I’m not going to lie. Motherhood has been a struggle for me. Not just lately. It has always been a struggle.
I feel like so many moms are amazing at it. And as I watch their “amazing day” highlight reels on social media, I feel like I’m lost. My struggles seem amplified and so much worse in comparison to another mom’s successes.
I continue to struggle to find my identity as a mom. I struggle to balance my day. I struggle to know what’s best for my son, myself, and my family. I feel tired. Worn out. Burnt out.
It feels like there’s so much pressure to do things right. So much advice out there, whether I’m asking for it or not. Whether it’s helpful or not. And the irony is, I have no idea what “right” is. Heck, no one does. What’s “right” for our children and families is grey. It’s variable. It’s dynamic. It changes from day to day.
As my baby grew into toddler hood, I’ve found doing things the “right” way is even harder. How do I keep him busy? How to I keep him learning? And at the same time, how do I make time for myself? How do I keep house? Do laundry? Work? Fix meals? Spend time with my husband?
It just seems like too much.
This past Saturday, I got a little manic. I sat down on my laptop, frantically trying to detail each day of the week, outlining everything into a schedule. I struggled to fit it all into a nice, neat routine.
I know schedules are fluid, and things still need to be somewhat flexible, but writing it all down and organizing the day seemed to help.
But then, I got some great advice that I wasn’t expecting.
We were at Mass on Sunday and Fr. Villarreal gave a homily about parents setting the tone for their home. In particular, as a stay at home mom, I heard him giving me permission to structure and manage our family’s day, with boundaries. He gave me permission to do what I thought was best, to say no when I needed to, and to make time for rest. In particular, he mentioned the advice he gave his sister, who was struggling to find a break with four boys at home.
Kids can play by themselves. They need to play by themselves. It’s not our job, as moms, to entertain them every second of the day. It’s ok to say “no.” It’s ok to say “not now.” It’s ok, and even necessary, that we, as moms, take breaks throughout the day to clear our heads, rest, pray, read, and recover, so we can continue to give.
My son has never been good at independent play. I’ve struggle with that, but now see that it’s my job to teach him. It can be incremental. We can work up to 10 minutes and then maybe 20. But I need to speak up when I need a break. I have to let him know it’s time to play in his room. And I have to enforce it.
For me, trying to people please is a serious struggle. Mom Guilt is another. And it doesn’t stop there. I have Wife Guilt. Friend Guilt. Daughter Guilt and Granddaughter Guilt. I let the needs of others plague my day and weigh heavy on me. I feel like, since I’m home with my son all day, I do need to do it all.
I feel like I need to be his playmate and fill a hundred other roles. But I don’t.
I do not have to drop everything to meet demands every time. Rather, it’s my job to teach my son that he can’t get what he wants the second he wants it. Every time.
I know this sounds silly. Perhaps it’s an obvious concept. But when you’re in the weeds. When you’re tired. When you’re struggling to do it all, it can feel like you do need to do it all. And that’s not true.
So, I’m going to focus this week knowing that I don’t need to do it all. Balls can drop. I can say no. It’s not my job to be reactive, struggling to keep up with every demand, email, request, or whatever. I can set the tone.