My child did NOT throw up at Chick-Fil-A today. I took a real shower with water and soap and everything. I finished a movie WITHOUT falling asleep. These are the small victories I have grown to celebrate as a mom. Someone else may look at these things and pity my enthusiasm. But chances are, they haven’t clued in to the secret that can set the mom-soul free.
The idea of balance has become confused with control.
Balance is this thing that gets a lot of attention in magazines, books, and blogs. The mom-world seems to circulate like a tornado around this idea. Balance in your home, balance among your commitments, balance in your family’s calendar. But what does this word even mean to a mom? I polled my group of best friends for an idea of what balance means to the average mom.
Cari said, “Trying to wear different hats (mom, wife, professional, teacher, cook, maid), while making sure you give those hats 100 percent effort. Sometimes rewarding and sometimes draining and down-right hard.”
Lindsey said, “The struggle is real to carry out everything and not go cry.”
Olivia, “Always on the forefront of my mind now as a mom. Always evaluating, but haven’t learned the art of not feeling guilty when I need time for myself.”
The common themes in these answers are stress and guilt. Like a carrot (or better yet, a Starbucks beverage) dangling on a stick in front of us, we just can’t seem to “get there.” You devote more energy towards quality-time with the kids, and the house becomes just a little less clean. You volunteer in your son’s classroom, and your precious free-time is but a memory. You see and another area of your life saws. It is virtually impossible to make a move as a mother without affecting another “hat.” Our lives do not stay on a level playing field. Motherhood is a living, breathing entity that constantly shifts and morphs. And that’s okay! The question is: Can we learn to spot the times that we are actually controlling our world of motherhood instead of truly seeking balance? Examining areas where we feel pressured to maintain a tight grip can actually release us to find true balance.
We don’t give ourselves the grace we preach. I have surrounded myself with one heck of a tribe, and I hope you have, too. Every mom needs the support and encouragement that only other women can provide. The community of moms who back me can pick me up on my lowest of days. They remind me of all the ways I rock when I just can’t see it. But those same moms can be hard on themselves. I’ve listened to them magnify the ways they “fail” this job of motherhood, instead of being proud of their successes. It is pretty common to focus inwardly on the ways we find ourselves lacking, all the while cheering on our mom-pals. We don’t like to see our friends put so much pressure on themselves. We’d do well treat ourselves accordingly.
Those kids of ours aren’t robots. The children we share this life with are their own tiny people. Despite some of our greatest efforts, they will think and act of their own accord. How they live and their innate tendencies have a major effect on the ebb and flow of our role as mom. Control is pretty darn exhausting when your kids are going to do what they are going to do. Quite frankly, children are not concerned with your attempts at wearing all those hats or trying to “carry out everything.” What they need is flexibility in a mom. Fitting children and their day-to-day lives into a box is not exactly a moral-booster for the family. There is beauty in a child seeing their mother scrap the meal calendar one night for pizza and a movie or (gasp) skipping an extracurricular activity for an afternoon at the park. Getting clued in to what our children actually need instead of what’s on the agenda is life-giving to everyone.
Life is going to happen, whether we like it or not. There is always the possibility that my daughter, the queen of restaurant-puking, will turn a fun dinner out into a scene from The Exorcist. Someone will bring strep throat home from school and throw it around our family like Mardi Gras beads. Even as I write this, one child napped an hour less than usual. The puppy vomited “something” on the carpet, and there was a squabble over popsicles. (Helpful hint: Getting a puppy will either make you a lot less controlling or will put you straight in the grave.) This is life. It is messy and unpredictable and can blow all of our hats out of order like a gust of wind. Expecting the unexpected from life actually frees up a mom to take things as they come and roll with the punches. When I go to Chick-Fil-A and we leave puke-free, it’s a win! When my morning is calm enough for a shower and maybe even a blow-dry, I count my blessings! Pleasant surprises!
After unveiling the reality of control in our lives, there is one question that lingers. What is balance? I found the perfect answer from one of those girls in my trusty tribe. (I’m not kidding here, ladies. If you haven’t snagged yourself a group of women to support you, get to look’n! Thank me later.)
Sarah said, “Balance is how I stay a well-rounded person, not just a tunnel-visioned mom. It means constantly editing our family’s activities and constantly evaluating my priorities. It means there’s no guilt over time off or a date night out because I will be right back in mommy mode when I’m needed.”
Balance encourages big-picture thinking and promotes rest. Control involves manipulating and forcing your world into a set of parameters. It leaves a mom with stress and anxiety. Which one have you been operating under?