Two things you should know:
1. Jacob is one amazing listener, we’re talking professional level worthy of LinkedIn endorsements.
2. I am a perfectionist control freak. I have to fight the urge to project manage every aspect of my life. You can only imagine how this translates to motherhood when you have a little dictator with their own personality, needs, and desires added into the mix.
A few weeks ago I took advantage of that amazing listener husband of mine and I unloaded some of the deep feelings and thoughts weighing on my heart about mom priorities.
The Cliff Notes version: I feel like I cook, clean, do laundry, try to run a blog and I do some consulting for work, and try really hard to have intentional time with my child that doesn’t include me online during the day. At the end of almost every day, I still feel like I’m nowhere close to tackling my to-do list. There’s always more I’d love to have cleaned, accomplished, drafted, planned, and put together. I love to volunteer at church, but I find myself dropping the ball often because I’m too overloaded. Before children I felt on top of life 90% of the time, but these days I’m feeling more like the inverse.
Jacob reassured me I’m keeping a child alive, I’m doing enough, there’s still blog content- and hey you guys keep reading and sticking with me you amazing people. Bless you for seeing me through this crazy life transition! In short, he told me I really shouldn’t beat myself up.
I think most moms feel this way, there’s just always more to do than we can do. And really, if the kid is alive and there aren’t roaches we’re probably doing an awesome job! I’m glad Jacob gets that, but I had to get it off my chest to uncover what really needed to be said.
That’s when I unveiled the real root of the problem- how far from my vision of being the mother I dreamed of being I am.
When I left my full-time gig to work from home part-time for myself I thought I’d have all the time in the world to be the mother I envisioned and dreamed of being. I’d have perfect meals from scratch on the table every day. The house would be spotless. I’d hit the gym everyday and have the perfect body in no time. But, most of all, I’d have so much time with Mack to do all the things I thought perfect mothers do. This included a lot of things, but here’s a short list of what I thought our lives would look like:
– Weekly trips to the library
– Regular cookie baking (I mean that’s such a mom stereotype but I’m owning it!)
– An annual zoo/museum/playground pass with frequent visits
– Reading books for at least an hour a day
– Play dates with friends every week with new friends entering the scene often
– Cooked breakfast/lunch/dinner from scratch we make and enjoy together
– Teaching him to cook as he gets older with all the patience in the world
– Mom and me swim classes/music classes/basically lots of classes
– Splash pads and pool time
– Quality learning time so he can have all his ABCs, numbers, the bones in the body, the constellations, U.S. presidents etc. ready to recite as an early talker. I half kid, but I did plan to spend a lot more time as a teacher than just a caregiver and really help him get a head start on education.
That fateful night when I mentioned my shortcomings to Jacob, I told him I’d baked cookies once while he napped, and we’d had a couple playdates to be proud of, and I was doing my best to fit in two books a day. But overall, these things just never seemed to happen, and I was so discouraged I’m not the on-top-of everything mother I planned on being, particularly when it comes to feeling like I’m falling short on time to give to my child’s development and emotional well-being.
Jacob’s response, “So why aren’t you doing these things?”
It kind of took me back, I’d just explained this intricately! I reminded him of what I’d just said, and of the pile of laundry in the living room to be folded, the grocery shopping to do the next day, the meal planning to do that evening after bed time, the hour I’d spent on dinner and half hour we spent cleaning the kitchen together, and the fact that I really enjoy taking a shower every day. I blog at night after my boys go to bed, and try to answer social media during one nap a day. In essence, there’s so much to do at home and work and so many chores I don’t get to in a day that the idea of having a fun time as the ideal mom with my list of what I should do and should be prioritizing isn’t something I think I can swing at this phase of life.
And then he said something that caught me off guard: “So why don’t you just do them?”
I felt a bit flabbergasted at this point, and I once again reminded him if I did that we’d likely eat fast food or cereal for dinner, we’d live in a mess, and who knows if I’d ever get a shower?
And then that wise man said something revolutionary, “What if you took one day a week, and you just did the them? We can have extra mess, I’ll pitch in more that evening, we can eat fast food or cereal one night a week. Why don’t you just make those things happen and be the the mother you dreamed of being- even if it’s just for one day a week?”
My mind was pretty blown that he’d just given me permission to let go of my to-do list, and to bask in enjoying childhood with my child- at least for one day a week.
I admitted two more concerns, first I may be spending some money from the budget on a few things like ice cream trips, zoo passes, or museums. Second, I just felt guilty about having fun with my child while Jacob is in an office or traveling to a job site working hard. I felt like he’d be jealous of the fun and bonding, and want to trade me places and how unfair that may feel to him.
He let me know most my short list was free or inexpensive, and he wanted a happy childhood full of learning and experiences for our children too- and a little money could go to that goal. He also reminded me that there are days I’m jealous he’s in an office, and how there are times I’d love to trade him places. He’s right, I love my little guy but there are days I miss my old office so much. We decided that was an okay thing for both of us to feel. He also mentioned he didn’t mean to be a pessimist, but life was likely going to get more stressful. We do hope to have another kid if we can get another fertility miracle- which will only further add to our busyness. He reminded me that making the life we want right now will always be something we have to fight for and intentionally do. And he’s fully supportive of what I really want out of life.
I seriously was speechless for the first time in my life for about a minute. Dumbfounded isn’t a feeling I feel often, but had Jacob just seriously solved my conundrum? Could I just take life a day at a time and purposely choose to have a day that is not focused on chores, but focused on fun and experiences- and on being the fun, teaching, experience-giving mother I dreamed of being? I kind of choked up too. Could there be a better man in the whole world? He never ceases to amaze me, and seeing Jacob as my cheerleader in so many phases of my life is something that still humbles me as a blessing I’d never dreamed of having in my wildest dreams.
When words finally came I think it was something as eloquent as, “Um, okay. Yes we could probably do that.”
And I thought about it for the rest of the night and while I laid in bed. I thought about it during the middle of the night feeding. Is it really that simple? Do you just say “To hell with you do-to list” every now and then and allow yourself the freedom to be the mother you dreamt of being? I think the answer is of course, yes, it is.
I share this as my revelation for change in my life. Pardon the mess one day a week, but I’m going to make my to-do list all about my child, and all about my experiences as a mom. And should I remember to bring a camera and am capable of getting pictures with just the two of us, I plan to document and share some of our experiences. In short, I’m going to start dating my child. And I can’t wait to share some of our mommy/son dates.
And for any mother out there struggling with the idea that they aren’t the mother they dreamed of being- I just wanted to be the one to do for you what Jacob did for me. I’m giving you permission. Cut a to-do list item. Choose a day or half day that you release yourself from chores and overwhelm. Let something go. You have permission to be the mother (or father) you dreamed of being, whatever that may mean, if only for a few hours a week.
*Photos by Photography Hill
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