I believe that there is this lie that chases after us, burrowing into our heads and hearts – that this “thing” called motherhood that we do is TOO HARD, TOO COMPLICATED, AND THAT WE AREN’T enough.
We live in a time where TWO seems to be the magic number when it comes to children, and anything over that begins to be scrutinized. Add in homeschooling, and you might as well apply for “crazy-farm” status.
Having and homeschooling four children (and open to more) has garnered all sorts of responses…but, the ones that bother me most are the “I wish I could do what you do. But, I just can’t.” Suddenly, I’m wanting to ask questions to find out… what is it that you think I do? My blog, my facebook account, and pinterest… I try to be real, but I wonder if I’m failing, if I’m adding to the lie that perfection exists.
Because, can I please say… At the end of some days, I tag my husband “it” because I just need a little silence, too. Some days, my voice rises a little too much. Some days, I say the wrong things and blow up science experiments that weren’t meant to explode. We aren’t perfect and I definitely don’t look airbrushed. We’re just us. And, we’re okay with that.
But, as I think about all of these lovely creative ideas and social media right at our fingertips, I feel like sometimes we make motherhood FAR harder than it was ever meant to be. -Not that motherhood is never hard, because it can be. It challenges us, stretches us to our core. It makes us better people, if we let it. But, sometimes we make it so much harder than it needs to be. We get caught up in the BIG and the GLITTER and the JONESES and when our expectations are put so high up on a pedestal that we can’t even begin to reach, we stumble and we fall. We feel like failures because we couldn’t obtain some illusion, that was never real. We can feel lonely and unappreciated – feeling like we’re of only a few who just can’t get it all “figured out.” We can feel less than “enough” because we don’t enjoy cooking or cleaning (or were never taught how) –as if that somehow makes us less than (it doesn’t, by the way.)
There is this lie that has become expectation of women who do it all. A lie that has become expectation in the hearts of many women, leaving them feeling ragged and torn when the illusion can never be caught in two hands.
So, can we take a moment to break away from the facade? –To uncover that which is real?
The truth is… You were never meant to be a superhero. You were never meant to do it all. God never expected you to.
There are so many choices to make… Whether you want 1 child or 20, to vaccinate or not, bottle or breast, cloth-diaper or not, eat blue-box macaroni and cheese or organic gluten-free, how you raise them…. THEY ARE ALL CHOICES. Your choices. Choices that are meant to liberate you, not imprison you with guilt and fear. And, as parents, we shouldn’t use our choices to shame and scare those with different ideas than us.
This whole motherhood thing… it’s something we grow into. We are challenged; we are changed. We are a part of something greater than ourselves. We learn to be better people, less selfish, gain more patience, greater faith, more grace, and slower to anger. We begin to see ourselves and who we are to God in a completely new way. Motherhood – it takes practice, and just like anything else, the more we practice, the more we begin to find our groove. It’s amazing and beautiful, really, this dance that we are learning.
It’s not about comparing our craft projects on Pinterest or all the cool things we did in a day on Facebook. It’s not about all the gourmet meals we don’t actually make or how we decorate. It’s not about spotless floors or perfect makeup.
Then, if it isn’t about Facebook and Pinterest, what is this motherhood-thing all about? How do we find peace in the journey?
I think the first step is that as mothers, we need to focus on being mothers instead of super-heroes. We don’t have to have it all figured out. We don’t have to do it all. The only person expecting you to have it all together is…YOU.
For me, redefining Motherhood meant examining our hearts, our values, and our priorities. For me, this is what it looks like…
Being Picky About What We Read. I don’t read every blog or every article that comes across my email or social media accounts. I carefully choose my books/magazines so that they either teach me, inspire me, or encourage me. I stay away from things that make me compare.
I’m Not A Maid. As a family, we all believe that we play a part…that we are all important. We work together and we play together. We each have a list of “chores” that we are all responsible for…even the 2 year old. It’s amazing how much we can get done in a short amount of time when we all work together, which frees us up to enjoy more time together. Also, while I expect a mostly “clean” or tidy house, I don’t expect perfection.
Smaller To-Do Lists. I am “Type-A” – so, I really REALLY like lists. This seems like a great thing, until the list begins managing you instead of you managing it. When my girls were 4 and 2, I came to the realization that no matter how much I did, I’d never feel accomplished if my to-do list kept growing. I realized that it was no longer a tool for me, but it was wrecking me. So, I began making smaller to-do lists. In addition to normal activities like school, feeding the kids, etc…I would allow myself 3 extra things. By making my to-do list more bearable, I was able to manage the list rather than it managing me.
We Created A Weekly Schedule. Okay, it’s not a “schedule,,” as much as it is having certain days set aside for certain things. There came a time when I was in tears over cleaning. With 3 under the age of 3 (at the time), I felt like I could never get on top of my cleaning. It seemed as if as soon as I finished one thing, little hands undid it right behind me…or, it took me so long that when I felt like I was almost reaching the finish-line of getting it all done, I was actually re-approaching the starting line. It was a horrible feeling. I remember calling my grandmother, who stayed home with 4 children, and I asked her, “Grams, how did you do it all?” She laughed at me. “I didn’t,” she said. She went on to say that she thought I was doing an amazing job except for one thing… I expected too much from myself. She challenged me to adjust my expectations and to live in the moment, to find joy in the little things instead of trying to “do it all” and make our days all “pinterest-worthy.” It was some of my favorite advice. We have so many nifty gadgets that our grandmothers didn’t have, but instead of saving us time, we seem to be even busier. Something to think about.
My grandmother and her mother had specific days they would do things. I came up with my own version that would work in our home, in an effort to simplify our lives a bit. Here’s mine:
Monday – Full Cleaning Day (4-6 hours).
Tuesday – Play Day (reading, painting, lunch with friends, crafts, movie, etc.)
Wednesday – Desk Day – long letters/bills/bday cards/planning/etc
Thursday – 1/2 Cleaning Day (2-4 hours)
Friday – Errands Day
Saturday – Family Work Day/Play Day
Sunday – Family Play Day
**NOTE: This list doesn’t OWN us. There are many days that I pay bills on a Monday because of when it falls. I keep this schedule on my fridge for the days where I feel overwhelmed, like I can’t get it ALL done… I choose the day that I’m on, and just do what it says. It’s like a reset switch for me. And, having one or two cleaning days a week (aside from daily toy-pick-ups) helps free me from my own expectation of cleaning until it’s all perfect (which is never).
We Say “No” A Lot. We say “yes” sometimes, too… but, we say “no” to (invitations/camps/lessons/events) just as much. We’ve learned how much is too much for our family and there’s such freedom in not having to be 10 places in one day. Our days are just so much more relaxed when our schedules are open, PLUS it opens us up to some pretty cool unexpected surprises.
We Create Boundaries To Protect Our Children’s Hearts. We firmly believe that training our children and constructing consistent boundaries helps our children know what to expect and relieves them from having to try to figure it out on their own. While it’s hard work in the beginning, it pays off for both them and us. They know what’s expected and are able to better handle situations beyond our home, and we are able to enjoy taking them places. We also created a behavior chart method that puts THEM in control – it helps us stay consistent as their parents, and helps them make better choices.
I’m Not An Entertainer. While I do play with my children, I don’t want our children to expect to be entertained constantly by me. I have been known to jump over alligators, rescue princesses, and defeat hungry lions while in my backyard. However, my children don’t expect me to be the source of their fun. Instead, between the 4 of them, they always have some sort of creative fun going on. I love watching their little brains work over ideas and how creative they can be. I create opportunities for them to learn and play, but am not a circus clown.
We Simplified Meal-Time. I keep a master-list of our favorite meals – sort of like a menu. Each week, I choose 7 meals and write down all of the ingredients we need into shopping list. We only shop once a week for food. We don’t eat very many boxed-meals, but I do factor in the time it takes to prepare meals. Casseroles, one-pot meals, salads, soups, and crock-pot recipes get a lot of use over here.
We Don’t Buy The Latest-Greatest. It’s not because there aren’t some really cool things out there, but it’s because we don’t NEED it all. We teach our children that not only do they not NEED everything they like, but they aren’t OWED any of it, either. If they really want a new toy, they can ask for it for their birthday/Christmas or save their money. Sometimes I struggle with just wanting to buy them whatever they’ve asked for, but they’ve learned to have such a great respect for the value of things and they’ve become SO creative. (They have plenty of toys, by the way.) Our vehicles are USED, but they are paid off. We also have a new rule for the kitchen with all of these fun new gadgets popping up everywhere – We try really hard not to buy any device that can only be used for one thing…like…smoothie-makers or sandwich makers. We have a couple of things (like our water-purifier and juicer) that are exceptions. So, when a new kitchen appliance pops up that we think would be nifty, we try to think of 3 ways that we could use it (and where we would put it). It really helps with the “comparing.” But, in the end, it comes down to a new way of thinking. We believe that ultimately, our stuff can own us – it’s not just the original price we pay for something, but also the upkeep and the time. So, we choose carefully.
Expecting Less. Becoming a mom doesn’t give us super-powers. As moms, we manage to get a lot done, but the expectations we can put on ourselves can be unreachable. It was the realization that:
I’m not a failure when my house isn’t perfect.
I’m not a failure when my kids’ food looks like food instead of a cleverly arranged scene or animal.
I’m not a failure when we don’t do crafts every day.
I’m not a failure when I simply let my kids play with each other, rather than being RIGHT in the middle of every dramatic scene played out by their barbies and super-heroes.
I’m not a failure when my kids aren’t signed up for 8 different activities and we don’t go on lots of field-trips during the week.
I’m not a failure for losing my patience with my kids.
It makes me normal.
So often, we feel like we must BE enough as mothers, when really all we need to do is realize that WE ALREADY ARE ENOUGH.
This motherhood thing? It doesn’t need to be this hard.