To the overachieving, world-conquering, (possibly also holding down a job) mama, stop. You need to know something. You need to know that YOU are ENOUGH. Read that slowly. You, yes, YOU, are enough. You are doing okay. You are doing more than okay. Because it really has nothing to do with “doing”. It has to do with “being”, with who you ARE.
Sunday morning was really hard for me. My husband was on the worship team at church and got a ride there to practice early, which left me home with the kids. I woke up to a counter full of caked-on food and dirty dishes after hardly any sleep because of 1. baby and 2. anxiety. Anxiety over the next morning that I was now facing. I had to shower, tame my hair afterwards, get two little boys fed, dressed, and ready for church, pack a diaper bag, load a car, eat something myself, and do it all solo after a night of almost no sleep. After a couple nights in a row of almost no sleep. Did I mention church starts at 10? Guess what also starts at 10 in our household? Nap time.
Then, when I would arrive, I would have to unload two little boys, neither of which can walk or be trusted to walk safely into the building. Thus, I would be carrying almost 50lbs of boy, 15lbs of carseat, and probably 10lbs of diaper bag all into the church alone where I would try to keep my oldest from seeing daddy on stage hitting things (drumming) as it would cue the most epic meltdown of the century to explain to a boy with a vocabulary of three words and two animal sounds that he can’t go to daddy, and he can’t hit the things with daddy, and also, please shhhhh because we are WORSHIPPING GOD and you’re causing a scene. Or I could sit with 75lbs of boys and stuff in the parking lot and have them scream in the car till the nursery opened. That would also be fun…. Or heaven forbid, I could ask for help. That didn’t sound fun either, though. Especially since the help would be taking my youngest and rocking him while I still dealt with the super emotional toddler who runs around like a drunk sailer pitching himself into walls – especially when he’s tired.
But I am CAPABLE. I can DO ALL THE THINGS. Church requires sacrifice and dang it, I can do that too! I got myself ready. I got Micah fed (banana bread and raisins because I couldn’t deal with pickiness today) and totally dressed except pants. Levi was going in his pyjamas cause he’s zero and I can still pull that off socially. I cleaned all the things, and shoved muffins in my face and made a coffee. I even drank water because I am THE MOM.
You know what else I did? I fell apart on the inside. Not on the outside cause remember, I must be “capable mom”. But I almost burst into tears when I unplugged the coffee maker by mistake and interrupted the makings of my sanity. I lost my temper with Levi who I tried to force down for an early nap and then he cried. And cried and cried and CRIED and CRIED and CRIED. And it stripped away every last nerve I had. I changed his diaper roughly and in silence and put him back down in the crib. I didn’t shout, but my entire body language screamed “shut up, kid, don’t you know you need to sleep now or you’ll ruin everything?” I left my very hot straightening iron on the floor of my bedroom plugged in and told myself Micah wouldn’t find it while I hid in the basement from the crying. (He didn’t, but what kind of mom DOES that?). The kind that is coming undone. The kind that is taking on too much. Trying to BE more by doing more.
I kept alternating between “I just can’t” and “no, no, you got this”. As soon as I would give myself permission to stop and stay home and nap, I would feel this surge of relief and also energy. And then I would take the energy and say, “wait, maybe I CAN do this” and would continue to get ready. This of course, would lead to another moment of “I can’t” only minutes later. It was like my gas tank was empty as I was driving down a bumpy road, but every time the car changed angles, the gas would slosh around a little and fire up the engine again only to be spitting fumes seconds later. I texted my husband and told him I was out, and that I felt terrible. He told me I was awesome and to go rest and would see me later. He is good to me and has learned to navigate my crazy and talk me down.
I used to wear “busy” as a status symbol. “Hey, how are you?” “Oh, me? Well, I’m soooooooooo busy!” Look at my schedule. Look at all the awesome things I’m doing. Tell me you don’t know how I do it all. Tell me I’m amazing. And tell me often because I will tell YOU often just how busy I am. It’s a habit I’ve been trying to break for the past two years. Saying no to good things to say yes to better things was the first step. Even if those good things are volunteer work, church activities, and meeting expectations with friendships. Saying no to better things to say yes to the best things was the next step. Even if those better things are jobs that provide for my family, a piano teaching career that I loved and surely must continue since I’ve been doing it for over a decade, time with very close friends, or even extended family expectations.
It’s something I still struggle with even though I run no where near as hard as I used to. If my calendar is “full” when we try to get together these days, it’s often because I have scheduled time at home to be with my immediate family or because I will only do so many shoots in one week because I want to pace myself. Because I value breathing and space. Because, “Hey, how are you?” should be able to be answered with, “Actually, I’m super relaxed and loving life right now and have been spending lots of time just BEING with my family.” What would society THINK if you answered like that?! They might think you’re not as awesome. That’s okay. No, honestly, it’s okay. Your value doesn’t come from people thinking you’re “so good at life”. Don’t be so good at life that you miss life.
I haven’t arrived there yet, but I’m working on it. The busy creeps back in, even in little things. Especially in little things. They pile up and up and up. Things as little as getting to church solo in the morning after a couple of rough nights. Of course I could have made it to church, but I did something else instead. I went into the room of my screaming baby, and I held him, and nursed him (even though he didn’t need it), and kissed him, and calmed him. I took the time and space to bring him back down from his emotions and laid him into bed instead of the carseat, and he fell asleep with barely a whimper. I opened the back door and let my toddler go out into the wet yard in a diaper and his nice church shirt because he just wanted to be free to explore and play rather than shoving him in pants and into the car. But before I did that, I sat on the floor with him and helped him with some blocks that were important to him. Will I do this every Sunday? No. But on a Sunday where I feel my need to conquer override my need to be, it’s okay.
I let go of responsible mom. I let go of capable mom. I stopped trying to prove myself to my husband, my friends, my community, and even to myself. Instead I was JUST mom. Just me. Not doing all the things. Not trying to be all the things. And that was enough. That is enough. Levi just wanted mom. In fact, he’s laying on my lap right now as I type this and it’s ironically 10 minutes into the start of worship at church where my husband is drumming. He did go to bed without protest 20 minutes ago, but he also just needed me again before I could finish writing, and “just me” is enough. He didn’t need me to DO anything for him. He just wanted to be on my lap for a bit and is watching the screen while I type. I peeked out the door and my toddler is playing with really disgusting old pool water in one of my favourite sweaters that would have looked super cute at church, and I’m going to go tuck him into bed in a minute. So I’m here doing none of the things and it’s okay. Moms, it’s okay. Your kids? Your family? They just need YOU. They don’t even necessarily need you to do something for them. Just be. Make a cup of coffee and just let the “important stuff” slide for even 10 minutes. YOU deserve a break too because you are amazing for no other reason than you are you.