by Elizabeth Brunner
Can I be honest? Motherhood can be beautiful. And also a stressful, frustrating, maddening glorious mess.
At least that’s how I would describe it for myself. Raising 9-year-old girl/boy twins I can tell you that I need at least 3 more of me to meet all their needs. Since cloning myself isn’t an option, I make do with the solo version of mothering and cut myself some slack - when I remember to. It’s a work in progress but one that is worth every single effort.
Here are 5 ways motherhood is a big beautiful mess and how I make peace with mom-overload:
No matter what, I’m constantly behind
Hello, iPhone photos! Raise your hand if you’ve promised yourself you would print out all the pics from the previous year and make a beautiful album of all the memories you made with your family? Or how about all the times you promised you would make healthy meals for your kids only to be serving up noodles with butter and cheese…again. Fill in the blank however you’d like. The real reason you’re behind is that you can’t keep up with everything: It's impossible. Go easy on yourself and the I “should be doing” trap. The fact is, you’re doing the best you can, even if your best has been on repeat for a while. You can’t live up to an ideal and that’s okay. Know that you are not alone. You don’t need to give up on trying but it’s also ok to give up on what you don’t have the space for.
I don’t have all the answers.
It is such a relief to admit that — to you and to them! My twins always have a hundred questions for me in rapid succession and it’s almost never linear so while I do try to answer the majority of their questions. I also admit when I don’t have the answers, especially to those deep questions. Instead, I try to focus on where the question is coming from and if they can actually answer the question themselves (they usually can). That way they know the answer does not always end with me. If they want to know more or do their own investigating, I encourage them to. It’s helped me not go into a full brain meltdown when the questions come in hot and fast.
You can’t make everything better all the time.
FACT. My kids often look to me as the ultimate in affirming their world is 100% safe all of the time. But I can’t make their world perfect and conflict-free all the time. While I try to shield my kids from the heavy headlines, I also have hard conversations about the many questions of “why are things like this” in the world. While I do feel it is my job to keep them as safe as possible, it’s also my job to empower them to keep an eye out for themselves and each other. For example, on a recent trip to the “big Target” they resisted running an errand within the store for fear of getting lost. So I have compassion for their resistance and try to look at it another way. Rather than have them follow my every move to assure their safety I instead give them the tools to find their way back if they were to get lost. Since we have a plan in place they can feel more at ease. And this makes me feel better too. We may not know what’s going to happen in the future, but we can always map out a way to find “home.”
You have to remember to nurture yourself.
What are you feeling right now? What is your body feeling? This can be a tough question for many to answer because as moms we’re taught to tune into what everybody else needs and completely forget about our own. It makes sense, we need to nurture our kids and raise them thoughtfully but we often forget about what our own bodies need. Mom burnout is on the rise so it’s important to tune into what our needs are and go about making them met. Giving ALL of yourself is not only unsustainable, it’s downright dangerous. Make self-care a top priority, and figure out what it is you really need. Nurture yourself in a way that feels loving and caring. Take the time to feed yourself a nourishing meal, give your body a good 20-minute stretch, and reflect on how you feel after. I promise, that once you start caring for yourself in a way that is deeply needed, you’ll never settle for anything less. And you shouldn’t.
It’s here, this moment.
It’s so easy to fall into the “what if’s” cyclone and start to overthink everything. When this happens I get into the present moment real quick. It’s easy to spin out with the unforeseen and the unknown futures. It’s also hard to ignore that we live in very tense times and we’re bombarded with ways we should be freaking out at any given moment. But you can find calm in the eye of the storm and know that what is happening in the present moment is what’s most important. While we can’t control what’s ahead of us we can tune in to the present and let the rest of the spinning happen outside of what is truly happing in front of us. It takes practice so don’t give up. Being present is actual living.
Mothering is a process, not an event, meaning we are learning as we go. Some days my kids and I are in the flow but oftentimes we are not. It’s a constant adjustment of my expectations and of letting go - while also loving exactly what is. I understand that I’m learning to mother every-single-day and I’ll never have it completely down and that’s okay. It takes a practice of appreciating how far we’ve come and awareness of caring for ourselves exactly where we are on our mothering path. It’s all a beautiful glorious mess.
Elizabeth Brunner is the Founder and CEO of StereoType, a gender-free kids' fashion brand that challenges the norms and stereotypes of traditional clothing.