This post has been long in the making. As much as I desire to celebrate the everyday lives of everyday families, I realize that not everyday is full of sunshine and roses; many times–especially for us moms–the everyday doesn’t feel blessed. Harried, frustrating, monotonous… motherhood can be all of these things, and sometimes the last word that even I remember to use when describing my everyday is “blessed.”
So what do we do, on those days that feel less than stellar? When our mood is dragging? And what about when those days seem more frequent than not?
I have no easy answers. Motherhood is tough. We love our little ones, of course. That goes without saying. But we can also feel drained, overwhelmed and frustrated at times. There are no quick fixes for any of the hardships of motherhood, but I do believe that with some intentionality, and refocusing our attention a bit, we can at least bear them a bit easier. These are just some things I have noticed from my life.
When the everyday doesn’t feel blessed…
- Don’t think so long-term, and focus on today’s blessings. I’ve realized that for me, much of my “today” struggle is generated from worries about tomorrow, or next week, next month, or next year. It never ends. I am especially prone to this as a planner, type A, control freak. All that worrying can rob today of its joy. I get so wrapped up in what *might* be coming down the pipe that I miss the fact that there’s some pretty darn amazing stuff happening NOW! And one thing I’ve learned is that much of what we worry about most for the future never happens, while the things that really knock us down are things we never saw coming, that blindsided us. The past year has been tough for me in this respect, but I try to remember the words in the gospel of Matthew: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to his life? … Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow,for tomorrow worry about itself. Each day has trouble enough of its own” (Matthew 6).
- Take a break from social media. It’s hard. For many of us, Facebook may be the only link we have to adult interaction during the day. But I’m convinced that in many ways, social media is, if not the root of discontent, at least a pretty effective fertilizer. If you’re not seeing your second cousin twice removed on their vacation in Hawaii, then you’re reading about your neighbor’s 3-year-old who is already reading Tolstoy, or checking out the latest pics from an old college friend who just lost 30 pounds in 2 months on the latest fad diet. In Facebook-land, sometimes it can seem like nobody else has problems. You see the highlight reel of everyone’s life, but not the gritty parts, and it can oddly seem more isolating than uniting at times. Plus, I find it definitely spurs me to start comparing my life/job/house/kid/body/cleaning habits/whatever to other people’s, which just isn’t healthy. Try checking in just once or twice a day, if that.
- Make a date to see a friend in person (or at least a phone call if in person isn’t possible). Even an hour of hanging out with someone in real life can suddenly make us realize we aren’t alone. There are other people out there who value you as a person, and their lives aren’t perfect either. I know, I know… immediately the “but I can’t ever get away from the kids” excuse pops up. But you can get creative. Here in the Seattle area, Fred Meyer stores offer one hour of free childcare if you’re in the store… and they just happen to almost all have a coffee shop area, too. One friend and I will check our kids in, go park at the coffee stand for an hour and chat, and then do our grocery shopping after. It’s cheap and convenient, and we both feel better after.
- Get moving. I have neglected physical activity myself for too long, never prioritizing it because life seems so busy with the kids. But I’m slowly realizing that physical inertia only exacerbates feelings of what I call “situational inertia.” It is so frustrating when you are hoping for changes that don’t happen, or life seems to be moving too slowly without a lot of hope for the future. But one way to instantly inject some positive energy into your life is to physically start moving your body more. Whether inside or out, find some way to incorporate physical activity into your routine.
- Start a gratitude project of some kind. Seeing beauty and love is partly a trained skill; we all have things to be grateful for, even in dark times… and learning to see it is a valuable, cultivated practice. Some people journal one sentence a day detailing what they are grateful for. Some people take a picture a day. However you choose to celebrate it, taking the time to consistently acknowledge the good things in life is valuable. My Project 365 this year has done wonders for me…and it’s not that I’m just naturally a “rose-colored glasses” kind of person; it has taken intentionality to see the good everyday, but I am the better for it.
- Cultivate, celebrate, or share the skills or traits that make YOU special. I’m convinced that part of the reason us moms can get discontented is because often with the birth of our children, we are thrust immediately into a whole new world, and somehow the “old” person falls away and is replaced by someone who seems to exist only to keep little ones alive and well. But there is more to us as people than “just” being a mom; we all have talents, hobbies, skills, or traits that make us special or that we enjoyed prior to having kids. Take some time to honor that part of yourself. Maybe you enjoy sketching but haven’t picked up your pencils in ages; maybe you are an avid reader, but the last thing you read was What to Expect While You’re Expecting; maybe you enjoy singing and miss participating in the church choir. Whatever it is, nurture those parts of yourself; it’s good for you, good for the world, and even good for your kids to see that mama is pretty awesome at other things.
- Realize that your feelings are normal, and give yourself (and your families) grace. Even the moms who seem to have it all together feel really at odds sometimes. We aren’t perfect. Our kids aren’t perfect. Our spouses aren’t perfect. And all that imperfection can sometimes add up to hard feelings and hard times. Give yourself grace. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you make as a parent. Give your families grace. We are all learning together. And our homes are training ground for the big world; it is healthy and good for your kids to learn that love is about forgiveness, sacrifice, and dusting ourselves off from today’s messes and loving one another better tomorrow.
I’m sure we’ll revisit this again in the future, but what are some things YOU do when your days are less than stellar? How do you change your attitude? I would love to hear some thoughts from other moms as well–please comment and discuss. After all, it helps to know we’re not alone, right?