Motherhood isn’t easy to hack. It’s often as challenging as it is rewarding, getting harder as it simultaneously gets more joyous. While there are no blanket answers that always apply to everyone, here are some things I’ve learned from the moms around me that allow me to feel more connected and happy, even through struggles and ordinary obstacles of an average day.
Picture the forest, not just the trees. Right now, my daughter is going through a stage where she wants ONLY MOMMY when she wakes up at 2am. That means that this mommy hasn’t had more than a handful of consecutive hours of sleep in a long while. And sometimes, that fact feels like it might just break me. But then I remind myself that 2 months ago, ONLY DADDY could soothe her. And in so short a time, she won’t be calling for me at all. And I take a deep breath and snuggle her in close and try to relax into the moment as much as I can.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. There are things in the world that I simply cannot change. Teething hurts, for example, and I can’t change that fact. So, when teething issues were ramping up, I was busy reminding myself that all I could do was accept the stage for what it was. And hope it ended soon! And, of course, it did eventually pass and life got back to our more usual routine. Stressing myself out in the middle of it all wouldn’t have served anyone.
Do your thing. This is so fundamental. You must find the things that make you happy and then DO THEM. I know that using my creativity makes me happy – but that doesn’t impact my life unless I’m actually doing it. That means that I have to schedule time in my life to do those creative things; painting, knitting, photo-journaling, writing, etc. If I’m NOT doing them, then I’m actually adding to my unhappiness. And that will impact everyone around me.
Be flexible. I used to have such anxiety about being late that I was perpetually 15 minutes early. But getting a family out the door is much different than just getting myself ready to go. Trying to get everyone else to conform to my style would have only created undue stress for everyone. So, now I’m most often 15 minutes late, but we arrive with smiles rather than frowns. Allowing my life to bend around the needs of my family always pays off.
Cultivate your cheerleaders. Being a mom is hard enough – why go through it alone? Siblings, friends and support groups are all there, just waiting to support you, celebrate your success and mourn your losses and help pick up the pieces to start all over again. They will enrich your life – let them!
Let it go. Yes, like Elsa. Well, not exactly. Let go of the expectation that you can always keep your children happy, safe and close. Life doesn’t work that way. Author Elizabeth Stone summed it up perfectly when she said “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” How true. Having children can be as scary as it is wonderful. And you have to let them go out into the world and skin their knees and have their hearts broken and lose their way. You have to trust that you have taught them the skills to find their path, the strength to keep going, the courage to set their boundaries and the heart to do it all authentically and with kindness. You have to trust that you’ve done your best and let it go.