It’s a loose, loose scenario for moms today. If we are all positive about motherhood, people think we are in denial or not admitting the hard parts of being a mom, if we complain about how hard it is, we seem disconnected to the beauty of being a mom and ungrateful for the blessing of having a child.
But I think the majority of us are stuck right in the middle. We know how awesome it is to be a mother. The love we feel for our children can often even take our breath away. But we also see it as super hard work. The never ending balancing act, the guilt of not doing the mommy thing better, the feelings of sheer exhaustion and of the disconnect from our spouse are conditions modern moms know all too well.
So why do we struggle? Why do we accepted our lives as stressed out, unfulfilled, frustrated and think this is all part of being a mom today? Because that is what I see many moms do (maybe you?)…suffer through life as a parent. What is being a frazzled mom doing for us? Is it making us better mothers, is it helping us show up like positive role models in our children’s lives, is it helping us make good decisions, is it helping us create a life of our own design? Nope….none of those.
This is how I see the problem….
In the absence of a clear sense of self, we have taken on a sort of societal mom identity. That identity is expected to look great, have aspirations outside the home, still be able to keep a lovely, immaculate home, be a continuously patient and loving mother, nurture our relationships with our partners and have fantastically close friendships with friends, oh and effortlessly find those hidden hours for us..a trip to the gym, a pedicure or massage. But on the flip side, we also expect balancing all of this to be HARD. One Joyful Mother Facebook follower, Amber, put it like this…
I think balancing it all is so hard. Balancing the things you have to do (keep kids fed, safe, clean, on schedule, get them to preschool/gymboree/music class/play dates, teach them things, play with them, be PRESENT with them!), the things you would like to do to make everyone’s life run better (clean the house, organize the house, cook healthier meals, redo your playroom to be more educational, read a book about positive discipline/mindful parenting and implement!), the things you would like to do for yourself (read a book for fun, go to the gym, get a haircut, spend time with adults, meditate, intellectually engage yourself somehow or even just relax) and of course continuing to cultivate a relationship with your spouse not to mention other family and friends. How do you fit it all into a 24 hour period (with a toddler clinging to your leg and a cranky preschooler) and how do you prioritize things that are all almost equally important because they mostly revolve around your children’s well-being.
Of course its hard! But, in our mind this is what we are striving for, this is what we think “success” is as a mother – doing it ALL. We compare ourselves with other mothers and even feel bad when we seem to not measure up to this overblown vision of mommy perfection. We somehow think “Susan” next door, because you may have caught her on a good day, is somehow doing a better job at mommyhood than you.
I bet many of you are sitting there thinking, but I want to be the best I can be, I want to excel at being a mom, it is important to me. Of course it is. It is important to me too! My point is that we must recognize what is not working and find another way. You see, when we create such unrealistic and unattainable (consciously or often unconsciously) expectations for ourselves, we set our self up for PURE disappointment. It is a straight shot, we may think we can get there, may hope, but it is never gonna fly. You are never going to be able to do it all. Why? Because those expectations were not created by you, they were created by society for you! So, let’s talk about how to get out of this mess.
It is all about Charting your own set of EXPECTATIONS! This is about being realistic. This is about choosing what is most important. Coming down from the clouds and recognizing that it isn’t about being this perfect image of a mother, or doing it all, it is about being the perfect version of YOU for the sake of you and your family. I do not believe that you should or could aspire to doing all on Amber’s list in a 24 hour time period – your kids certainly don’t want you to! And to think that you should is more about YOU and less about doing the best for your children. Charting your own set of expectations is about choosing a few areas that you wish to focus on, the areas that make your heart sing – both for yourself and for your family. When doing this exercise, the things that should NOT be on your list are anything you feel you should be doing. Cut those out!
Choosing your own set of expectations is meant to get you excited. It is meant to get rid of all the excess, unnecessary doings of your life, it is meant to help you prioritize your actions. It will eliminate stress and take the struggle out of parenting.
Let’s take Amber’s scenario again and set some achievable expectations for her!
I am organized and tapped into what my family needs. I instinctively know what is the most important things to focus on for my family and everything I need to care for my children’s basic needs and well being I take care of effortlessly. I trust myself. As I interact with them, I am conscious about being present with them, getting curious, talking and playing with them. We have such fun!
I make time each week to do one thing that will help make everyone’s life run better (including mine). Either clean the house, organize the house, find ideas for healthier meals, redo your playroom to be more educational or fun for the kids , read a book about positive discipline/mindful parenting and come up with some ways to implement the ideas.
I also make time each week for me! I will either read a book for fun, go to the gym, get a haircut, spend time with adults, meditate, intellectually engage myself somehow or even just relax.
And finally, I find at least one opportunity a week to cultivate my relationship with my spouse or other family or friends.
Finally, it is about belief in YOU and its about CHOICE. Your children don’t want you as a weakened, exhausted, shell of a mamma. They need you energized, feeling good, happy with your life. By choosing clear expectations for yourself, you see your successes, others around you see your successes and the balancing act turns in your one woman show, a celebration of life!
In my life, I don’t do it all. I refuse to stress. I believe life should be lead with ease, with effortlessness. I have given myself a break for not being perfect long ago and it allows me to be me. I don’t compare myself to others and this allows me to be spontaneous, to be playful, to be relaxed, to be present, to be filled with creativity or not. For me, getting clear about expectations helps connect the being of my life to the doings of my life.
What are your thoughts on this post? Does this seem easy or hard? If you think it is hard, what is hard about it?
p.s. Thanks to Amber Moore Brown for inspiring this post!