A few years ago, while I was pregnant with baby number four, a fellow mom sent me a message asking for advice. “You seem to have it all together,” she wrote. “I was hoping you could share some tips.” I cringed and laughed simultaneously as I read her words. Yeah right, I thought. If she only knew how wrong she was.
At the time, we were in the process of a move from Texas to Kentucky. My husband was thousands of miles away, trying to sell our house, while pregnant me and our three rambunctious boys were living with my parents. I love sharing our adventures on social media and pride myself on "keeping it real," but suddenly I questioned how authentic I was actually being. Sure, what people post online is such a small portion of their everyday reality, but I worried that I was sending the wrong message.
I most certainly did not feel like I had it all together.
In the moment, life can seem extremely overwhelming. As a mom, sometimes I find the emotions of this ride exhausting. One minute, I’m praying for bedtime so the tantrums from my overtired 2-year-old who refused to nap will cease; and the next minute I’m snuggling him close, breathing him in and begging him not to grow up.
Balance, by definition, is “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.” When thinking of the load we carry as moms, it seems that in fact, we already do a great job of balancing life in all its complexity—we just don’t give ourselves enough credit. We navigate busy schedules, clean messes and tackle household duties all while nurturing small humans and shepherding their hearts on a daily basis. We don’t do it for the thank-yous or expect much in return. We do it because all those years ago we prayed that one day we would be blessed with the most wonderful title of Mom.
To the moms who are rocking it one minute and feel like they are failing the next, I offer this advice:
1. Allow yourself some grace. Every so often, I look around at the day-old dishes collecting in the sink and the toys scattered from one corner to the next and think with a sigh: It's okay, I'm doing it. It may not be pretty but I'm doing it. The kids are not going to remember a messy house; they will remember the fun they had in it. They won’t remember the yelling; they’ll remember the snuggles. They won’t remember how stressful it was to get out the door for baseball on time, only that you were in the stands cheering them on.
2. Do not compare yourself to other moms. It’s so easy to get caught up in the perception of another mom’s life. The reality is, the one who appears to have it all together is most likely just as frazzled in this season of life as you may be. The grass most definitely is not always greener. We all have struggles that others know nothing about.
3. Take care of yourself. It may not always be possible to “sleep while the baby is sleeping” but I've always felt that the real meaning of that phrase is that you will be a better caregiver if you also care for yourself. You don’t always have to ditch the kids to do it, either—fix a healthy smoothie for everyone to start the day. Go for a family walk. Read a book at night rather than scanning Instagram for an hour. Find something you are passionate about—writing? yoga? volunteering?—and carve out time to focus on that each week. It’s not being selfish. When you feel happy, your kids will feel the positive impact as well.
4. Communicate and ask for help. When it all feels like too much and the weight of motherhood begins to take a toll on your mind and body, ask for help. Find a babysitter and go have a kid-free lunch with a friend. Vent to your husband. Call your mom and cry. Schedule recurring appointments with a counselor. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. I believe it is quite the opposite, actually. There is a certain strength in having the self-awareness and humility to admit when you simply cannot do it alone. There is a reason they say it takes a village to raise a child.
5. Focus on gratitude. Rather than starting your morning with a sense of dread for the many tasks you’ll have to shuffle that day, shift your mind to think of all you are grateful for. This is a powerful way to change your perspective and be more positive. Instead of saying, “I have to,” try saying, “I get to.” It may seem small, but that one change can be very powerful. “A moment of gratitude makes a difference in your attitude.” (Bruce Wilkinson)
As each day draws to a close, no matter how off balance and out of whack things may seem, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you made it through once again, upright and steady.