In the fullest of disclosures, I’m an absolute train wreck; and by “train wreck” I mean that if you met me personally you’d probably walk away like “WTF just happened?!”. I like to think that I ultimately pull things together just in time (the moments you see), there’s just a lot of variability, red wine, and bad words on my trajectory there 😉
Being a mom is hard (yes, being a person in general is hard, but my post today isn’t about being a general person; it’s about being a mom… so…); and in case you didn’t already know, the struggle is real. How real? I mean, like saying you’re going to the grocery store and “accidentally” ending up in Bali, real. The ironic thing is in general, you’ll probably be the happiest and most fulfilled that you’ve ever been. Again, there’s just a lot more variability, red wine, and possibly bad words between those feelings!!
So what can someone do to keep a good spirit during said variability? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I can share what works for me; and the truth is, staying positive tends to be very binary for me. It either comes naturally, or it’s a deliberate effort that requires more concentration than David Copperfield has. I rarely see an in-between. This effort varies by year, month, day, even hour… literally. So let’s dive in (after scrolling through some photos of us enjoying ourselves for 15 minutes the other weekend)!
1. ABSOLUTE VS RELATIVE PERFORMANCE
The investment world gave me a deeper appreciation for things being relative or absolute. In motherhood, I keep things as absolute as possible. Let me explain through investments because it’s an easy concept to understand that way, plus it’s important to understand it in that context as well. Your investment’s absolute return is how it performed on its own. Your investment’s relative return is how it performed against something else.
In motherhood, I only benchmark my performance based off my own track record. Why? Because under or over performance relative to another mom is of zero importance or value. Your fundamental concerns are ultimately with your own family, so I encourage you to benchmark yourself that way. I’ve seen tremendous mothers feel like garbage when they benchmark themselves against someone they think is performing better, and I’ve seen other tremendous mothers inappropriately feel better about themselves because they think they’re better than another mom. Guess what? We’re all guilty. However, neither circumstance is healthy or of value; and I’ll save you the suspense, we all suck some days. Worry less about your relative performance, and more about your absolute awesomeness. You’ll be better off 🙂
2. BE YOUR OWN BIGGEST FAN
Hands down, I think the most important job is being a parent. It’s the foundation and lifeblood of a well-functioning society. It starts at home. But guess what? Being a parent is thankless. I mean, if someone told me how thankless this would be… sigh, it wouldn’t have changed a thing. There’s (several) times you’ll wish someone would just barge in and say “Holy F!! You’re awesome for cleaning the house, bathing those babies, and sending those emails… and then you turned around and made yourself LUNCH?! You’re promoted! I’m promoting you to Senior Mom, you’re getting a raise, and you’ll get five more vacation days”. I’m literally drooling writing that out. Bottom line? That’s not happening, and the sooner you accept this (not easy), the better off you’ll be.
Here’s where you offset that reality: You become your own biggest fan. Less is not more in this case. You praise yourself for emptying the dishwasher and brushing your teeth at the same time. You acknowledge that you’re great because you got everyone down for a nap. Every little thing you’re doing is amazing and the sooner you start giving yourself credit for that, the better. Stop waiting for someone else to validate your efforts, and stop dropping hints so that someone else will recognize your value. Do not seek validation from others, that has to come from within.
3. TAKE TIME FOR YOU
Like, real time for you. Get out of the house, do something for you. Feel free to miss your babies like crazy once you leave, but do something for you. Make it recurring. You deserve it. This job is thankless. Reward yourself in a way that you can, and don’t you dare feel bad for it (as I wait for my pedicure to dry).
4. SET INDIVIDUAL GOALS
Having an identity beyond being a mother is something that varies in importance per person. Regardless, have specific individual goals for yourself with deadlines. Maybe you want to run in a race, or participate in a cookoff. I want to finish my CFA charter and am sitting for my Level II exam in June. The idea is to push yourself, have a couple meltdowns, but ultimately meet the deadline. It’s about building confidence, stepping out of your comfort zone, and learning more about yourself along the way. And guess what? If you fail, it will be the best thing to happen to you. Why? Because you’ll learn something important about yourself and that was the underlying objective in the first place. If you don’t like what you learned about yourself, you now have an opportunity to address that more specifically.
5. LAUGH- FIND A COMMUNITY, AND LAUGH HARDER
One minute you’re discovering your newfound independence as a person and the next, you’re sitting there covered in wet goldfish crackers while your breastmilk leaks through your shirt. Laugh about it. This shit is hilarious. Every single one of us has had a moment where we were legitimately confused at how this became our life. It’s irrelevant if you stayed home for the rest of the day or you returned to your executive suite; no mom goes through motherhood without thinking “WTF?!” as one of her kids eats a piece of poop.
Find a community where you can laugh out these moments together. These moments are the commonalities we unarguably all share.
6. Have Sex
Part of me is embarrassed to write this one because my parents and in-laws will probably read this. Hi Mom! Hi Sandy! (face completely cringing in an almost apologetic manner). But seriously, soul to soul, this is the one place I can go where I’m suddenly the girl I always was. Day-to-day, I lose sight of that. Last week I was actually convinced I could be Mother Gothel. As mothers, we wear so many hats throughout the day that we forget who we are at the core. Be intimate, let your soul go home 🙂
I’ll be honest. My husband and I have different tolerances on house cleanliness. Neither one of us is going to change the habits we’ve mastered over 30 years, so I outsource. Done. Every couple weeks I have someone come over to do the heavy-lifting cleaning on our house. The cost is equivalent to eating out for two nights… I’m happy to give that up bi-weekly. I wake up on weekends with my sanity and I need to use far less words in order to make breakfast. We get to enjoy moments together as a family, rather than playing catch-up. Win-win-win-win-win.
Find where your misalignment is coming from and see if you can get analogous relief. Do you need a nanny one day a week? A mother’s helper? A house cleaner? Find a Groupon, or better yet, barter. Exchange your skills or something you need to get rid of (clothes, a piece of furniture, etc.) for help.
8. MOM HARD AND PLAY HARD
Do you know who the coolest kid ever was? Your younger you, obviously. She’s still in you, so bring her back out. The best news is that now you have a full blown adult brain and resources, and you have mandatory friends. So go grab all the sheets in your house and make a fort like a boss. Also, don’t be shy about ordering cotton candy ice cream with colored sprinkles for yourself… your younger you was right on this preference. Let it out, be happy.
More specifically, communicate with the person/people that are helping you raise your family. Don’t leave important details out, and don’t think that your feelings are not justified, important, or relevant. They are. Get things off your chest and then address them in a healthy way.
10. Find Faith
Whatever this means to you, seek it out. For some, this is a specific religion, for others this is a more abstract relationship with themselves and a higher being or purpose. This tip is a lot like the intimacy tip in that your soul is at home here. The difference? This one isn’t conditional; it’s always available. You can always return to it for comfort, warmth, and guidance. No matter the periodicity that you choose to return here (or how), it will always welcome you; and that is something worth seeking.
All my love,