I see you.
You're doing more than any one human should and simultaneously feeling guilt and shame about not doing more.
You're probably beating yourself up for not smiling more, not being more positive, not feeling more blessed, and that time you lashed out on your loved one earlier this week...and earlier today, and 5 minutes ago.
You're trapped by naps and meltdowns, or choosing to screw the schedule for the price of a meltdown, because hey...these days it seems like meltdowns are inevitable anyway.
You don't seem to ever check anything off of your never-ending to-do list, yet there hasn't been a moment today you have stopped moving, or holding, or swaying, or bouncing, or wiping, or worrying.
You are constantly deciding between getting something done, getting rest, staring into oblivion, or having fun. Having fun rarely, if ever, makes it on the list.
You have bodily fluids on your shirt that aren't yours.
The barrage of other people's needs that come at you throughout the day are slowly beginning to take a toll on your soul, because it all starts to sound like, "You're not doing enough," and, "You're not doing it right." You have no more room for complaints or requests and could blow if the other grown person you live with even insinuates needing anything from you.
I know that there are also some of the cutest, most dripping-with-love moments sprinkled in these short years filled with long days... and that you're probably wondering if something is wrong with you because you're too exhausted to enjoy them more.
The thought of hiring a babysitter just so you can take a nap unleashes a tirade from your inner critic about how you're probably the worst parent on the planet.
You're starting to wonder how anyone can like you, let alone love you.
Mama, I wish you could mama you...in that warm, ooey-gooey, unconditional, you-can't-do-it-wrong sort of way only the motheriest of mothers can do.
It took the impending arrival of our 3rd child for me to start mothering myself as a mother. I knew I couldn't do another infant in the way I had done it before and also be the kind of friend, mother, wife, and person I wanted to be.
I started nurturing myself. I started being easy on me.
I was jealous of everyone else's free family support, so I hired more support than I ever had.
I started examining my expectations of myself. Instead of judging myself and my feelings at hour 11 with an infant and a toddler, I realized I would never hire a babysitter for 11 hours because I would not expect a Mary Poppins attitude from any other person under these circumstances. So why would I expect that from me?
I started examining the expectations of our culture. If 7 out of 10 marriages in the U.S. aren't well, and divorce rates spike in the 7th year of marriage (typically after the small-children-in-the-home phase), then maybe I shouldn't just keep doing what everyone else is doing.
I stopped questioning myself and my feelings, and started questioning everyone on Facebook who made it look too easy.
That first year with a 3rd child was one of the best years of our marriage, and thus, I think (you'd have to ask our kids) one of the best years for our family.
Fighting for what I knew our family needed wasn't always easy. I was up against judgment from myself, from neighbors, from family members, and even my husband. The husband will now be the first to say that the decisions I pulled for that year were some of the best we've ever made.
I'll admit, this may have been easier for me. For hours of my day as a therapist with degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy I get to talk to people in an environment where they don't have to wear their "everything's fine" mask. My office is a space where people can be real...and when I sense you're not being real, I call you out on it. I'm trained not to do small talk.
I get to hear how people really feel. I get to hear what they're really afraid of. I have the honor and the privilege of people sharing the parts of themselves they're most terrified to show the world. I make room for heartache and sobbing and we get to sprinkle empathy all over that shame and the clusterfuck it creates.
And the Joneses? I've seen behind the curtain, they're never all they're cracked up to be...and I love them anyway.
I get to hear it from doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, working moms, people with Ph.Ds, and those with millions of dollars in their bank account: how we do young children in this culture is HARD. Most families are not thriving.
I've had moments with clients where it felt like I got to peek into my own future, 10 years down the road, if I didn't start trusting and honoring my feelings...and it was scary.
You are not alone.
"But I have these friends who just seem so happy and like it's all so easy...and their husband travels and she never complains..." to which I say, "WHERE ARE THE REAL FRIENDS?!" Ah, perhaps they're hiding behind their mask?
Mama, fast-forward 30ish years...what would you want for your daughter if she were in this exact same circumstance, feeling exactly the way you're feeling? How would you nurture her? How would you help her? What would you say to her?
Shhhhh....it's the best kept parenting secret: the only way to be the kind of mother you want to be is to give all of that stuff you think great mothers give to you first. You want to be more nuturing? Nuture yourself more. You want to yell less? Stop beating yourself up so much. You want to be more attentive and present? Be more attentive to and conscious of your own needs.
I hope you can start giving more of ^THIS^ to you,
P.S. Feeling like you've lost the spark and aren't sure how to get back on track? I created a 1-hour(ish) online Training for Busy Couples. It's a love offering from me to you at a fraction of the price of my hourly rates. CLICK HERE to learn more. Emily (an AWESOME yoga instructor in St. Louis) attended the training and here's what she had to say: