Lately, I’ve been battling an inner conflict.
Part of me feels that I’m not doing enough for my kids. I’m not spending enough time with them. And, when I do, I’m usually doing something else at the same time. I don’t get to the park with my girls enough. I don’t spend enough time reading with them. We haven’t spent enough time together as a family. I even chastise myself for saying no to too many things.
Yet, when I’m in the thick of doing more for them, I think: I should do less for my kids. Sitting beside them as they do their homework isn’t helping them be resilient. And, carrying their backpacks as they skip to school isn’t encouraging their independence.
Of course, neither of these thoughts are helped by the headlines that scream at me as I scroll through my social feeds: “Moms today do too much for their kids” and “Moms spending most time outside of the home than ever before”.
To add insult to injury, Frank expressed his utter frustration at my inability to prioritize lately.
Why did I spend the weekend morning baking, instead of catching up on the work assignment that I later stayed up until the wee hours in the morning to complete? Was one example he gave. And, rightfully so.
See, I had become obsessed to create a Pinterest-worthy dessert table at Bella’s party for her First Holy Communion. Instead of working, I had dedicated most of my work week to baking; not working. I felt completely justified that cutting cookies into different shapes and dipping them in white or purple-colored chocolate to match the balloons and flowers at the party was more important.
As Instagram-ready as the sweet table was (it sure was pretty:)), Bella would have thought me just as amazing if the Rice Krispies treats were square-shaped instead of being cut into hearts.
When you’re in the thick of things, you can’t always see things clearly. Had that been the case, I likely wouldn’t have been so exhausted on her special day.
The wake up call got me wondering why and when things changed.
I used to think cooking dinner while my kids played with Tupperware they found in the cupboard was quality time together (even in the craziest of moments). I was once confident that our daily 10 minute walk to school was time well spent connecting. Movie night used to be just that – watching a movie while we cuddled on the sofa.
Now, I spend too many hours planning fun excursions with my girls. I’m desperately trying to find opportunities for “quality time” and movie nights can only happen when the special popcorn bowls are filled with buttery popcorn topped with chocolate drizzle. It seems I’m not the only one.
A recent study shows that today’s parents spend significantly more time with their kids than moms and dads did 50 years ago. Even though we are working far more hours out of the home, we are dedicating more of our time to doing everything from preparing meals and snacks to feeing and bathing them, changing diapers and clothes, putting them to bed, getting up in the middle of the night, providing medical care, reading, playing, supervising, helping with homework and everything else.
It’s just too much. As a recent article I shared on Facebook shows, generations past did much less for their kids and we turned out fine. Why are we putting so much pressure on ourselves to out-mom ourselves? I don’t quite have answer that would fit everyone’s situation, but here are a few guesses as to why I’ve hyped up the mom ante recently.
My mama guilt, always a constant companion, has been on overdrive lately. The cause: I’m having a really hard time balancing the things I want for myself personally and professionally with all the things I want to give and do for my family.
With the guilt eating away at me, I find I’m overcompensating. Hence going overboard with the sweet table a couple of week’s ago. It may be time to get some perspective on that guilt and see where it’s coming from.
It’s not just a matter of balancing things. The truth is there are only so many hours in a day, and yet, I keep adding things to my list. Some of these are essentials, but if I’m being honest, there are many that I could not do and life would carry on without anyone really noticing. Case in point: popcorn is just as glorious without chocolate.
It’s time I stopped being influenced by Pinterest and Instagram and what others may be doing. Instead, I need to take a little time to reassess my priorities and really figure out what success means to me at this point in my life.
A few weeks ago, after what felt like I’d said no for the millionth time, I apologized to my girls that they had me as their mother. A day or two later, during a brief quiet moment with Frank, I wished aloud that I was a different. By different, I meant someone who prescribed to a more traditional roles. Because the person I was just wasn’t good enough. What’s worse, by wanting it all, I was making life harder not only for me, but for everyone else, too.
I must say I’m embarrassed to share that with you and in this moment I’d like to admonish myself for even thinking so little of myself. Yet, what I may need now more is a little forgiveness and self-compassion.
I’m struggling at the moment as I try to figure things out, so if you’ve any tips that can help me stop doing so much, please share your wisdom with me.