Enjoy this great post by Amanda, and then check out the details of the 21-Day Motherhood Challenge at the bottom of the page!
I went to my first yoga classes with my friend Sarah. Although I was enjoying the stretching and relaxing atmosphere, I began to think, “Well, this is nice but I wish I was running. At least then I would be getting a workout.” The class went into a forward bend and we all grabbed our toes. In boredom, I looked around and caught a glimpse of Sarah. Sweat poured from her face and her arms shook as she pulled her torso closer and closer to her shins. “Geesh,” I thought, “She is working too hard!”
After class, Sarah gushed, “Wow! That was a hard class, right? I got such a good workout! Wasn’t that awesome!?” While I had totally wasted my 60 minutes, Sarah had thrown herself in and emerged on the other side of the class happy, enthusiastic, challenged, and changed.
The More You Put Into Something…
That moment stuck with me. I realized the old adage, “The more you put into it, the more you get out” applied to more than I realized. Much more. Could it apply to motherhood? In the day to day battle of motherhood, that comforts me.
I’m prone to “mommy fatigue”–a feeling of just wanting to plunk the kids in front of the TV and bury my head under the covers. Or counting the hours until bedtime so I can finally just be. And sometimes, when I feel this way, well-meaning friends have urged me to relax, take “me-time”, and basically stop trying so hard. That may work for some people, but for me, I’ve found the more I mentally check out, the less joy I feel. Instead, l remember Sarah and the way she threw herself in to make the most of her time. I so want to make the most of my fleeting time as a mother, even when I feel worn out. When I feel fatigue creeping in, I take a deep breath and redouble my efforts to metaphorically grab a hold of my toes and start pulling.
What does this look like? For me, it’s taking time to do the things that I love to do as a mother. I love to read to my kids and sure enough, if a few nights have gone by without bedtime stories, I start to feel cranky. I also love to make delicious food and if we pack our lives so full we don’t have time to have a proper meal, I start to feel overwhelmed. I love to learn new things with my kids and if we haven’t started a new goal or investigated a question in a while, I start to feel that combination of self-doubt and pessimism that accompanies “mommy fatigue.”
It seems counter-intuitive that if you are feeling low energy that the answer might be to dig in or work harder. But in my case, the things that make me feel better–cooking, reading, following an intellectual whim–actually involve working harder on the things that really matter to me rather than giving myself a break. When I do the kind of hard work that energizes, not drains, I break out of that mommy fatigue.
Finding the right kind of work
Finding and throwing yourself into energizing hard work is key. It seems like obvious advice but finding the “right thing” can be elusive. Sometimes I have fallen into the trap of busy-ness–that is sweating and straining over the fluff of life only to find I wasn’t challenged or changed, just frazzled. So I reevaluate often where my energy is going. I want it to go into the people in my life and not into the objects. I want it to go to activities I really value and the only way I can really figure that out is to reflect. Sometimes I meditate while doing the dishes or on my commute or for ten minutes after the kids go to bed. Wherever I find my little slice of silence, I make sure I use it.
Work hard on your “wants” not your “shoulds”
I can tell you for sure what is the “wrong” kind of work. Nothing leaves me more drained than working hard on something I don’t really want to do. That includes tasks that I take on from other people and tasks I heap on myself. So the first line of defense is really being careful about what I say yes to. Then when I find my energy dragging, I ask myself, “What would happen if I don’t do this?” If the answer is basically “nothing of life-and-death importance,” I try to let it go, especially if it involves a mop or an ironing board.
On the flip side, if there’s something that I really want to do–taking a dance class is my current silly whim–I work hard to make that happen. Because those “wants” are never very convenient in life but they are often cheaper than the therapy I would need to soothe my bitter heart when I never do the things I want to do.
Sometimes, work hard on your “shoulds”
I wish I could say that I always want to visit my grandma or be nice to my cranky neighbors, but I can’t. I do want to want to, and I know the best way to create that desire is to dive in and do it, regardless. This works with the “shoulds” of motherhood, too. Reading with my first grader is tedious, enforcing the rule that my daughter has to make her bed before breakfast is frustrating, and being patient when my preschooler wants to zip up his coat is hard. BUT often, when I’m in the middle of doing something that is the emotional equivalent of eating my vegetables, I find that I’m being challenged and changed and despite my best efforts–happy.
You’re working too hard and that’s good
When I was a new mom and my daughter was about 6 months old, I was still getting up with her a few times a night to nurse. I was tired, as any new mom is and feeling at the end of my rope, as many new moms do. My brother said to me, “You’re still getting up with her? Just close the door. She’ll stop crying. You’re making this motherhood thing too hard.” I thought about that advice. And that phrase “you’re making this motherhood thing too hard” reverberated through me. Was I? Was I being foolish? Then, almost immediately I thought about Sarah and the other passionate friends I have who work “too hard” on their passions and I thought, but this is the way I want to do it. And if that’s making it too hard, then fine. I choose hard work.
Perhaps I’m stubborn. Perhaps I’m foolish. But I believe in the joy and transformation that comes with working hard, really hard, like all-of-my-energy-hard, at the right things. I know motherhood is one of those things. And I don’t mean the skills of mothering or learning how to sleep train or trick my kids into eating veggies. I mean the hard work of growing a person–which it turns out is both my baby and myself.
I know my brother loves me and wanted to ease my load. But I wish he would’ve said, “This motherhood thing is hard and, amazingly, you are equal to the task. Because as you push yourself, a better version of yourself will sprout, take root and flourish. You’re working too hard and that’s worth it!”
QUESTION: When have you felt challenged and changed?
CHALLENGE: Ready to dig into mothering? Feeling a little frazzled? Want to feel challenged and changed instead? Please join our 21 Day Re-Energizing Motherhood Challenge!
For 21 days, this challenge will help you take small, doable, concrete steps to breathe new life into your mothering. You can feel excited and engaged and really invested in the process again.
Simply click and print out the materials below that will walk you through the whole process. Then you can join our Facebook community where we support and encourage each other and report on your progress there. Or enlist your friends to join you as you take the 21 Day Re-Energizing Motherhood Challenge.
The 21-Day Motherhood Challenge
Overview: Here’s How It Works!
Materials to print:
21 Day Re-Energizing Motherhood Challenge Journal Prompts.
21 Day Re-Energizing Motherhood Challenge Commitment Calendar
This will only take a few minutes a day – and you won’t believe the difference it will make in your life!
Report Back and We’ll Send You a Special Gift From Power of Moms!
Once you complete the 21-day challenge, simply email [email protected] to let us know how it went! We’re excited to hear about your experiences!
Here’s What Moms are Saying About the Challenge
“I found that I really love to read to my kids. I also found two new recipes that all the kids enjoyed! I saw that it was just the simple things that mattered and made a big difference. I’m really glad I did it!” – T.
“I have to start out by saying thank you, so much. I have been trying for over a year to figure out what my deal is; why I have lost control, felt as if I have deteriorated from the mother I once was. Of course not all of the days have been bad, but the number of bad days had risen dramatically from two years ago. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I kept thinking that maybe I was burned out from caring for others or maybe I just needed a break from the kids, from the house, from my job as a mother. But no matter how much time I gave myself to get rejuvenated, it didn’t help. In fact, I honestly think that I was making things worse. I was constantly looking for ways to escape and now I have found out that what I needed to do was to throw myself into my life again, and work HARDer.
I am slightly embarrassed that it really has been an easier fix than I had anticipated. From the beginning, just from reading over the list of challenges and filling in my calendar, something clicked in my brain…that’s what I was missing! “reading to my children before bed, playing soccer with them, talking with them for a few minutes when I tucked them in at night” So simple, how had I forgotten those things and how had I let myself go on so long, miserably trying to mother my precious children!? Thank you for helping to bring me back! I am already so much happier and I am looking forward to each day with a renewed sense of energy and joy.” – Calie
“Before doing this challenge I had been feeling a little discouraged about motherhood and how I was doing as a mother. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough for my daughter. Throughout the challenge, the biggest takeaway for me was realizing how many of the challenges I was already doing. Wow, I was doing better than I thought I was.” – K.
“I’m very happy that I committed to the “tucking in and having a 2-min. conversation with my son” action and completed successfully! The challenge helped me to stay on course and to find the time when I can to achieve my goals.” – J.
Edited by Anna Jenkins.
Image from FreeDigitalPhotos/Stuart Miles with graphics by Anna Jenkins.