I’ve been quiet on here and more generally, writing less for good reason. I birthed a beautiful, healthy, strong-willed, and awe-inspiring sweet girl ten months ago. And over the last ten months I’ve been learning how to be a mom and still be myself. I’ve been learning how to give everything to help shape this beautiful life form into the best version of herself while still pouring my heart into my relationship with my husband, family members, friends, and soul-filling career. The truth is, I don’t know how to balance motherhood with my daily life. Mostly because motherhood, for me at least, is about having the scales tipped.
Balancing motherhood for me, has most often looked like not balancing anything at all. So this isn’t a post to tell you how to do it, or how to do anything at all. It’s a post to tell you that I’ve found it to be incredibly difficult, tiring, and sometimes impossible to balance being a mom while also being a wife, friend, employee, business owner, blogger, and activist. It’s to tell you that it’s okay if you’re struggling through this process, that it’s okay to feel like somedays are more frustrating than rewarding, that some days ask more out of you than you feel capable of giving.
It’s not my intention to talk about how hard it is all the time, because the truth is, it’s also more joyous and love-filling than I could have ever imagined. But I see so many mothers who make it look effortless and I just wanted you to know that it’s not like that for me. Especially in case it’s not like that for you either.
I’ve been learning how to pour into my marriage when we both feel depleted from all the ways that we give. I’ve been learning how to take care of myself while being responsible for the safety, nurturance, and growth of a tiny little human heart. I’m trying to balance taking in all of the advice I receive (in person and online) about parenting with what I know to be true for my experience and own developing mother instincts. Life lately has looked a lot like not working out, regularly being behind on work, pumping every 15 minute break I have, taking days (okay, maybe even weeks) to text my friends back, and constantly talking myself out of the incessant mom-guilt that’s always lurking in the corner.
I guess what I’ve learned is that when it comes to motherhood, balance is an illusion. That putting the pressure on myself to be balanced has been unrealistic and unhelpful. My friend, colleague, and fellow-mom said it best to me in the middle of a personal meltdown. “You can’t have it all- ” she said, “A wildly successful career, the most toned body, the cleanest house, and 100% dedication to your child.” We can’t have it all and it hasn’t been helpful to hold myself to that standard. I’m the first to advocate for women, for how wildly strong and powerful women are; for how much we can do and how much we rise despite limits placed on us. I know that we can do sooo much. That we already do so much for our children, our families, our careers, our household, for our schools, and for communities. And because everything we do is a request for the finite amount of time that we have, we must choose one thing over the other. We cannot have it all because we must pick among these choices and because everything we do comes at a cost- time spent in one area means time away from the other. And on different days, at different times, and in different phases we make different choices; our balance is a continuous moving target. I’ve come to understand that while we can have both a successful career and be excellent mothers, it will require redefining our perception of success. I know that over-working comes at the expense of watching my little 10-month old learn how to tap two wooden bowls together and smile with pride at herself. I know that waking up to the demands of breastfeeding, staying up late with a crying baby or tending to a dirty house comes at the expense of being rested and energized enough to work out. I know that committing to breastfeeding and choosing to stick with a pumping schedule requires that I see less clients, that I use extra time to pump instead of respond to emails or complete notes. We can’t have it all in the exact ways we had originally planned; we can take all that we have and make it beautiful though. We can let this be enough.
And so motherhood for me, hasn’t been about balance at all. It’s been about giving everything I’ve got to raising a tiny human, wondering how I’m doing along the way, and then giving the rest of myself to the other great joys of my life: my husband, my relationships, and serving the people I have the opportunity to work with. Motherhood has truly been about maintaining who I am, expanding with gratitude into this new role and redefining my perspective about success (more on this later).
And through not balancing anything, here’s what motherhood is teaching me:
- To be grateful for my own mom. For every unnoticed sacrifice she has ever made and continues to make for me.
- To be honest with my inner circle of friends and family. To talk about when things are hard and to ask for what I need from the people I can count on.
- To walk through my front door with a smile on my face and to share the joy I have in seeing my baby with her. To show through my verbal and non-verbal behaviors the pure light she brings to my life.
- That not everyone will understand your choices or your path and to spend less time trying to have it make sense for them.
- That we can redefine what success looks for us.
- That ‘having it all’ comes with a cost. We can be selective about what this cost is for us.
- Let go of the pressure to do everything perfectly, prioritize what’s most important and focus on that.
- To let go of the guilt. You’re doing the best that you can.