There is so much about life that doesn’t make sense. Mom life? Even less sense. For 37 years I have worked to establish myself as an individual, fighting for independence from the time I could walk, staying motivated through 30 years of school, discovering my fashion sense, homing in on what makes me happy and tick. Life is all about choices, right? But, then we have kids and most things change for the better. But one thing that happens, almost immediately for some of us, is this inherent need to put our kids first. Sounds charming and maternal. But I started noticing that it wasn’t just my kids that came first. The job. The social norms. The pressure from God-knows-where to be solid in every single area of my life. What happened to my self? A lot, actually.
Sitting at a traffic light one day many months ago (isn’t it always at a traffic light?), it dawned on me that I didn’t care. Specifically, I realized I was spending too much time with people, tasks, and energy on things I didn’t really care about. It was taking away from my joy, my time with my kids and most importantly, who I really was inside. It’s like I was constantly trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. And I realized, while I’m not that old, I’m definitely too old for this. From socially lackluster conversations to late nights trying to finish a projects for organizations I don’t have a passion for, I couldn’t think of one solid reason to continue this madness. I realized I needed to spend less time worrying about what role I’m expected to play and more time focusing on the ones I want to play.
So, I decided to take my life less seriously. After all, no one was really watching. It was all in my head: my preconceived notions of who I should be, how involved I should be in my children’s schools, how many social events I should attend to “stay balanced.” However, I realized it only counts as balance if it’s something you want to be doing. And then it snowballed from there. I realized I was too hard on my kids at times due to others’ expectations. I was tired of piling things onto my already crazy schedule for the sole reason of not wanting to disappoint others. What in the actual world was I doing? Who the heck was I becoming? Supermom? Everyone knows she doesn’t exist. I was a phony, and I was the worst kind of phony: the kind who didn’t realize it.
Here’s the thing: I mean, sure, I care what others think. I care that my kiddos are happy and healthy. But, when did I get so overloaded with stuff that I quit having fun? When I’m my authentic mom self, when do I feel the most content and comfortable? When I’m not yelling. When I’m not worrying. When I’m saying “yes” to my kids instead of “no.” And the problem with all of that? I realized I say “no” to them a lot. And I’m hard on those babies of mine.
“No, you can’t have orange juice for dinner.”
“No, you can’t play outside because it’s too hot.”
“No, we aren’t going there today.”
“Please think of others.”
All the things that no one likes to hear, I was saying quite often. Too often for my liking, anyway.
Why was I such a grump? I mean, I know, #kids—and not just #kids, but #youngkids. But, my problem was that I was in this constant state of worry/anxiety/misguided focus on my kids’ behavior and well-being—so misguided, in fact, that I was missing the point of mom life. Totally missing the point.
So what is the point? The point is to love your kids, plain and simple. Enjoy them. Guide them. Let them be little. I was so busy worrying about transforming them into responsible adults that I was forgetting to just let them be 7, 4, and 1. I was taking myself too seriously and missing all the fun.
Same happened with my social life. I got bogged down in the high school-esque façade of trying to fit in to many different groups instead of finding my people. It was silly at how ridiculous it got at times. On the way to hang out with one group of women, I would find myself actually trying to think of topics we could possibly have a conversation about that wouldn’t be painful. For too long I sat listening to the importance of eating farro beans, gossiping about the ladies who couldn’t attend this week, and feeling blah at the end of our time together. The most annoying thing? It was time spent away from my family and left me feeling completely unsatisfied.
So, instead, I decided to not. Now, before blindly agreeing to a night out or a lunch date, I think about whether it’s worth it to me and my life. Is it worth it to my sanity, my happiness, my passions? If not, it’s not something I want to fit in at this stage. Less is definitely more, in every area of my life these days.
In regard to my kiddos, instead of lecturing, I correct the behavior and move on. They are little. They are crazy and will mess up. Sure, it’s completely obnoxious at times, but it’s usually not that big of a deal. Too many times I worried about talking too much, focusing on the negative behavior too much. Now we fix the behavior and dance it out, Grey’s Anatomy style. It’s hard to stay mad while trying to vogue to Madonna.
When my life is making me crazy, I know I need more “no” in my life than “yes.” No, I will not sit on that committee. No, I can’t make it to coffee today. No, I will not be getting dressed. Yes, you can play outside barefoot. Yes, you can take a bath just for fun and bubbles. And my personal favorite: yes, I will stay in my yoga pants all day without doing any yoga whatsoever. I might even pair it with my Birkenstocks and a ball cap. It’s me, and I’m happier that way.
So, when the world is feeling heavy to you, look around. Is it even the world you want to be living in? If not, change it up and make it fit better. Life is WAY too short to be living incongruently with who you are, as a friend, mom, and woman. Ask yourself what actually matters. What is it that you actually care about? Make that your focus.
I did just that. That day at the traffic light, I decided to make some changes, and now I feel better. I’m happier and I think I’m a better mom. So, I bought some orange juice and it is now a staple in our house. Twice a week, they can have it for dinner. And, for the record, I like protein as much as the next person, but farro beans are kinda gross. There, I said it.