I remember sitting in my parent’s living room with my 9 month old on my lap. I was nauseated, tired and frazzled and my Dad said, ‘what’s going on with you?’.
I almost burst into tears when I blurted the news to them, ‘I’m pregnant and I’m exhausted!’.
I don’t remember much more about how they reacted to the news I was having another baby. But I know he laughed uncomfortably (we call him Mr.Diplomatic, pfffft), my Mom cooed, and I just sat in denial that I would soon have two kids 16 months apart.
Before Lenayah came I had hit a stride with Levi. We had a format for our days that made simple things, like showering and eating not-protein-bars for meals, very doable.
Then a second baby. All I had learned about parenting and momlife was turned upside down with this new tiny baby who was constantly crying.
In those early months with two under two, my sister and her toddler would sometimes come to stay with me for days that Conor worked. We would take turns rocking Lenayah in whatever fashion she preferred at the time, while the other kept the older two kids busy and fed.
But when Rachel was gone and Conor was working there was a very ‘Grey Gardens meets Raising Hope’ atmosphere in my house.
I know people are touting motivational quotes like ‘don’t just survive, rather thrive in motherhood’. No. I did no thriving. I would do whatever it took to survive those days and nights. Non-stop Netflix streaming, goldfish crackers laid out on the table for independent toddler grazing, me wearing whatever clean PJs I could find and lots of coffee and protein shakes while I welled up with exhaustion and anxiety being held hostage by a crying baby.
I felt like I couldn’t get anything done. Feeling unproductive for those ‘simple’ things just made me feel like I was failing at life. I even would Google ‘schedules and tips for life with two kids’ trying to find the secret to make it work.
Surely there were other women with two small kids who were sleeping longer than two-hour stretches, making regular dentist appointments, eating fresh vegetables. Possibly getting laundry folded! I knew they were there! They showed up in colourful squares on my phone with cute captions and top knots and they were refinishing furniture and drinking starbucks!
What was I doing wrong?
The same thing I’ve done wrong for much of my life.
Trying to make the situation something it’s not. Specifically – fighting this gritty season of motherhood. Trying to force my idea of perfect without stopping to appreciate that ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist on this side of Heaven.
All that time I spent searching for ‘the trick’ to making it all work. All the information I would seek out on finding balance. All the put together moms I would corner in the grocery store parking lot shaking them down for answers. I’ve found the same answer: there is no balance with young kids. There is no ‘routine’ you enact, then sit back, press play and let things flow seamlessly.
There are always more chores, events, crying kids in a day than there are hours, hands, and consolation waffles.
Over time I’d come to see this doesn’t mean I’m failing. It means that we aren’t meant to do it all, rather we are meant to make choices about how we spend our time and energies.
There is freedom in letting go of the notion of balance.
Hear me? FREEDOM.
Because then that means I can be the mom I am meant to be rather than aim to be the sum of all the other moms I compare myself to.
Because it isn’t a competition, and it isn’t realistic. We can’t measure ourselves by looking at all the things everyone is collectively doing with their day. We have to choose what we want our own day to be.
Maybe you are ready to let go of trying to be the sum of all mothers. Maybe you are looking at some choices too.
Are you the mom who wants to be out and about with your kids so maybe your house won’t be well tended to all the time? That’s awesome, your kids are out in the world learning and living.
Are you the mom who makes craftacular activities but you’re not into eating whole30 foods? Your kids are learning how to use their hands and live through the lens of creativity.
Do you leave your laundry in the basement til your kids ask you for their clean clothes cause they ran out? Look at these resourceful little problem solvers (…just go with it).
Or maybe you took an extra ten minutes for yourself to get ready and your kids watched Elmo? They are seeing the importance of caring for yourself, as well as others, and Elmo is always a good idea.
I had three kids in three and a half years and it came with a crash course in routine disruption, relationship management, and messy floors. Reflecting on these early years with babies I feel that we are not meant to ‘do it all’ and that motherhood cannot look the same for every mom. I believe we are meant to find balance within our own values and let our mothering flow from a deeper place of the things we are passionate about rather than the guilt of activities, chores, and images we compare ourselves to.
In my experience (and I am constantly working on this)….when I stop fighting where I am at in motherhood and hounding life for perfect balance, I stop being a Mom Martyr. I give myself (and my family) permission to enjoy imperfect, and permission to enjoy motherhood for what it IS rather than what I thought it should be.
This post is coming to you from your nerdy girlfriend wearing post-maternity shorts, lipstick, with all the lunch dishes surrounding me.