Dear lovely you,
Shhh, honey. Your heart is beating quickly and your brow is furrowed to exhaustion. Your tension headache is a dull ache reaching its tendrils toward full roar. And worse, your heart is heavy with a pounding of things left undone.
There are always things undone when you’re a mother. How can you ever love and care for the baby child that came from your depths to completion? You can’t. It’s not a completable task. That crushing feeling of constantly failing to measure up to expectations? That overwhelmed, slightly panicked orbit where you reside? You know the one.
Here’s the thing: it’s all an elaborate smokescreen. If you could see it all clearly I know that you’d get it. The lightbulb would ping on as the electricity coursed through it, and you’d see everything in new light in an instant, believe me.
Your aspirations for this position are stratospheric, as well they should be. We tell our children to reach for the stars, but of course we know that it’s the reaching, not the achieving that’s important.
It’s a maxim that we’d do well to apply to our mothering.
Isn’t the fact that you are trying worth a few bonus points in the arbitrary grading system you’ve assigned to yourself? Shh, dear sweet mama – please go easy on yourself.
If I could shine a light so that you could see clearly in this moment of anguished insecurity and despair, you’d see the collective mothers of the world working side-by-side in unison. The pulse of humanity in a baby on his mama’s chest as she wrangles her toddler or showers attention on her older kids. This mama rocks out routines like nobody’s business while that mama handles arts and crafts like a boss. This mama keeps her house spotless, and that one has the patience of a saint. All of them shine at something, but none of them at everything.
It’s a universal passion, this attempt to give our best – and beyond – to our cherished people.
The reality is, there are a million ways to be a good mother and not all of them include keeping up with the laundry all of the time. Sometimes it means stepping back from non-essential commitments for a season of high intensity. Sometimes the process looks more like survival than anything else. Sometimes it means naming what you’re exceptionally good at, and clinging to that. (I rock at empathy, for the record.)
There are a million ways to be a good mother, but you cannot take every route. Pick a lane and stay in it. Embrace a style and rock out in it. Give the best of what you have to offer because the world doesn’t have another one of you.
You can’t do it all because you were never meant to. Open up your arms and your heart, exhale, and take a beat. Sit with the knowledge that your task is never-ending, unfinishable, and yet carried out successfully in an infinite number of ways.
If I could reach up in the darkness above your head and pull the chain of that dusty old light bulb to illuminate the truth, I would. And do you know what you’d see?
That we’re doing it all together. Each in our own ways, with our own capabilities, struggles, and strengths. In a wide-open space with a crowd of other mothers as far as the eye can see, stretching back into history and forward to the future, too. You were never meant to do it all on your own, you know.
Separately, we do our own unique thing, but collectively, we’re doing it all. As long as I do me, and you do you, in the big motherhood tapestry of awesomeness we’ve got it covered.
Name your exceptional strength and own it. Give it to your kids, your family, and to the world unselfishly, and then rest easy.
You can’t do it all, my darling, and it’s really okay.
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for this free video series that I created with Stephanie Langford. It’s three 15-minute videos where we talk about ten truths you need to hear when you feel like a failure as a mom. We get super real and genuine, sharing from our hearts to yours. It’s only open for sign-ups for another few days, so don’t miss it!