I never expected to fulfill the stressed out mom stereotype. The picture in my mind was of an earth goddess mama who was super zen and could calm any nerves with a whiff of some essential oils… but I was so wrong.
I’m the stressed out mom even though my life is good.
I love being a mom. I have help and support. All my needs are met. My life circumstances are about as good as they can be, and 99% of the world would probably love to live the life I’m lucky enough to have.
And yet, as I type this I am kind of holding myself back from having a good cry, but really I’m too tired to cry.
I got an OK amount of sleep last night, though “ok” means I only had to get up 3-5 times with my twins who still don’t sleep through the night.
Every time I think we are about to get a good night’s sleep, something like teething pops up to ruin it all.
And every time I feel like we are settling into a routine that works well for us, it changes.
When you’re a mom, even the change in seasons with the shift in the amount of daylight can bring havoc to your perfectly choreographed day.
Over the summer we were in sync. Things were never perfect, but we had a rhythm to our days that created a structure we could all depend on. Since fall began, I just haven’t been able to reestablish the same sense of normalcy in our day-to-day life.
To some extent, I am able to go with the flow, but I also tend to get stressed out a bit when things don’t go as planned. Combine that with my tendency to battle with seasonal affective disorder as the sunlight fades in the fall, and I’ve been a big ball of stressed out mom lately.
Did I mention my twins just turned two?
My firstborn we an angel as I look back on it now. She was just so easy. The tantrums were minimal and always over something expected, like saying no to a toy in Target. I felt prepared to deal with her mood shifts.
But I swear she didn’t tantrum much then so that she could store it up and let it all out at the age of 4 going on 5.
The mood swings now are like if I were having the very worst bout of PMS of my life and the entire world suddenly ran out of coffee, wine, and chocolate.
Then my one twin literally squeals any single time his needs aren’t met immediately, and my sweet little Baby B, the quiet twin, gets separation anxiety if I try to take a poop alone.
Most of the time I take it in stride. I am able to just keep on trucking with life. I can let it go… Call me Elsa.
But some days, it all piles up and it makes me want to just go hide in a corner of my house cuddled up in a blanket somewhere they can’t find me. We all have days like this right?
On one hand I just have to admit to myself it’s ok if I’m a stressed out mom because this job is so hard, but then I also wonder, is this really how motherhood is meant to be?
Does it HAVE to be this hard, or are somehow choosing to me the stressed out mom. What if I stopped assuming that this had to hard and instead just let it be easy?
Perhaps, instead of focusing on these stressful days I also need to take a broader view of my life.
I am the mom of three kids, twin toddlers, and a preschooler. This is hard. Lots of moms tell me they don’t know how I do it and are kind of amazed at how well I handle these kids. I’m trying to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and just embrace the fact that even if I’m not the perfect mom, I’m definitely a pretty damn good one.
The thing I’m thinking about as I type these thoughts out is that I don’t want to be the stressed out mom. Maybe even making the judgment of myself that I am a “good” mom is part of the problem.
Instead of trying to be a good mom, I can just be a mom who shows up every day and does her best.
I can be the mom who is able to hold the emotional space my daughter needs to let her wild tantrums out.
I can be the mom who is patient with my older twin as he tries to find the language to tell me what he needs, but get frustrated when the words fail him.
Or I can find a way to help my younger twin feel safe when I have to leave the room for a few minutes.
The paradox or the conundrum here is that doing those things are hard right now because of the stress, and it is those very things that stress me out (along with normal adulting stuff).
So how do I create more space in my life to allow these difficult aspects of parenting to be part of my experience without pushing me over the edge into stressed out mom territory?
I am going to get really clear on my priorities and my boundaries.
Today was a great day for the most part, but there is one thing I would change even though it pains me to say it.
I go out on hikes and walks with other moms of small children as part of a group I am in. Today was a day where we go to an adorable little coffee shop with the best scones ever, then walk to a park my kids love and let them play.
It’s so awesome to get outside, get coffee, let the kids run off some energy, AND actually be social with other moms. I love it.
But there’s a problem. My daughter has a music class on the same day at a time that means we have to rush from our park/coffee date right to music, and many times we are late.
So I have to make the call here, which is more important to me, and to my daughter?
Ultimately I am going to go to the music class. As much as I love the park dates, in the long run, I think knowing how to play the piano and sing will bring her so much joy that I want to make sure she sticks with it. Plus, she really enjoys the class, and it is teaching her discipline in having to practice.
That means giving up something I really enjoy and look forward to, but ultimately that sacrifice will lead to much less stress for me since we can have slow mornings and just enjoy being together as a family on those days instead of scurrying all over trying to be on time.
When I first had kids, I swore I wouldn’t be one of those stressed out moms whose kids are overscheduled with unnecessary activities. I wore this in the same breath as I swore my kids wouldn’t be picky eaters. (insert laughing/crying emoji)
But guess whose kids have activities every morning Monday through Thursday? Yep. Me.
Let me be clear, these are good problems to have. We are blessed and lucky.
Though the fact that we have a lot of scheduled activities means I need to be more frugal with my time in other parts of the week. That means sometimes those extra play dates or trips to the library just can’t happen.
I have to put a limit on what I’m going to do instead of wanting to again, fulfill this picture in my mind of a perfect mom who never gets tired, and whose kids never get cranky when their nap is late.
As I type this all out, I feel like a whiney and ungrateful bitch who acts like her biggest problem is that her daughter is doing music AND ballet. OMG. What a tough life to have, right?
Perhaps that criticism is me being mean to myself and not showing myself any self-love, but maybe it’s fair too.
Maybe I need some more gratitude to combat stressed out mom.
The best antidote I’ve found to feeling like a stressed out mom, and also becoming fixated on all these stupid details in life that don’t matter that much is gratitude (and perspective).
There are different ways to feel gratitude and to practice gratitude.
You can go about starting a gratitude journal where you write down a few things that you appreciated about that day, and that’s great. There are plenty of studies to show that this is helpful in life, and leads to more happiness.
But I want to instead find a way to cultivate a feeling of gratitude all the time. Like to just live in a state of gratitude.
Contemplate that, what would it be like to live in a state of gratitude? To instead of picking our heads up out of the sand of motherhood to notice how grateful we are from time-to-time, we are able to feel that gratitude as our default.
This is a tough task in a lot of ways because life is not set up for us to feel this way.
Even if you think about how you have been marketed to by brands wanting to sell you their stuff since the time you popped out of your own mother’s womb.
Their goal is to make you feel like you don’t have enough, you aren’t enough, and in order to be enough, you have to buy their stuff.
So is it any wonder that after 32 years of that message being drummed into my brain, I find cultivating gratitude harder than fixating on the lack in my life?
The question is, how do I go about creating this sense of gratitude in my life on a regular basis?
Maybe it is this simple: figure out what makes me feel grateful and do more of that. Figure out what makes me feel stressed and reduce the amount of that.
Because as hard as parenting is. As hard as dealing with the screaming and tantrums and hard decisions are, I can manage that when I’m not also juggling 5000 other balls.
Getting minimalist with my time… back to priorities again.
I don’t want to just be a “good” parent. I don’t want to just be even a “perfect” parent. I want to be a happy one.
I want my kids to look back on their childhood and feel happy. To feel like they were raised in a loving environment of people who might not have been perfect, but they tried their best and apologized when they screwed up.
I want them to remember laughing and running and playing and coloring and imagining.
I don’t want their childhood to be a cluster of memories of mommy and daddy being stressed out because we had our plates too full.
Over the last few years, I’ve been doing my best to cultivate a life of minimalism.
While this includes minimizing possessions and clutter, I’ve started thinking about minimizing what I spend my time on and the things that get my attention.
Since I only have a limited amount of time each day, and a huge chunk of that is taken up by the numerous tasks associated with being a parent and an adult… like you know making breakfast and tidying up… I am focusing on completely ignoring things that don’t feel like they add to my overall wellbeing.
A super simple place to start for me was to start limited my time on social media.
How often do you have a few spare minutes in your day so you flip open your phone and scroll FB or IG? Then that turns into 20 minutes and you don’t know where your time went?
Look, I think a good Facebook scrolling binge can actually be therapeutic and self-care even. It is also one of the few places moms can find community in a world where we have fewer options for cultivating our village.
But, using social media in an intentional way is not the same as finding yourself trapped in mindless binges OR just popping in for short snippets throughout the day.
Not only is it draining your time and energy while you have your attention there, but then the ideas and thoughts of all those people’s statuses seep into your brain.
It’s easy to lose your momentum and gratitude and positivity for the day by reading one shitty comment or post. I’m not advocating for isolating yourself, but just be mindful of where you are placing your energy.
When you finish a quick check of social media, do you feel better or worse? Gratitude or filled with neediness?
Pay attention to those feelings and change accordingly.
That’s what minimalism is all about for me. Reducing the things that don’t add value or happiness to my life, and increasing the things that do when I can.
The thing I’ve also noticed when minimizing the demands on my time is that there is discomfort there. Because when I don’t have the distraction of activities or a phone in my hand, I am forced to become present again.
Learning to be in the present moment.
I’ve been working on becoming present for years now, ever since a therapist recommended a book by Eckhart Tolle.
After years of practicing mindfulness and meditation, I am just now beginning to scratch the surface of what it really means to live in the present moment.
The reason a lot of us don’t live in the present moment and are instead trapped in thoughts of the past, anxiety about the future, devices, activities, and other distractions is that when you first start becoming present it is not fun or comfortable.
We create distractions in our life in order to avoid discomfort, mostly feelings that arise. But the thing is that unless we feel those feelings and allow them to be seen, they will find other ways to force themselves out.
When our feelings aren’t tended to they can burst out as anger, or fester as anxiety. But when we don’t tend to our feelings we definitely tend to become that stressed out mom.
And as much as we talk about self-care, and I love talking about self-care, this is something we don’t dig into enough.
I’ve tried focusing on the practical aspects of self-care like taking vitamins and staying hydrated. That’s important and necessary.
I’ve tried focusing on the girls’ nights and mani/pedi’s and bubble baths. Those are awesome too.
But the greatest and most important act of self-care is truly learning to take care of our own emotional needs, which begins with actually feeling and identifying those emotions.
When I am most disconnected from my feelings, that’s when I become the stressed out mom, which is why beyond the most basic necessities of living, focusing on being present and cultivating gratitude are becoming my biggest priorities.
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