I was recently talking with a friend who has two young children about balance.
She mentioned that she had just gotten a chance to get back to some of her favorite creative pursuits after a long hiatus. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that her youngest is approaching one and a half years old. With both of my kids it took until after their first birthday to start thinking about things other than day to day needs, and it took until they were two to fully get myself back into any sort of rhythm.
But finding balance as a Mom of kids of any age can be challenging.
Sometimes it feels like “balance” is just one more thing on my “to do” list. What does balance mean and is it just some pie in the sky fantasy?
I think that balance is possible, it just can’t be achieved every day and it’s different for each person.
Balance starts with giving yourself permission.
Giving yourself permission for what exactly, depends on your personality and circumstances, but the permission means you can let some things go. As a Mom, you have a lot on your plate and if you take a minute or an hour or half a day to sit down and breathe, read, create or watch, it can be extremely difficult to quiet that nagging feeling that you should be doing something.
It’s called the “mental load.”
If you search that term online, you will have days worth of reading to do (and you should make time to read a lot of it – you will feel less alone!).
But when you take a minute or an hour or a day to let the never ending to do list go, it is restorative. Give yourself permission to do this!
However, there is a problem when you move back into your normal life because the work is still there. Nothing brings you back to stress and burnout and anger faster than a huge pile of work. So, what are you supposed to do with that?
I have two suggestions: delegate and lower your standards to “good enough.”
It’s true that delegating comes more easily as your children grow and are able to take on more jobs. This is why personally and for many of my friends, the older a child gets, the easier it is to create more space for ourselves.
But your children might not be the only ones who can take on other tasks. If you have a spouse or partner, talk to them about your concerns. Yes, they may not listen or get defensive and you may need to have a bunch of uncomfortable conversations, but you are worth that!
Being in a partnership means that you work together to achieve a shared goal (raising a happy and healthy family).
Even if your partner doesn’t listen and nothing comes from it right away except for an argument, you have shown yourself that you are worth it and that matters.
Balance means you need to believe you are worth enough to fight for your own mental and emotional sanity.
A third option for delegating is to hire out some of your work. You can’t hire out someone to help your first grader with a school poster, but you can hire someone to clean your house once a month or mow the lawn or make that cake for the birthday party. Perhaps a friend can trade some tasks with you or a family member can give you a break every so often.
But delegating only goes so far if you can’t accept good enough.
Find ways to let your standards down. I know this can be tough and it doesn’t mean that you have to let everything in your life go, but realize that being a great Mom doesn’t have to mean making every costume, hosting every perfect party, having a spotless house, keeping up on laundry and dishes, always cooking a balanced meal, never being late to anything, always volunteering for everything, working out every day and a million other things.
Listen, some of these things will bring you joy – keep doing them, but other things, let them go. Switch to family photos or birthday parties every other year. Buy the costume from a consignment sale some years. Wait one more day to catch up on laundry every so often. Try to have balanced meals four days a week instead of seven. These are just suggestions, you do you, but pick at least a few things to move lower on the priority list as you move yourself up it.
Life is about seasons. Sometimes you will be caught up on the dishes, sometimes you won’t. Sometimes you will forget that item your child needs for school, other times you will remember all the needed things. But either way, you are trying your best, so remember that.
Lastly, ignore people who make you feel bad.
This is hard, I know that. I’ve developed a pretty thick skin, but sometimes things get through. When that happens, look around and remind yourself of all the things you are doing to keep your kids growing and safe. Tell yourself, maybe even out loud, that you are doing your best and your kids are safe and loved. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are worth it. Your kids deserve a Mom who is healthy and happy. And they just might learn from your example.