Moms, you really can have it all!

Recently a wise mama I know shared some incredible insight that resonated with me, and I find myself often now sharing her words each time the opportunity comes up in sessions with clients (or when I begin to notice my own insecure mama-feels). She was nearing a professional crossroads and struggling to balance all that she wanted for her family, her career and her personal life. After a typical mama-conversation outlining all the things we weren’t going to get done that week, she finally said, “Maybe I can have it all, just not all at the same time.”
This was such simple perspective, and yet so enlightening and liberating that I can’t help but to keep sharing it in hopes that it may help other moms out there too.

For starters, wanting to “have it all” – or perfectionism – is very common for women, perhaps because some of the earliest messages we get from our culture is to be flawless in every aspect of our lives. Our culture tells us that our success is measured by how much we have to offer, or how picture-perfect things look from the outside. Be smart they say. And kind. And funny. And fit. And attractive. A good friend. Confident. Talented. Popular. Generous… the list for a woman’s “must haves” in today’s society is never-ending.

Then, we go on to become mothers, and you better believe that the unforgiving demands only become all the more unrelenting and brutal.

Be smart they say, except you haven’t slept more than four hours straight in months (which actually diminishes cognitive functioning)! Be funny they say, except now your main audience is a blabbering toddler who thinks peek-a-boo is so (yawn) delightful.  And don’t even get me started on being fit or a good friend… because after a while, your most loyal and soothing companion feels like a box of Oreos and your tennis shoes haven’t seen the light of day in months!

While being a woman in today’s perfectionist culture is hard enough, motherhood comes with its own new set of unrealistic expectations. Even for those who were really great at embracing their pre-baby awesomeness, we all inevitably fall victim to negative self-talk at some point as mothers when our energy to “do it all” or “be it all” eventually runs out. In a society where “all-organic, BPA-free, and breast-is-best” is the only way to be a mother (so we think), we tend to slide even further into the distortion that if we’re not doing it all, then we’re not doing enough. And that list of “to-do’s” for moms? Well it’s never-ending, times ten.

The truth is, we mothers don’t have to exist in this “all or nothing” vacuum. We don’t have to accept impractical standards, and we certainly don’t have to believe the lie that we’re not doing enough, trying enough, giving enough, or just being enough.

Was your family fed today?
Was everyone kept safe?
Did you get to pee, or drink coffee, or take a shower?
Did you snuggle a loved one to sleep?
Or wake up to the sound of sweet babbles and coos?
If you answered yes to any of these, then you my mama friend, have lived a very full and meaningful day indeed.

Because motherhood is your season right now, and this is undeniably an all-consuming time of life. It’s a time when it takes everything you’ve got just to grow secure and happy children, to nurture vulnerable partnerships, and to cultivate new space for gentle self-compassion. This season of life takes so much energy just to survive, so naturally there’s very little leftover for anything else.

So my advice is this –

Embrace your season. Turn your attention to what is going well and believe in all the good you already are doing each and every day. Celebrate the victories that keep you and your family healthy and loved,  and know there will be days when just surviving is all any of you can manage. And finally, trust that there will be another time and place in your life when no doubt you will accomplish some other pretty amazing feats – but today, you are a mother, and just showing up for that is absolutely more than enough.

​It’s when you begin to really live in these beliefs and accept that “enough” is exactly what you have, well that’s when you truly can have (and be) it all.

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