Harvest time is the beginning of the holiday season! I LOVE holidays and all the decorating and events that come along with them. Yet, no matter what season it is, as a mother I get caught in a vicious cycle within the process of: constantly caring for my little ones, being a wife, working full-time, maintaining the household, eating a decent diet, working out, getting enough sleep, and still finding time to actually enjoy it all??…Sleep is usually the first to go, and everything is downhill from there. I have said before that it is better if I do a few things well and allow other things to slide for my own sanity…yet somehow I end up back in this head space I have been in off and on for three months now. Exhausted, irritable, short-tempered, sad, and unfulfilled. Not the way I want to feel during the holidays, or at any time.
The most recent change I can pinpoint has been my return to work from summer break close to three months ago. Although summertime wasn’t always a bed of roses, I was able to sit and process my thoughts a couple of days a week while they were in childcare part time. I had a break from the current nonstop schedule: wake up, dress kids, work, come home, play, feed, bathe, play, read, bed (for kids), clean, relax (ha), prepare for next day, stay awake for some kind of quiet time, THEN actual bedtime (circa 12:00am or later).
When it comes to work or any other commitment, I have learned to not bring it home with me unless it is absolutely unavoidable (last-minute/ priority cases). In previous years, I would try to catch up on what I felt I had missed because of other cases that took priority, thinking I would be more productive this way. However, I ended up only feeling more overwhelmed. Now, I leave it all on my desk. If I can’t get it done within the current 8 hours, then it will wait for the next 8. At least now when things get busy at work, I rarely bring that anxious feeling home with me.
The reality is, I still feel anxious and overwhelmed without bringing work home. Looking back to last year, I really did myself a disservice by doubling the stress. Despite what anyone has to say to the contrary, motherhood is a difficult job. It is more than a full-time job; there’s no leaving early or coming in late. Children are a blessing and a sacrifice. They are rewarding and frustrating. I have to constantly remind myself that I am simply a human being raising tiny human beings. I won’t always do the right thing. I am not the best mother I can be everyday of the week. I get tired, I shut down, and I just want quiet some days. Furthermore, there is no perfect mother, no perfect wife, or perfect employee. Sometimes, one or all of these roles will suffer.
I don’t have any clever answers to dealing with 4-year-old attitudes or defiance, or with 2-year-old sass and tantrums that honestly leave me standing in awe (where do they get the energy?). I am simply trying to get to know my children’s strengths and weaknesses as best I can to support them through their own cycle of development. They are trying to figure life out also, on their own level. The best thing I can do for them is to remain honest with myself and with them. Some days, I can do it all and “feel” like a good mom. Other days, I am just wishing for the day to be over already. I am learning, and reminding myself, that neither one of these extremes defines my motherhood. My children are happy and they are healthy. If/When they are neither of these, they know they can depend on me to help them through the obstacle, pain, or sickness. Their dependence on me is what I will think of when times are rough. And when I cannot handle it, I speak up (thank goodness for a partner in this journey). Their independence is what I strive for as I guide them.
I realize now how important it is to prepare my mind and emotions for each changing cycle or season. Knowing myself and how certain seasons or changes of routine affect me helps to lessen the impact of emotions or mood swings. I am pushing myself to talk through the rough times rather than shut down and silently suffer through them. As a woman, asking for what I need can feel like I’m not doing my job. Well, I can’t effectively do any job without support, and motherhood is no exception. It is okay to disengage when possible and just be me sometimes. We need to support each other to make the call, have the conversation, let go of that responsibility, etc…and just do what’s necessary (and healthy) for your well-being. Motherhood can be awesome, fulfilling, and energizing– I am determined to keep this affirmation at the forefront during this remarkable journey.
So much of my strategies in dealing with these cycles are a credit to The Mom Center, created by Graeme Seabrook. She is an awesome advocate and resource (Mom Coach, Life Coach) to soooo many mothers; please check out her website at http://www.graemeseabrook.com. Having a place to unpack it all has helped me enormously!
No one has it all figured out. My kids wake up just wanting me there, and that’s it. I’m here, imperfect, but unconditionally loving them– and learning to treat myself the same.