Recently I sat down at my desk to catch up with a mentor of mine. She asked how life was going as a new mom.
It was good, but hard. I looked down at my desk and saw the piles of books and notes and who-knows-what-else that I hadn’t touched in months. I felt like I couldn’t hold it all up anymore. I wanted to do everything, but had the capacity– emotionally, mentally and physically– for only a few things. I just couldn’t find a good mix of being a wife, mom, marketing consultant, friend, leader at our church, etc.
I couldn’t find balance.
She paused, and instead of telling me this time-tested, secret recipe for work-life balance, she calmly said “You will never find balance, Chelsey.”
Not what I expected. Not what I wanted to hear. Sigh. This woman has 3 grown kids and would know the truth. If she couldn’t find balance, I never would. I quickly resigned myself to a life of frazzled chaos. And I only had 1 kid so far. AYE!
Thankfully my mentor explained further… there wouldn’t be balance, because things will always have to give, and my outputs will never be equal. It was time I focus on my priorities, and give myself some grace. Steve and Annika HAVE to come first, and what flows next won’t always look like I want it to. My house won’t always be clean (but let’s be real, it wasn’t always clean before I became a wife and mom), I won’t make all the social outings I want to, and I just can’t be involved in everything, and that’s OK.
“Welcome to the trenches of motherhood,” she said with deep compassion, yet pure excitement. “You will never regret putting your family first.”
I looked across my desk, and instead of giving myself another poor grade as housekeeper for the gazillionth day in a row, I laughed and moved my computer and coffee to the clean kitchen table. Sure, my desk needs to be cleaned, but not today, and that’s OK.
The definition of balance: an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. This is what I was searching for and looking to hold me up, yet continued to see myself as a failure when I would spend too much time here or there, allowing another area of life to get less of me.
Truth is, there will never be an even amount of Chelsey spread out to work, friends, housework and family, because my family has to come first in this season of life, and that is a good thing. That doesn’t mean I resign all of my hobbies, don’t have friends and say no to every opportunity that presents itself, but instead, not beat myself up when I can’t do it all, mess up or fall short.
I’m slowly learning to be more gracious with myself for not having it all together.
There will never be perfect balance, but what I’m beginning to find is my own life rhythm. It’s a ebb and flow of what works best for our family– less perfection, but more joy and grace. Some days the dishes stay undone so I can crawl around the house playing peek-a-boo. I think the memories of Annika’s sweet giggles will last longer than waking up to a few pans that needed to be scrubbed. Sure, sometimes dishes DO need to come first, but not all the time. It’s all a rhythm. Some days I have to work later and see my family a little less, but it’s all part of what works for me and my family, with the ultimate goal of loving and serving them first.
I started this past week wildly optimistic. I was going to do ALL THE THINGS, with the week capping off in a sweet friend’s beautiful wedding. Instead, Steve got the stomach flu, and I spent the first half of the week playing mom and caretaker. Then I got the flu, and wound up in the ER getting pumped with fluids after hours of not being able to hold anything down. This was NOT the week I had planned.
My house is a hot mess. My child didn’t bathe for days. There were no long evenings of making homemade soup or intentional chats with my hubby. And worst of all, I had to skip the wedding.
Tonight I felt guilt as I threw Annika in the tub, counting down the minutes to bedtime, realizing we barely had any sweet time together this week. This week’s rhythm played to a tune of self-pity and dry heaving. Thankfully, I caught myself before I let the guilt settle in for not being stronger, better. And instead, I watched her play and soaked in her snuggles before bed. “Next week will be different baby girl. And if it’s not, we will try again the next.” I whispered before I laid her down.
I often read posts about being kinder to other moms and not spreading mom-guilt. But what about the guilt we put on ourselves? The high expectations we have to hold up all areas of life with our own two hands? What if we gave ourselves more freedom to find our own rhythm— to allow guests over when there are toys littering the floor? To take a girls night out even when it means forfeiting a night at home? To not beat ourselves up when we need to work a few extra hours? To share a blog even though it’s not perfect ;)?
Mamas out there– give yourself a little extra grace this week. I’ll be trying to do the same 🙂
How do you find your life rhythm?