My best friend is a cleaning and organizational wizard. Her lists have lists. On any given day if I call to see what’s she’s doing for fun, it almost always involves cleaning out a closet or organizing her infamous “piles”…translated, the four envelopes on her kitchen counter she has yet to open and file the contents of alphabetically. Recently she introduced me to a new Instagram account…@gocleanco. As if I didn’t feel like I live in filth already, these people post non-stop videos of places in our homes no one ever goes to show us how much cleaner we could be. She’s already implementing the strategies, I’m doing well to vacuum once a week. (Although it IS fascinating to watch what these women can do with Tide and Dawn dishwashing liquid....#goals).
In the first few years of our friendship, I really wanted so badly to be more like her. I mean, who doesn’t love a sparkling clean, organized space? It is such an admirable quality. But, the day finally came when I learned that I could appreciate it, love her all the more for it, and seek to do a tad better in my own space without shaming myself every time I opened my Tupperware cabinet and the lids fell on my head. The reality is, we are just different people and although nothing comes to mind at the moment, I may actually possess a skill or two that she wishes she had a little more of. That’s the beauty of us all coming together with differences.
In the past week, I have had conversations with multiple coaching clients and friends who are struggling greatly with “mom-guilt”. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is basically defined as feeling less than as a mother and concerned that you might be doing permanent damage in some way as a result of being unable to meet parenting expectations. The news that the school start date in our county is now pushed back another month and the reality that our COVID-19 cases continue to climb has many of you thinking, “I can’t take it anymore.” It hurts my heart to hear you guys feeling so lousy during such a tough time, so I hope to offer you some encouragement and tips for dealing with very natural mom-guilt during these days. You are not being over dramatic. This IS hard.
1) NO ONE HAS EVER DONE THIS BEFORE…so there can’t be a right or wrong way to do it. Everyone is figuring it out as we go. When the “how to” manual is published, you can grab it off of Amazon. For now…do the best you can.
2) LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. You are a human being…not a superhero. There are no trophies coming for those who “did it best”. This is survival mode. Tomorrow you can knock it out of the park, today you might just be able to lay down a bunt…or you might even strike out.
3) SET BOUNDARIES. For yourself and with your family. Every good teacher spends the first days of a school year teaching expectations and then reviews them often so everyone knows what the rules are. Do the same thing in your home. It’s okay to teach your kids to pour a bowl of cereal for themselves in the morning or to respect a closed bathroom door so you can have a few more minutes to yourself. That makes them more independent and self-sufficient, which makes you a really great mom!
4) TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. Self-care is an essential part of staying healthy in all areas of life. Schedule time each day (even if it’s 15 minutes) to do something for you. Notice I said "schedule" time...this must be intentional. It won't just happen on its own.
5) ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT. Often as moms we feel like we’ve failed in some way if we raise the surrender flag and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to tell someone when enough is enough. This does not mean you are weak.
6) LOOK FOR MOMENTS OF GRATITUDE in each day. It is not hard to look around and see so many negative things occurring, try to find something daily that makes you smile.
7) CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN and let the rest go. Focusing on the things you DO have control of will help you to feel some amount of success regularly. Choose your battles and focus on the big picture stuff. The little things can be tackled when we are not living in a pandemic.
8) KIDS ARE FAR MORE RESILIENT than you might think. If you kept yours alive today and let them know they are loved, you probably did more than enough.
9) WHO SAYS YOU SHOULD? When that guilt and shame begin to creep into your mind ask yourself, “Who says I should?"
10) AVOID COMPARISON. Limit your intake of social media and even of “experts” telling you how you should do things. We have access to far too much information. You don’t have to read it all and you certainly can't be expected to do it all.
So, back to my story about my super neat bestie. Never once did she or anyone else tell me I should be more like her or even make me feel inferior in any way. I was the one playing that narrative over and over in my head and making myself miserable. One thing you can take control of…your thoughts. When you hear that critical voice in your head again trying to tell you that you aren’t doing enough, use the “s” word and tell it to “SHUT UP!” Lysa Terkeurst often says, “You steer where you stare.” If you focus on how little you believe you are doing, then you will continue to feel less than; however, if you celebrate your small victories each day you will begin to feel much better.
It’s cliché, but you really do have to make sure your oxygen mask is on securely before checking on those of your kids. I promise, you will be a much better mother when you intentionally self-assess and make sure you are doing okay.
Finally, I love what I read in a book on empty nesting when my own children left our home. The author shared that often she prayed “make up the difference” when she felt that she hadn’t done enough or said enough when raising her kids. I love that thought. Our Father who loves us (and our children) more than anyone not only will, but actually WANTS to come alongside us and co-parent with us. Ask HIM if you’re doing enough and ask HIM to “make up the difference” when you fall short. You are not alone, you will survive this and YOU ARE DOING GREAT!!!
Through On Purpose Coaching I have created the tools you need to develop skills for more intentionality in your life. By providing opportunities for group or individual coaching, online courses, weekly blogs, podcasts, live events, team building seminars, Bible studies and more, I help minimize the anxiety, fear, insecurity, communication difficulties and overall lack of joy that many of us experience due to living without purpose. I hope this will become a community of support for you in the days ahead. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram and check out my website http://www.stephanicook.org. Let's connect. I'd love to hear from you!