Lately I've found myself overwhelmed by the never-enoughness of motherhood. Not the lack of confidence that comes with early motherhood that always asks, "Am I enough? Can I do this?" There are still stages and phases of that question, but not nearly as often as in the baby years.
I'm talking about the real never-enough. The play with the little children on the floor for 45 minutes, then listen to the big kids talk about their new favorite lego designs for 20 minutes, make lunch, start a load of laundry, and then try to go to the bathroom with the door shut so you can text your husband, but now EVERYONE is acting out for more attention kind of never-enough. As the mom of four kids, there really isn't a way for me to give them all of the attention they want. It just isn't possible.
Bedtime: Hug, rock, sing a bedtime song. Repeat. Tuck into bed, give a drink of water and a kiss. Repeat. Now the big kids: talk, hug, say good night. Repeat. Go back to check on the little ones. Kiss a boo-boo, give another drink of water, put them back to bed. Eventually they are in bed and even though I love having some time to myself in the evening, I am in bed shortly after.
It's so easy to just follow the never ending rhythm of being a mom. It's hard and exhausting. It's easier just to ride the flow of never-enough until you find yourself washed out to sea, unaware of where or even who you are. Getting lost in never-enoughness is painfully easy.
But I am finding that I can not allow myself to wash out to sea, because when I do, I am not okay.
Taking care of myself requires real work and creativity on my part and my partner's. I know it looks different for everyone, but I've found several things that help me feel like me. And when I feel like me, I know that whatever they need, whether or not I can meet that need, I am enough.
Here are some of the things that help me feel like me:
Friends. I know, this one is hard! How the heck do you make mom friends?
"Hello, woman with a child that is playing happily with my child. Do you have friends? I would like to have friends and you look like a good candidate."
My first couple of years with small children were painfully lonely. I felt isolated. I am naturally introverted and had no idea where or how to make friends. I've found that the best way for me to find friends is just to keep showing up somewhere. The homeschool co-op we're a part of is where I have made some great friends, but there are lots of places to try: library story times, MOPS groups, volunteer organizations, special interest groups (like knitting, gaming, or mountain climbing clubs), whatever fits your style! The key is to show up and keep showing up. Don't run off as soon as story time is over- stay and play; maybe you won't feel brave enough to strike up a conversation with the mom of the child that is playing with your child this time, but keep showing up and it'll get easier. It takes courage to keep trying, but having people who get you, who understand where you're at in life, and who will help clean poop off your kids' feet are so totally worth it.
An afternoon with a friend and a pile of collective children can be magic for when that never-enoughness takes hold.
Alone time. Okay, I know this isn't for everyone, but introverts know. A couple hours with a good book or some blank pages and my favorite pen helps me find my way back. I feel more alive when I have time to dream. It looks different for everyone, maybe you're a hit the gym kind of girl (more power to you!) or an artsy-crafty pinterest mom (if these really exist?). Whatever it is that makes you feel alive- do it! Talk to your partner about setting aside some time for yourself (once a week, every 2 weeks, once a month- do what you can). If you are a single mama, maybe trade off with a friend or relative. You are so worth a couple of hours!
Bathe. It feels like there is never enough time for everything. I don't really mind going several days without bathing, so this often comes at the end of the list for me. But! If I feel myself slipping away and there's no way to do one of the more time consuming things that I know help me, I'll turn on Netflix and give myself 22 glorious minutes to breath.
Good food. Maybe this means taking care of myself by making food that is emotionally satisfying as well as nourishing. And maybe some days this means hiding in my room and eating a piece of my favorite chocolate. Do what you need to do, I'm not here to judge.
I'm sure other people have extensive self-care lists, if nothing here helps you find your way back to enough, find something that does!
All I'm really saying is that the never-enoughness is real. I'm not crazy. You're not crazy. It's real and we don't have to stay there. I'm just learning that my kids need a healthy mama. That place where I feel lost at sea is not a good place for me to try to lead from and it certainly isn't a place of love. And isn't that the point? I want my kids to know that what I do comes from a place of love.
I know we've all heard it a million times: "You can't pour from an empty cup" or "You have to put the oxygen on yourself before you can help you child." Just call me the keeper of cliches, because it's true, even when it's annoying. We can do this- we don't have to be perfect at it, but we can keep paddling toward the shore. Love is worth it.