Let me tell you, I have an amazing mom. Like, one of the best in the entire world. I also have a Masters in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family therapy focusing on kids and teens. Yet, even with all of this – great example and great education, there is just a lot I wasn’t prepared for as a mom…
Especially as a mom with chronic illness.
Yet, here we are, almost 3 years into my own motherhood journey (or a little over 3 years if we’re including all the craziness of pregnancy…). There’s so much we don’t learn, can’t learn, until we are actually living motherhood ourselves.
I’ll share my list – which I’m sure will grow over time – and hope you’ll also share in the comments with me!
- BURN OUT HAPPENS EARLY AND OFTEN: When we are doing our best – trying to do it all – it can be so easy to find ourselves burnt out. This is true in a job, our marriage, or as parents. This is why we have to recognize the signs, create priorities, and take a rest. Want our marriages to succeed – it’s going to take communication and date nights and support. In motherhood, it requires rest, intentionality with our kids, and support from our spouse. It takes recognizing we can’t do it all, and being okay with letting certain things fall by the wayside in preference for more important things.
Avoiding burn out (or recovering from burn out more quickly) also requires that we recognize our limits and set our priorities. To do this well, I recommend NOT comparing yourself to the social media moms out there. We’re each just doing our best out here. When we spend too much time comparing to what someone else does, we can often lose track of our own limitations and priorities.
- LIFE WON’T LOOK LIKE IT DID OR LIKE WHAT I “THOUGHT” IT WOULD: Honestly, if you’re like me, you probably had an idea of what you thought life would be like once you were married or as a mom. And, if you’re like me, life probably looks nothing like that picture – for better or worse. Well, some days better some days worse. The truth is, though, I love my life. I live in a dream place (for me), I have an amazing husband and great kids, and most days I feel like I’m our weakest link. But, we’re a team. 100%. Now, even though life looks nothing like I thought it would, I wouldn’t trade it.
Life also doesn’t look like it did. Marriage changes things. Motherhood changes things. Chronic illness (physical or mental) changes things. Sometimes, it’s the adjustment to these changes that causes burn out. It’s okay to process, it’s okay to grieve – both what you had and what you thought you’d have. That grief or processing doesn’t take away from the love we can have for our reality.
- THAT SAID, LIFE IS WHAT I MAKE OF IT: Like I said above, grief over the life you had or the life you thought you’d have, doesn’t take away from your reality. It doesn’t remove the love you have for your life. Unless… unless you let it. During every transition and every phase of life, life becomes what we make of it.
That doesn’t mean we won’t experience hard times, or that we won’t need support or help. It doesn’t mean we won’t have bad days. I’m not under the impression that we have to be happy at all times. Just that we can make choices to make things better.
Get the medications you need. Go to a therapist. Eat differently. Make choices that move you closer to the life you want given your limitations and desires. It’s not always perfect, but Life is what we make of it.
- WE MAKE MOTHERHOOD WAY HARDER THAN IT NEEDS TO BE: This one gets me. Thanks to the birth of social media and Pinterest mom culture, we make motherhood much harder than it needs to be. I stick by the idea that if our kids are fed, safe, loved, mostly happy, and mostly clean, we’re doing a great job. In this respect, we’re likely raising kind/respectful kiddos. Regardless of how we educate, how we feed them, how we play with them, we’re meeting their needs. And, a vast majority of us go above and beyond.
Yet, we all face the mom shame and guilt every day. I can make a list of things my husband compliments me on, that I could find an IG or Pinterest post telling me how I’m failing. And, what a shame that is.
The vast majority of us are knocking it out of the park, but we feel like we’re not doing enough. Just because we see how someone else is doing this. How do I try to measure my motherhood? Well, by the list I shared above, are they kind/respectful people/what does my husband think? And, that third one, doesn’t hold as much weight as the first two. (For what it’s worth though, my husband is more than supportive and encouraging of my mothering skills).
- FOOD SHOULDN’T BE VILIFIED – FOR OURSELVES OR OUR KIDS: From pregnancy to the time our kids aren’t in our care any longer, the emphasis on food in our society is super toxic. Food should never be this vilified. Even formula. As a mom who was medically an under producer, whose daughter was not thriving in the first weeks, the way we treat formula was super harmful and traumatic for me.
But, do you know what would have been more traumatic? Losing my daughter because I refused to formula feed. I sobbed the whole way through her first bottle. I felt like a failure, like my body had turned on me. My daughter was alive and well and growing though, so I got over it real quick.
As someone with chronic illness, just learning what foods I can eat or shouldn’t eat is a very personal journey. My weight comes up a lot. Yet, there really shouldn’t be this idea of vilified food.
The same goes for our kids. It’s our job to teach a healthy relationship with food to our kids. We can’t do that if we don’t heal our own relationship and ideas of foods.
- ORGANIZATION AND SYSTEMS MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE: Setting up your home for success is crucial. I always encourage starting with what’s functional and moving toward what’s ideal. We’ve lived in our home since May, and as we’ve gotten to know our space over time, it has moved from functional to a lot closer to ideal (I have a blog post & video coming out soon about what that means for us).
I’ve never been one for being organized as far as like furniture and belongings, but I’ve learned creating that organization for myself and our home is crucial as we try to avoid burnout and recover more quickly – this is especially true for those of us who have illnesses. When we set up organization and systems, we are able to help manage our time and our stuff and our minds…keeping ourselves from going crazy. These systems can be as complicated or simple as we need them to be, but they do make all the difference.
- BALANCE ISN’T A THING – IT’S ABOUT HARMONY & RHYTHM: There is so much going around about balance in our lives. Work life balance. But, the reality is it’s more about harmony and rhythm than anything. When we find the right rhythm for each season of life, harmony in our homes and relationships usually follows. This harmony and rhythm are what we really need, and they work out a lot better than some unattainable balance – which they are often mistaken for.
Rhythm and harmony has to do with our natural needs, ways of doing things, and our natural priorities or the priorities of the season of life we’re in. I have a whole mini-course on setting up your own rhythms in the Soul Cadence Momma Village membership. If you want in, email me, let’s chat!
- THERE SHOULD BE ZERO SHAME IN NEEDING HELP, SUPPORT, OR ASSISTIVE RESOURCES: Moms and those of us with chronic health issues need extra help and support at different times. Yet, our culture makes it as if we as mothers have to do everything on our own. We should be able to work, cook, clean, play with the kids, care for the kids, and just do it all without falling apart. My mom did a great job of it all, but had help with childcare so she could work. No shame in that, it was what our family needed. No matter what your role in motherhood looks like, you are allowed to need help and support. None of us can do it all. There’s not enough time in our day or energy in our spirits to be able to do it all. And, you know what, in most cultures throughout history, no mother was actually expected to do it all. Entire communities helped with the child rearing, giving mom support and a break. Not until our modern industrial times have we seen this need for women to do it all. And, it’s harming us.
There’s no shame in asking for help, seeking support, or using assistive resources. Need a dishwasher? Great! Hiring help for childcare or cleaning so you can work? Fantastic. Need a cane, or compression gloves, or glasses? Get em. Whatever helps you live the life you want and be the mom you want to be. No shame, no guilt. Just support to build the life you want.
- LOSING YOURSELF WILL HAPPEN IF YOU AREN’T INTENTIONALLY KEEPING YOURSELF: Something I’ve learned more recently is if we aren’t intentionally trying to keep up with who we are and what we want, we can end up losing ourselves in motherhood. We can get wrapped up in the role of mom, that we forget we were someone else before we had kids.
So, how do we combat this? We start by taking time to care for ourselves. Do your make up or hair (if that’s your thing). Listen to your favorite music, instead of 24/7 kids music (unless your favorite is Disney music, then, go for it momma). Have a date night with your spouse. Go for a run or to the gym, if that’s your thing. Keep in touch with your hobbies, even if they adapt or change over time. We love our families, but one day, our kids will leave the nest, and we’ll hopefully still know who we are.
I don’t know how knowing these truths will have affected my first 3 years of motherhood, but I know I will allow them to shape the next 15+ years of my parenthood – and how I will be teaching/raising my kids. Hopefully with a strong sense of self, healthy relationships with food, and love for those around them.
Through everything, I believe this motherhood journey isn’t what we all thought it was. Knowing that, though, we can make it what we want it to be. I know that recognizing these truths will be allowing me to build up the best life for myself and my family.
What are some truths you wish you knew before you started motherhood? Share in the comments below or over on the instagram conversation.