As the mama of an 11 month old baby boy, I have first hand felt the pressure to do it all, to be it all... to juggle a million things at once and make it look effortless. The reality: every time I try to keep up with my own extreme expectations, it all comes crashing down and I face disappointment. Sound familiar? Many of us are "mamachievers" (a.k.a. over-achieving, hot messes). I'm not an expert at this mom gig by any means but I've learned some pretty valuable lessons in the last year and when I put them into practice, I feel fulfilled and come to the realization that I AM giving it my all.
What does 'doing it all' mean to you? Chances are, that looks a bit (or a lot) different for each one of us. But one thing most of us mamas have in common: we usually set our self expectations too high. Many of us do this even before having a baby. The solution: we first need to accept that we simply cannot do. it. all. Something will always have to give, whether it's passing on a dinner date with friends or skipping sending out holiday cards.
Avoid the Comparison Trap
Hard to do, especially in today's world of social media, I know! But even when you're chatting with your closest mama friends, it's easy to feel like you're not keeping up with the pack. Embrace those mamas who will lift you up, rather than bring you down. Surround yourself with those who inspire you, but remember—we ALL have hard days. So, that super mom on Instagram who always looks like she has her shit together? She's probably gone days without showering, been covered in spit up and snot and has cried her eyes out at one o'clock in the morning, too.
There's nothing like becoming a parent that forces you to slow down and live in the moment. These babies of ours grow up at lightning speed and when you look back on these years, you'll be happy you chose to hang with your little instead of work a couple extra hours on a Saturday. This is where setting priorities comes in. Life is still happening and yes, you've got responsibilities—but what can you shave off of the list without feeling like you're drowning? Finding that balance can be tough, but setting priorities is a huge help.
YOU are a Priority.
And don't forget, YOU are a priority too. Taking time for yourself to recharge is equally as important as feeding your baby or changing diapers. You are not just a mom. This is one of the biggest lessons I've learned since becoming a mama. Each time I've put myself on the back burner, stress creeps in. I'm 110% certain that our babies feel our stress—my son absolutely does! He's always more fussy and more clingy when I'm not myself. Which brings me to my next point...
Ask for Help!
This can be SO hard to do—but it's absolutely necessary. It really does take a village. It's natural to feel like you're burdening family and friends if you need help, but having a support group is incredibly important. Don't have family nearby? Review your budget and see where you can hire help. When I was 8 months pregnant with our son, I was in serious nesting mode and wanted to clean every inch of my home—my mind was saying "clean, mama, clean!" but my body was saying, "girl, you cray, let's go sit on the couch". So, I hired a house cleaner to come and deep clean our home. Did I feel guilty about it at first? Hell yes! My parents never had house cleaners and here I was with some random lady cleaning my toilets. It took a little while to not feel embarrassed by it, but now that I look back it was the best decision I made. She now comes to clean every 2-3 weeks and that extra help gives us more time to spend with our little guy—or, for this mama to go and get a pedicure. No shame in that.
Work Smarter, Not Harder.
Ever want to go back and punch your pre-baby self in the face, because she had it SO good and didn't know it? Now, you probably accomplish more during your baby's 30 minute nap than you did in 3 hours as your pre-baby self. Becoming a mom has taught me to simplify and break down my tasks. A few ways to do this:
- Rather than doing 4-5 loads of laundry on the weekend, toss in one load a day (and actually fold and put it away!)
- Give your house a quick blitz while your baby naps—it's amazing what you can do in 15 minutes
- Prep your little one's lunch the day before while you're making dinner since the food is already out
- Create a revolving staple grocery list on your phone (I use a list-style app to check items off we need each week)
- Utilize online grocery ordering and/or pickup and delivery services
- Create a meal plan and meal prep each week
One Step Ahead (or more like ten)
I consider myself a proactive, motivated and organized person... but my type A tendencies were crushed when I became a mom. My weekly to do lists would roll into the next week far too often and I started feeling as if I could never keep up. My simple (but challenging) solution is to give myself WAY more time than I think I'll need. Give yourself realistic goals and then double that time. This goes beyond giving yourself an extra 20 minutes to get out the door—think bigger. For example, our goal was to start feeding our son solids at 6 months, so I started doing food research a good three months before that. Really want to get those holiday cards out? Start thinking about doing a family shoot at the end of summer or beginning of fall. Planning a birthday party? Start brainstorming details a few months in advance. I use this planner which allows me to write out my goals at the start of each month and then, my weekly to dos. I also write out a bare bones list of goals for the year—from mom tasks to career goals to planning out birthday gifts, trips and parties.
Even with practicing all of the above, I still have my days, I still get behind. We all do! But when I know I'm giving it MY all, I really do feel like the mama that does it all.