Motherhood is great but at times, it can be extremely difficult. I am the mother of a 14, 11, and 7-year-old, and every day, my children provide new joys to celebrate and new challenges to overcome. Our days are a blur of meals to be prepared, assignments to check, assemblies to attend, "boo-boos" to kiss, clothes to wash, carpool lines to sit in, books to read, teachable moments to share... and the list goes on and on. We are faced with a completely different list each new day. Over the years, I've experienced the following seven truths about motherhood situations; moments that always seem to appear no matter the year or the season of motherhood.
1. Mothers will compete with you. At some point in motherhood during a playgroup for your child, potluck, playdate or on the playground, you will learn that other moms are evaluating how you parent, the type of snacks that you pack for your children, whether or not you are a good enough mother because of the tantrums your child has or the types of activities that you expose your child to, like music lessons. Over the years, I have chosen to create my community with mothers that do not have something to prove by pointing out what I should or should not be doing.
2. Setting boundaries is essential to having any chance at personal peace. I've learned that the word "no" is my best friend, and my comfort level with speaking it has prevented me from overcommitting at PTA events and other activities. This two-letter word has also allowed my children and spouse to understand that I don't have additional hours in my day to do more than my share. I've realized that the clearer I am about what makes my household and life move smoother, the better I am at asking for what I need.
3. Motherhood is stressful and beautiful. At many points on this journey you will experience stress trying to do it all -- when "all" was never expected to begin with. One of the ways that I've practiced reducing my stress is to repeat daily that "less is more." When I have less stuff that I am committed too and fewer things to fill every corner of my home, I find it easier to live and see the beauty that is around me.
4. Your car will be messy. As much as I would like to say that my minivan, affectionately known as the "Mom-Me Porsche," is always spotless, it isn't. Well, maybe it is spotless for the few hours after a car wash before I pick up the children and their friends, but it doesn't stay that way for long. We live in our car and it has every type of sporting equipment, backup outfits, a first aid kit and snacks just in case mom realizes that someone forgot the "whatever."
5. If you're married, you must date your spouse without your children. My husband and I try to date one another every other week at least. We might meet for lunch or go out for dinner. Sometimes, we visit our favorite bookstore and just have coffee and make time to talk without interruption. Occasionally, we arrange to do something more interesting that requires us to dress up and impress one another. We truly cherish our time together.
6. At times you will question if you are making the right choices for your children. It happens to us all with every child and at every stage of motherhood. It might begin with a simple decision that you made during your child's routine doctor appointment or whether or not to choose a particular school or teacher, or to switch a child's class. It could even be a decision that you made to allow your children to watch certain television programs, or to view the latest blockbuster movie, and the list goes on and on. I have learned over the years that if 80 percent of my decisions are great and 20 percent of them are fair-to- average, then my children will fare well in their lives. I also frequently remind myself that perfection is never the goal and that striving for it will drive me insane. Really.
7. Taking care of yourself is the best gift that you can give your family. Never feel guilty for making time for yourself, because your self-care will make you a better mother. Women struggle tremendously with finding time for themselves as mothers and justifying time away from their families. There's a reason that flight attendants tell passengers to secure their own oxygen mask first and then the masks of children traveling with them. After all, how can you take care of those around you if are unconscious? Being your best will allow you to give your best to everyone in your family.