Last month, the opportunity arose for me to return to teaching full-time. I thought that my days as a stay-at-home mom might have run their course, as it felt like my countdown to Happy Hour was starting earlier and earlier every day. What I realized, however, after many sleepless nights, was that my children weren’t the source of my anxiety – I was. So I opted to pass on the job and instead figure out how to improve the quality of my current existence.
This month, I’m reading The Balanced Mom by Bria Simpson. Like the author, “I believe modern moms can ‘have it all’ – just not all at once.” I already limit my work schedule and volunteer commitments in an effort to keep myself from “spiraling” as my mother often does. Still, on a regular basis, I find myself overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood while simultaneously feeling guilty for not taking on more. I know I’m not alone because as Simpson states, “70 percent of mothers report motherhood is ‘incredibly stressful’.” The Balanced Mom argues, “The problem is that we start to feel like we are on autopilot. We become detached from knowing what it most important to us – much less doing what truly matters.”
While The Balanced Mom was an easy read, it’s a challenge to put it into practice. Start by writing down everything you do for at least four days (two weekdays and the weekend). For as Annie Dillard writes, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Then, ask yourself these questions:
·What percentage of time is spent on attending to your needs?
·What is draining you?
·What can you take out in order to make space for what truly matters?
“We are so bombarded with choices, it can be a real challenge to choose what to bring into our lives and what to leave out.” As a result, weekends are “no longer a refuge but are a continuation of the stress.” According to Simpson, the problem can be fixed when you stop making decisions based on what other parents are doing or saying and align your life with your true self. I know. Easier said than done.
Well, this past weekend, while in Richmond for my daughter’s art class, I reflected on the following questions in the hopes of getting to the heart of who I am or rather who I want to be. For as Ben Stein writes, “The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.”
·What are some of your fondest memories as a child and what values do they reflect? How can these values be reflected in your adult life?
·What do you really want your children to remember about their childhoods?
·How do you want your children to remember you?
The last question was the one that got me. As I sat on a bench near Monroe Park, I knew I didn’t want my kids to remember a clean house and a cranky mom or frantic days and a frazzled mother. I want them to see motherhood as the wonderful experience it is. I want them to look back on our years together and think of me smiling, think of my loud, obnoxious laugh, think of me having fun. And know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that being a mom makes me happy. Because it does.
So I’m going to take the next step and follow Simpson’s suggestions: limit my kids’ activities, limit situations that tend to remain superficial, learn not to sweat the small stuff, and under-schedule myself. Because while I agree with Simpson, who says “this is the best gift you can give yourself,” I also believe it’s the best gift I can give my girls. Someday, they may also be mothers and I want them to understand that motherhood doesn’t have to equate to martyrdom.