This morning, as I sit down and try and figure out my thoughts on this topic I couldn’t help but think of ole Merle and one of his bests, “Mama tried”. As women, we are innately wired to care so deeply and to try so hard in everything and with everything.. sometimes to the point of self destruction. We know that we don’t have control over the outcome of our children’s lives but if we are being honest, don’t we try to?
Feeling responsible for the lives of others is big. Especially with societal pressure right now–
Feed them healthy well-balanced meals but don’t restrict their diets or they will have food complexes, make sure they don’t get too much screen time but don’t shelter them from the world, expose them to activities that challenge them but let them be kids, let their personalities come out but discipline your children! Make sure their nap mats are clean for school, every doctor’s appointment is in the planner, that all the school fees are paid, and crap your shoes don’t fit and you don’t have any clean shorts to wear (literally.. Bub wore his sister’s shorts to school last week).
Not to mention this doesn’t even touch on just the day to day keeping them alive stuff.
As a society we have so much pressure to do all and be all and it seems that motherhood is spotlighted in this mentality. The added natural “want” of women to be able to do these things makes that pressure unreal. I’ve been there. Killing myself to wear all of the hats and sucking joy out of my days to get it all done. The worst part is that in trying to do all of those things perfectly I let everyone down along the way, including myself, and I still see friends trapped there all the time.
I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and we were talking about momming and balance and just how darn hard it all is. She talked about how her heart was tired. How she worried about things that happened with her kiddos from years before-how she knew she needed time for herself but couldn’t prioritize the time to get away. In our effort to be all of these things and to spend so much energy and worry in trying to get it right-How often are you the last thing to put any attention to? How often do you eat the crusts from the peanut butter and jelly for dinner while preparing lunches for the next day and getting that last load of laundry in after working or caring for children all day?
In trying so hard for everyone else, we often completely drop the ball when it comes to our own care and I’ve found that the two are deeply connected. Momming well and self care.
As someone that has wrestled with seeking the tight grip of control for a long time, I have really gotten to a place in my life where I have learned a few things that have allowed me start to let go of that side of me. I’ll spare you the details but trust me when I say I was a complete neurotic crazy person with my first born (everything everyone tells you about the whole second child thing is 100% true by the way).
When my son was born just 21 months after my daughter- it was one of the hardest times in my life. He had some (not super serious but still..) medical issues, skin issues, and I also had a very young daughter at home that needed me. My husband needed me. My family needed me. My students at school needed me. My heart ached as all the spinning plates fell to the floor and I failed. I cried all the time. But what a darn blessing that time was. I mean, to forcibly have to release control for the sake of my sanity is one of the things I look back on that has really contributed to a significant change in my heart.
I don’t believe you forcibly have to get there though. I believe you can intentionally add a lot of value to your days and joy to your life by doing a few simple things and (here’s the key) commit to doing them consistently.
I don’t have to tell you, that you absolutely do not have control over what happens to your children. You can do everything within your power to be the best parent in the world and at the end of the day, there is someone who is much more equipped than we are that has control (Can I get a hallelujah?) So let’s start living with that truth! Let’s start letting some of that fun sucking stuff go. Let’s stop driving ourselves crazy worrying over perceived hypothetical outcomes. Let’s leave what we don’t have mental head space for at the door. Let’s start saying “no” to the things in our lives that are not adding and saying “yes” to the things that are.
Here are some things that I have implemented consistently over the last several months that have hugely changed me. Take what works for you and leave what doesn’t but let’s have this conversation sister!
Pick what deserves your energy and what doesn’t .
Sit down with a pen and write down what brings you joy both within and outside of your family. What grounds your heart or makes you excited? What’s important to you? Eating healthy is important to you? Great! Spend some time there. But don’t spend any energy feeling guilty for a lack luster meal prep or feeding your kids popcorn and cheese sticks for dinner when it happens (because it will). If something isn’t your thing don’t allow it to take energy trying to make it your thing. I think we often try to fit certain molds that aren’t always meant for us. This doesn’t mean you can’t change-I think you can pick up tomorrow and decide that a completely different set of behaviors and decisions suits you than what today’s did. The point is to do a little soul searching and figure out what’s important to you. What are some things that give you life that you aren’t currently doing as well? You can’t pour from an empty cup, find what fills yours.
Get use to adjusting.
You’ve got to let go of that rigidity sister. This was a killer for me, and still is if I’m not in a good place. Balance week to week will be different (heck, sometimes day to day or hour to hour) but the key here is to spend some time identifying the things that bring you joy and being able to incorporate them into your day no mater how crazy it gets. For me, that’s time with Jesus and moving my body. The best thing I’ve done in the last few months is incorporate both of these into my morning routine. I’m not a go with the flow person at all but I’ve learned that it’s okay and I no longer try to be that kind of person. In the midst of a crazy day though, knowing little things that can ground me and make me feel less stressed (like a quick prayer when I get unsettled or a walk) really help me stay here on earth and away from the looming land of anxiousness.
Schedule some time for yourself
Find a hobby/purposeful activity that’s just for you. I mean outside of the day to day little things. Something that’s just yours. This is going to look different for everyone. For me, the time that I spend on Beautycounter is really “me” time. Coincidentally (or not so much I should say) I decided to join the mission pretty close to that really hard time in my life after I had baby #2. I really feel like this has been pivotal in pushing me to take time for myself. I love having something that gives me opportunities to connect with women (another life-giver for me), where I can set goals, work toward something and then be able to see visible progress and impact. If you have an opportunity that you know will add to your life- say yes.
You know your personality as well. If being around other people gives you energy-call up that friend that you have been meaning to get together with! If being alone restores your energy, get a good book and head to the library! But schedule it. Mark it in your planner, tell your husband about it, whatever will help you keep that boundary around the time you have.
Say “No” and give yourself grace to do so
After you identify those things you have to protect them and that means letting other things take a back seat. Does this mean that I am a little more forgetful about nap mats than I was before? Absolutely. Does this mean that I no longer sign up to help with that school club or bring homemade cookies to the Christmas party? Absolutely. But this also means that that time I would have overextended myself to get that one more thing done or stayed up late in the kitchen making that batch of cookies was spent enjoying time with my family.
Speaking of cookies. Eat that whole cookie, like the yummy delicious over-priced cookie (or insert whatever is your thing) and don’t share it with your kids.
Take some designated time away from social media
I love social media for so many reasons. I love that it allows you to connect with people and keep up with their lives. However, it can often keep us from being able to fully connect with the people right in front of us. If you’re great about this then praise to you but this is something I struggle with. If you follow me on social media then you know I’ve had to set boundaries so I can be present with my kids. What I’ve found is if I check it while I’m with my family then my mind is thinking about what my response will be to that last conversation while my kid’s are playing and they’ll cry for me or want me to watch them do something silly and I lose my patience. You cannot be in two places at once and this is for sure a form of that for me. I started making social media shutdowns part of my daily routine and I’ve seen a huge shift. The first bit will make you feel a little anxious but then after a few hours or a day without it, it starts to feel really freeing. Especially when you realize that not much has changed since your last logon.
If you’re only going to take away one thing- let it be this: If you are going to “try” for something in an area in your life, try for you. Show up for you. Our kid’s need to see us showing up for ourselves. They need to see that prioritizing their own well being is important and that comes from you. They need to see us enjoying this life-not scheduling and stressing over it. In that they also need to see us trying and failing. For me, it’s about paying attention to the tid bit habits over time that can literally change your entire life and giving yourself grace in the process. You deserve it mama. Your family deserves it. Your past, present, and future self deserves it too.