you choose to include this and what do you hope they will think about in their own life?

It’s easy to be inspired by someone else while reading their story. My hope is that women see themselves in my story and reflect how they can create changes in their own lives. 

Why do you think it is important for more mothers to share their stories and not play into the stigmas and fears placed on them by others?

Stories heal and together this is how women are going to change the conversation. 

Your goal is to free women from “survival mode” and see them shift into a position of thriving. What are some ways you empower them to do this?

Identify the energy leaks in their lives. Make a list of all the things that aren’t working, that suck the life out of you. Make your “wouldn’t it be nice” list – this is all the things you ‘wish’ you could do. Now give yourself permission to feel alive, to feel good. Start filling those leaks. Easier said than done, I know. But your life depends on it. 

Finally, what makes you a powerful woman?

I never considered myself a powerful woman. I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Determination to continuously ask myself “How good can it get?” Determination to declutter the invisible expectations I put on myself. The respect I’ve gained for life, my health and how I’m treated. And having a deep sense of hope that change is happening because I’m willing to look at what most avoid feeling. 

You can purchase a copy of ‘Dying To Be A Good Mother’ HERE.

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