Thursday, January 9, 2014

Balancing Life as Mama

Oh y'all.  I can talk a good talk on this one.  But the reality is this is still my greatest daily struggle.

Just about every mama I talked to warned me that the adjustment from one child to two is the hardest adjustment to make.  They told me it was harder than going from no babies to one, and they told me going from two kids to three or more was infinitely easier.  I heard them, but I really had no way of understanding what they were saying until I got thrown into the deep end with two kids.

I had lots of ideas for 2013; lots of ambitions.  But what needed to come first was my family.  And while I acknowledged this with my head, my feet kept trying to take me in a different direction.  I knew that my top priority was my little brood who needed their mama, but I had dreams of doing things for myself.

I was going to blog the way I'd always wanted to.  I was going to open my Etsy shop full of vintage goodies and have fun sharing my love of old things.  I was even going to tip my toe back into the waters of interior design.  All good things, yes.  But not exactly what needed to be my top priority last year.  And when these things didn't pan out the way I wanted them to, I felt like a failure.

I struggled against my desire to do more, to be more.  It felt like I was smacking my head into a brick wall on a daily basis.  The more I tried to cram what I wanted to do into my days, the more I began to grow impatient with my daily life as a mama.  I began to view simple things like building yet another train track or reading the same book for the 84 millionth time as interruptions - which they aren't.  When we were in the throws of potty training, I felt over my head and was frustrated with the extra 2 loads of laundry I did every day for months on end.  And over time I began to resent the life I was living.

I've done a lot of soul searching on this one in the last couple of months.  I've come to a breaking point more than once, and here are some of the things I've learned:
  1. It might sound like a no-brainer, but I have to get out of the house every day.  If it's only to go to the grocery store, so be it.  But if I can get out of the house and go for a nice long walk every day, so much the better.  I don't have to change outfits or worry about workout gear if I'm going for a walk, and I can take my babies with me if need be.
  2. If I'm feeling particularly overwhelmed and feel like I'm going to snap and yell at my son, then I need to walk away.  If he's not in imminent danger or putting his sister in imminent danger (like running into the street or smacking her on the head) then I need to walk away until I can address the situation calmly.  
  3. I need to not care as much how my life looks to outsiders.  I don't live an idyllic life and staying home with my children is hard work.  Period.  Sometimes I hear comments about "what do you do all day?" and I want to poke myself in the eye.  The more I hear these types of comments, the more I feel like I'm not measuring up to some standard of super-mom.  Instead of letting these things roll off my back, I feel the need to apologize for my choice to stay home as a mom.  But I don't need to apologize.  Don't I feel like my education is being wasted?  No.  If anything I feel like my education is benefitting my children.  Reading this last week was freeing, if for no other reason to know that I'm not alone.
  4. If I'm having a crazy day and my list of to-do items is starting to choke me, it's okay to leave some of those to-dos undone.  I really started to see the value of this the closer we got to Christmas.  I didn't want to spend the holidays stressed out, yet the closer we got, the more stressed I was.  I built up such a list of things I wanted us to do, there just weren't enough hours in the day for us to do everything.  By Christmas Eve morning I was in a sour mood trying to figure out logistics for getting everything done.  I realized I could either get everything done or I could take a couple things off that list and we could enjoy our day.  I lightened our load for the day and it ended up being one of my favorite Christmases of all time. Now, when my to-do list seems to be a bit much, I try to whittle down to what absolutely HAS to get done, and let everything else go.  It's easier said than done, but I'm learning.
  5. When I've gone too long without a break, I need to be honest about it with my husband.  If he can't watch the kids for a short while, then I need to call in reinforcements from somewhere.  It's okay to admit that I need a break.

I know I will spend the rest of my life trying to get this mothering thing down.  It's a process and I'm not sure we're ever "done".  Do you struggle in balancing your life as a parent?  What bits of wisdom have you discovered?

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