Note: I wrote this post a while ago but just never published it. I figured Mother’s Day week was as good a time as ever.
I’ve noticed that I’m becoming the “older mother.” At library story time, at class parties, at preschool and even among bloggers. I guess that’s what happens when you keep having babies. . . I don’t feel older, but I’m starting to notice younger moms around me who are having their first and second babies. I see them struggling to get a double stroller in and out of a store door, the panic when one kid is laying on the floor screaming for M&M’s while they’re trying to check out at the grocery, their dirty hair and t-shirts while the kids are dressed to the nines. . .
I also know what they’re seeing as they scroll on their phones while the baby is sleeping or eating. Beautifully styled living rooms (with no baby gear in sight), countless “date night” pictures of couples who still seem to get away—and like each other—after baby is born, twenty-something, childless fashion bloggers who have a professional photographer following them around. It’s a lot to absorb when you’re sitting in milk-stained sweatpants with a squishy belly and day-old eye makeup smeared down your face. I know. I’m still trying to absorb it all.
One great thing I’m learning about becoming the older mother is that you gain a lot of perspective. Believe it or not, it’s a good trade for the permanent wrinkles on your forehead and a slightly rounder middle. I’m not completely there yet (are we ever?), but I can feel myself relaxing more into the older mom role. I’ve talked about it here before, but part of that is learning to let go of what doesn’t matter in this season of life.
I read Jen Hatmaker’s book For the Love at the end of last year, and although I can rarely remember specifics from any book, I do remember her chapter about (not) doing it all. She compares the life of most women as walking on an impossible balance beam. In other words, there is no such thing as perfect balance at any one time in our lives. As Jen says, it’s a mythical unicorn that we’ve crazily bought in to. This page from her book describes many of my days—and yours, too, I’m sure:
It really made me think about what’s on and off my beam right now. It’s good to intentionally think about what we need to say no (and yes) to when life feels extra crazy. It’s not just things I don’t want to or don’t like to do. It’s actually about looking at everything that’s taking my time and deciding which ones I should/can say no to for right now. This list could totally change in the next year—or even in the next three months.
Everybody’s list will be different, but here’s what’s on—and off—my beam right now. . .
Off the beam:
My motherhood blog. For those of you who even still check it, you may have noticed I’ve kind of checked out of my other blog. Do you want to know when I started it? While I was on vacation! Of course I thought I would have time to wisely document all of my motherly thoughts and funny stories. I was at the beach, away from the crazy of every day life. So, I’m admitting defeat and forgetting all about it. Hopefully, you won’t mind a post like this one on this blog every now and then. . .
Play dates—for my kids. . . and for myself. Can I be completely honest here? I cringe every time someone brings up the word “play date” to me. When you have five kids—and live in a neighborhood with more kids—there’s very little time or need to schedule a play date. It’s not that I’m antisocial, but every minute counts right now, and I just can’t commit to scheduled play time during the day if I’m going to get all of “my stuff” done, as I like to often say. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever meet friends for coffee or lunch, but it’s not very often—and it’s usually last minute. Oh, and we don’t say yes to every birthday party invitation. You know what I’ve learned? The anxiety of deciding to say no is so much worse than actually doing it.
- Volunteering at school. Almost every August, during orientation, I tell my kids’ teachers that they probably won’t see me often, but I’m happy to send things in with my kids. I’ve given up the guilt of never volunteering for room mom or PTO or classroom helper. I need my own time, and I’m thankful for the moms that do feel called and want to do this. It’s just not for me right now—and that’s okay.
- Extreme cleanliness. This sounds awful, but it’s true. I’ve given up notion that my house will be spotless (until I get the green light to hire a cleaning lady again), but I would settle for it just being picked up on a regular basis. Which it’s not. Like hardly ever. Don’t let pictures fool you, friends. If you’ve got kids, you’ve got mess.
- Perfectly dressed kids. I may have to grit my teeth every now and then, but if they want to wear a mismatch of exercise clothes every day or some crazy headband that doesn’t go in any form or fashion, it’s usually not worth the fight. I just ask that they smell good, try to be modest and don’t have tangles in their hair (which is a fight in itself). I saw a t-shirt the other day that said “My mom is my stylist.” Yeah, no way am I taking credit for what they look like when they leave the house. I’m just learning to look the other way.
So, that’s what I’m putting aside. And, here’s what’s “on my beam”:
My morning quiet time. Reading my bible in the morning has always been a fairly sporadic thing up for me until the last couple of years. Now, it’s my favorite part of the day. It changes my thoughts and helps me to not rush into a “to-do list” mode right away. I’m also learning that nothing good comes out of checking email or opening my laptop before I open my bible.
- Going to bed earlier. This may be just be the product of getting older, but as much as I want time alone after everyone goes to bed, I struggle to stay up past 10:30 lately. I used to just power through and stay up watching Real Housewives with one eye open. (Now, I will make an exception during Bachelor season on Monday nights. . . ) But, isn’t it always the case when they ask somebody like Christie Brinkley or Jennifer Lopez what their secret is, and they always say sleep? There has to be something to it, right? So, for now, no more stressing if my post for the next day isn’t finished or if I have one more load of laundry to fold. I’ll just fluff it on quick dry tomorrow. Momma is tired, and she’s going to bed.
- Reading for fun. By nature, I am not a very relaxed person. (Just ask my husband.) So, there are few things I do where I can relax without feeling guilty about it. But, reading is one them. I’ve tried to be very intentional lately about reading a little every day, even it’s just for 10 minutes at night. It’s my little treat.
- Having friends over for dinner. Well, since we have no kitchen, I guess this is technically “off the beam” for a little while longer. But, I do love having people over and the way it makes our home feel. It’s fun for our whole family. I think it’s totally worth the effort of cleaning (picking up) the house and getting food ready. So, honing my hospitality skills is on the list as soon as we are able to stop eating grilled cheese sandwiches off of paper plates.
Younger (very tired, overwhelmed) moms, I promise that everybody struggles. It’s good to say no—and it gets easier with practice. We all know logically that we can’t do everything, but I’d love to hear about what you are intentionally taking off of your own balance beam . .