IMPORTANT NOTE: In re-reading this article I wrote years ago, it smacked me in the face the "privilege" filter from which I wrote this, having been raised to believe I could have it all. I have chosen to keep this article in full seeing that the original post spoke to many Moms - of many races and colors - who were feeling overwhelmed with motherhood. I also want to draw attention to the fact that many, many women around the world have very few choices and less support than most of us in western (and especially white) culture and face extreme poverty, abuse, assault, and racism while trying to often singlehandedly raise children. All women deserve the respect, support and love needed to care for both themselves and their children.
I'M CALLING B.S. ON THIS WHOLE SUPERMOM THING.
How in the last 80 or so years did we create our own (even if temporary) self-destruction with our never-ending To Do lists and "I can do it all" attitude?
Perhaps its western culture, or the rising cost of living and the need for double (or triple) income, or hollywood stereotypes and media pressure. Maybe even the feminist movement or just women wanting (and being able to have) the most out of life?
Most of us are doing too much, thinking we can do it all, and more often than not we then feel guilty because we're not doing everything as well as we think we should. Then we complain to our friends or husbands about what isn't done in life/house/work/body/self-care/kids and we collude about how we could do better - and do more - if we just had more help.
On top of that, many of us tend to apologize for what we haven't done or aren't doing.
"So sorry my house is messy"
"I'm sorry my kids hair isn't brushed"
"Sorry I'm late"
"No I haven't been able to lose the baby weight yet"
"Sorry dinner is Mac n Cheese again"
"I'm sorry, I just don't have the energy"
Before I had kids, I thought I could have children, have my career (with just enough of a pause to have natural births at home), have a beautiful magazine-perfect house, and a great relationship and feel sexy for my partner, and have a social life outside of my family. Easy, right? Mothers that complained were just not figuring it out.
Then I had two kids within 19 months of each other and life got a lot more exhausting, and any concept of time - especially time for me - evaporated like a water droplet on a hot summer day.
Being the career-driven freedom-loving Aquarian woman I am, and not having family close by to help, I still tried to do it all: Clients, workshops, moving homes (twice in 3 years), setting up for the constant flow of people we have at our home, traveling, working on our businesses, social media, personal work, spiritual expansion, breastfeeding both kids, preparing all meals and maintaining the house, keeping up my husband's relationship needs, and more. But guess what?
My house got messy. Really messy.
I couldn't lose the baby weight (and I breastfeed and ate fairly well and got some exercise). I looked tired.
I got a lot more gray hair. I started forgetting things. I caught every cold or flu going around. I had a shorter fuse. I felt resentment, although I couldn't pinpoint why. My relationship and intimacy with my husband took a back burner (which equaled more fights and more misunderstandings). Keeping myself polished (hair cuts, pedicures, clothes ironed) was rarely done. I felt sloppy. Some days I felt lucky to get 2 things done, let alone the 15 things on my list.
When I did paid work, putting in an 8+ hr day like I used to was nearly impossible, or if I did it meant total crash-out after - leaving nothing for my kids or husband.
Some days I would be so tired from all the 'doing' that I wasn't all that nice to my kids or husband, despite their loving gaze wondering "what's wrong with mommy?".
I also did a lot of really great things, too. But at what cost?
As my dear friend Leti once said to me after becoming a mom: "You can have it all honey, just not all at the same time".
I'm beginning to realize how right she was.
I count my blessings that my husband has been able to bear the financial brunt to provide for us while I step back. He is a great father and partner that shares in many household duties (and who of course faces his own stresses as a man and father). But regardless, I felt the pressure.
As mothers our lives have to change. We have to accept the fact we can't be a great parent and maintain a clean home and have three balanced meals on the table each day and work full-time and be a doting wife and have a social life... all while we help save the environment and contribute to world peace. At least, not without leaving a major hole in our physical, mental, or emotional well being that can take years to dig out of. (And if you are one of the women who can do all of the above - bravo! Please go by a lottery ticket since you're obviously got some magic juju).
When I see first-time pregnant mama's, I just want to grab their shoulders and hug them and say "Please try to rest and stop doing. Stop trying to do it all. Your nursery doesn't have to be perfect. Your life doesn't have to be perfect. Your baby needs you - not a tired and cranky you. After this baby comes, please don't think you're going to keep it all up. Yes, that may mean putting your career on hold for a bit. You need to let some things go. Take care of you. Let others help. Your sanity and your health and your relationship is at stake".
In a culture that values 'doing' and perfection, I say let's screw all this Supermom thing and start owning the concept of doing LESS.
I stand behind women - and men - living our dreams and being powerful in what we do in this world. And I acknowledge many, if not most, people have to work full-time just to afford the basics (don't get me started on the horrific lack of maternity leave laws in the U.S. which are part of the problem). But I also stand behind the need for us all to do less, anywhere you can no matter how seemingly insignificant, so when you do need to "do", you have more power and more energy and more of you to bring.
Here's advice I wish someone gave me:
STOP WAITING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO TAKE TIME FOR YOU. Own the fact that its unlikely someone is going to come to your rescue and say, "it's ok, I know you're tired, let me take the kids for 48 hrs so you can just sleep. I'll do everything else that needs to be done". You need to take a stand for yourself.
Say NO more often. And mean it.
Learn to have strong boundaries.
Stop feeling guilty. Be ok with being selfish in the ways that you can.
Get really, really real and radically honest about how much you and your partner (if you have one) can do without getting depleted.
Listen to your body and heart. Don't ignore the warning signs.
While you have young babies let your partner be the bulk of the financial provider for a while if you have the privilege to and s/he wants to (even if you have to cut way back on other things, which is what we did). Be sure to first talk through the views you both have on equality, roles in marriage (these beliefs can run deep) and the value of money and contributing. Will your value still be honored if you're not contributing as much financially?
Commit to two hours of time away in self-care per month - totally alone. Get away, take a walk in the woods, get a massage or body work if you can afford it. Sit on a beach and breathe. Just be with yourself (and no, not while on Facebook or checking email). Really be alone and let your body breathe in stillness.
Monthly date nights are important. Or go on a date lunch or even a coffee break (because let's admit it, leaving at night is seriously hard when you'd rather just go to sleep). Even 1 hour with just the two of you to talk, no kids, no distractions, will help maintain the bond through the baby years.
Value your life force as fiercely as you do the well being of your own children.
Don't feel guilty if you nap.
Ask for help. No one can help if you don't use your voice.
Sit your butt on the earth and just BE. Often. Even with your kids running all around you.
Stop saying "sorry" and apologizing. You have the gift of being able to be a mother (many women never get that chance). Be grateful for this small window of time.
Process whatever sadness you may have around who you used to be vs. who you are now, and your expanded role as a mother (in addition to all the other roles you have).
Mothers and all women are needed in their fullness - a fullness based in love, caring, and nurturing. IT IS OUR INHERENT PRIMAL NATURE. And it is fierce and immensely powerful. Own it. It's time we guard our soul-given ability to nurture and love this world by finding the time to return to our deepest essence. We can only do that by sitting on the earth, being with ourselves, and saying NO to all the self-imposed importance of our "to do's".
We must restore our balance to just being who we are at our core away from the distractions of life. In doing so, we can bring our full power to our talents, our marriage, our kids, our causes, and this world.
Our being - not our doing - is needed more than ever.
Original post can be read here: https://www.facebook.com/edenclark/posts/10154588085487254