She describes how during moments of peace and contentment, a voice in their head presents horrifying possibilities regarding their children's well-being.
There are moments when everything is actually fine, the world isn't falling apart, your skin looks perfect, you got your favorite drink in your hand, the weather is a hug from heaven and your mind is sitting still. Just then, a voice hits your head with the most horrifying possibilities that could occur to your children. You are filled with anxiety and stress. You are used to this protective intuition and would rather go to your children than risk it all and enjoy your peaceful moment.
TikTok user @mami.onami describes this as self-sabotaging behavior and makes us aware of hitting the "upper limit." This mom is reaching out to parents to explain that the constant worry and fear that moms seem to be plagued with is not intrusive thinking but rather their brain's inability to feel relaxed, referring to it as an "upper limit problem."
She says in a viral video, "You know when you have a quiet moment to yourself, the kids are down at the beach with their dad, you're eating some ceviche, enjoying the nice weather and a little voice goes on in your head and says, 'Yeah, your son's probably drowning right now.'? That's not your intuition. That's your upper limit problem."
She continued, "It's something you use to sabotage yourself when you're feeling too much joy and you can't handle it. When you recognize something's an upper limit problem, you can be like, 'Oh, that's what I'm using here.' When you don't know what it is, you think it's your intuition, running down to the beach and immersing yourself back in the trenches of motherhood. Don't do that. It's not a sign. It's not going to come true. It's an upper-limit problem because you were having a good time."
Several mothers on TikTok related to the problem of never being able to relax. "It has gotten so bad that I cannot even sleep!!" shared @lklaw410. "The scariest part is really thinking it’s a gut feeling or your intuition but it’s not. So scary," commented @coltersmama. "Yessss everyone always says to trust your Mom intuition. But my mom 'intuition' is always telling me something horrible is happening," wrote @kiraaddison. "Literally before u even finished talking about ur kid at the beach I was like 'I would be scared they’re drowning,'" added @elchupacabra3.
Gay Hendricks, a psychologist, coined the phrase "upper-limit" problem in his book The Big Leap. It is a defense mechanism that our brain uses as a form of self-sabotage and it is the brain's subconscious way of ensuring that we stay within our "safe zone." So, many mothers are programmed to always be on the verge of exhaustion, with little support, and basically living in survival mode.
Moms frequently believe that they function better in the midst of chaos than when they take the time to enjoy life. This is the maximum. It does not feel natural to "have it all" and be content at the moment. As a result, instead of enjoying it, anxious thoughts and paranoia take hold. In a subsequent video, she responded, explaining that knowing yourself is a great help in distinguishing between a gut feeling and an upper-limit problem.
"So the first thing you want to check is how is it making you feel. If it's making you feel afraid and nervous, that's not coming from your intuition. If it's talking really, really loud, and then it switches off. it's not your intuition," she explains. Some attribute the upper limit problem to feelings of shame or fear; however, the most common reason, particularly for mothers, is that they have been programmed to believe that life and motherhood must be filled with hardship and suffering. The ever-present "mom guilt" could also be a factor in this type of thinking.
Moms are "supposed" to be these selfless, all-giving creatures who live for their families, so when they get the chance to enjoy some alone time, get out of the house, and feel happiness outside of being a mom, it contradicts their internal belief that we don't deserve to feel that joy.