My High Standards Sucked the Joy out of Motherhood
One of my best friends in the world has thanked me several times for the advice I once gave her, from one stay-at-home-mom to another. I told her to try to get out of the house with her little ones every day, even if it’s just to the grocery store or for a little walk. It was something that had really helped my son and me, and it was the only thing that came to mind when she specifically asked what works for me.
Well, I don’t do that anymore.
Maybe you know what I mean. Maybe there’s something you felt was almost vital to life as a SAHM and you were thriving because of it. Maybe you had an ideal schedule, or a fantastic routine, maybe you were teaching and playing and cleaning and cooking with zeal…but when life became more challenging at home, it started to slip away from you. You now realize you were once twirling around in a field of wildflowers, breathing in fresh mountain air and singing like Julie Andrews, only to discover you’re suddenly huddled away in a dense, dark forest and longing for a little sunshine.
Truth: it’s often HEALTHY to lower your standards.
When my daughter was born, I knew it would be awhile before I’d be comfortable going out with my two kids by myself. I decided it would take months, even. But I didn’t expect the year that was 2016. I didn’t expect the challenges that came along with Sylvie’s reflux disease. Seven months went by before she was able to get through a day without multiple wardrobe changes and soaking through our large stack of swaddlers.
Getting out of the house wouldn’t have been challenging just because I’d be watching my three-year-old, and taking breaks for breastfeeding and changing my baby. It would have been challenging because my sweet little daughter was always, always throwing up.
Once or twice, I did venture out with both kids after the reflux began to slow down. But with Fall, sickness came, and then Sylvie needed minor surgery, and then she started struggling with eating. Once those things were behind us, the holidays came and went, then more sickness came and went (mostly came), and I found myself at the edge of the trees praying I can at least see the sunlight.
I just didn’t feel like I could manage it all. And I felt bad about it. The stress of daily life with two little ones had affected me, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was Mom Guilt. The worst part was feeling like I was failing my kids and myself.
My standards weren’t life-giving goals anymore. They were bullies.
So here’s what I learned during that year of life on the Struggle Bus.
1. I Learned It’s Healthy to Lower Those Too-High Standards.
I learned that I needed to silence the little frightened whisper that would remind me it had been months since I took my son to the library. I learned that my best was good enough. Not only was it good enough, it was all that was needed. I could breathe. I could slow down and know that God made me for this.
2. I Learned that My Children were Happy.
My son played and pretended and colored and made play-doh corn niblets. I held the baby and chased him as he ran around the house pretending to be a crazed sheep that steal’s the farmer’s tractor. He still knew his ABC’s. He still knew how to count. He was loved and fed and clothed and potty trained (well, mostly).
I wasn’t destroying his world, I was nurturing it.
Things had changed dramatically, but we were okay. We had Saturday trips to my parents’ farm, we had summer escapades, we trick-or-treated and gave thanks and learned ALL the Christmas songs and actually made it to the library.
3. I Learned to be Flexible and to Trust God.
We were loved and cared for by a God who never forgot us, who saw every moment and held up joy for us. He was there to refresh my outlook and to give my soul rest.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do notgive to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
He helped me see that when circumstances change, my standards should change too. When there’s a rip in the fabric, you can’t patch it with shiny new satin, or it will tear away again (Mark 2:18-21). The old scrubby flannel is what will make it strong again.
I had to be flexible enough to figure out what was appropriate for the season I was in. Sometimes you need to get back to the basics before you can frolic in the fields.
4. I Learned that the Only Person with Soured Expectations was Me.
And it was time to let it all go. One day it will make sense to try my own advice again and aim for the standards I’d set for myself.
But that day is not today.
Today is about knowing my worth as a mama, holding onto joy, and laughing with my hilarious, spirited, darling, cheerful kids. That’s my new standard.
So, in case you need it, I’m giving you permission to enjoy the simple things and ignore the dishes as long as possible, to treasure your kids and take care of yourself, to see that everyone is still breathing and happy, and to know that’s more than enough. Take that picture you have of how life used to be, and put a new one in its place.
In this new picture, life is different, but everyone is still smiling. Especially you.