On this particular Friday I woke up feeling lonely. I am my happiest self when I set aside time each week to see friends, date my husband, and also be alone. I would rather have a busy week connecting with my favorite people than having empty nights to just watch TV.
But my planned girls’ night fell through. No one was coming. I had looked forward to unwinding after an exhausting week of motherhood. Instead of letting myself be comforted, I fell asleep stewing until my thoughts turned to mush. So I began the next day also feeling like mush.
I rolled out of bed just in time to get breakfast for my kids before driving them to school. I put on my sloppiest clothes and made my hair look its ugliest without even trying. I washed my face and kept it clean—no lipstick was going to help my lonely mood today.
A year ago I might have smothered on moody eyeliner and gone about my business, rushing from one place to another, finding security in being busy and irritated with the entire world. But now I know better. Makeup is not my emotional Band-Aid anymore. Now it’s my play time–my outlet to be creative, to express what I’m feeling at the moment and to highlight my favorite features.
But when I don’t feel like playing, I’ve learned to rest instead of trying to look the part of a mom who has it all together. I watch a movie with my children while we cuddle on the couch. I ignore a sink full of dirty dishes. I shut my eyes for a nap. Yoga has taught this busy bee how to move slowly, mindfully. I listen to my favorite songs. Each component helps my heart a little bit more.
Mini peanut butter cups are also not an effective Band-Aid, but that didn’t stop me from eating 15 at 10 o’clock this morning. But then I texted my truest of friends and confided how I felt, and that helped, too.
It takes practice to absorb surprises and disappointments throughout a day and not turn into a wicked witch by dinner time. It takes daily, concentrated effort to put on a smile for my kids after school, listen to all of their stories, and be the mom I want them to have. I struggled with postpartum depression after each of my children were born, and when I was in that cloudy haze, I found a wonderful quote on Pinterest.
“In the end, I am the only one who can give my children a happy mother who loves life” (Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard, Grin and Share It: Raising a Family With a Sense of Humor).
While I wish Pinterest cured depression, I know it doesn’t. If anything, it just numbs my feelings. But that quote at this time in my life gave me a gentle push. If I wanted my children to laugh with their mom while baking banana bread, coloring outside of the lines, and dancing around the kitchen, I was the one who needed to make it happen.
I started to try a little harder each day. Not out of guilt, but from a place of self-improvement towards the mother I knew I could be. I now practice turning a day around when everyone seems to be grouchy by noon. I practice making time to be alone when I need some fresh air. I practice listening 100% to my children as they tell me all about their adventures.
Motherhood is not easy, and it is definitely not simple. It takes effort to continually place the needs of my little, innocent, beautiful boys ahead of myself. It takes stamina to eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch…again. It takes willpower to get kids ready for school after a sleepless night helping a child with nightmares or a bloody nose. It takes unconditional love to be an attentive listener when I’d rather watch a movie on the couch after a lonely day. But as I am stretched and prodded and loved and hugged by my little family, my heart keeps growing. And I keep wanting to be a little better than I was yesterday.
I’m a work in progress, and I am worth the effort. It’s time I get to work and take care of what needs looking after—me.
QUESTION: What part of motherhood is the most challenging for you?
CHALLENGE: Write down some strategies that you can employ to turn a rough day into a better one.
Edited by Nollie Haws and Kimberly Price.
Image provided by the author.