A couple weeks ago I posted a little something on Instagram that seemed to strike a chord with other work-at-home moms like myself. In actuality it stuck a chord, and maybe even a nerve, with myself.
See, I have a lot of issues, the largest of which is my constant desire to compare myself to others. This comparison trap has led to so many other things – disordered eating, anger, hopelessness, selfishness, overspending – but worst of all it has brought me many times to a place of under-loving. Under-loving myself, my family, my friends, my community, my God. It’s a vicious cycle that has turned soul-crushing on many occasions, and one that I hardly recognize until it gets to the point of sheer desperation.
I’m the queen of reading every single one of those “how to be a work at home mom and still rock at fitness/fashion/work/parenting/marriage/life!” posts. Perhaps it’s in hopes of discovering some unknown gem of information that will take me from frumpy and barely showering to Paris Fashion Week chic in 24 hours. Maybe it’s hopeful of finding the one time management skill or app that will double the amount of work I can get done in half the time. It might even be that I’m seeking permission to choose work over motherhood (or vice versa) because I just can’t do both equally at the same time.
But do you want to know the truth? The deep dark secret behind why I read those posts? It’s because I’m trying to see what the measure of a successful work-at-home mom is and I’m trying to beat it. I sit there and quietly compare myself, my work, and my family to the gal whose post I’m reading:
– Well, she only has one kid and I have two so a) she has no idea what it’s really like to parent and b) I’m doing more than her so HA!;
– She’s had 4 kids AND has a six-pack? I’m such a slob…;
– Homegirl is a true entrepreneur with a shop and kids and a book deal and she runs marathons? I’m such a complete loser;
– Who really dresses that cute and has time to homeschool, chase toddlers, work, and go on 5 date nights a week?
– Great, another woman whose children sleep 12 hours a night like clockwork so she can get 8 solid hours herself;
– Yes, I get it – waking up at 5am for an hour-long devotion and 12-mile run IS a great way to start the day. Note to self: find a way to force sleep on your kids so you can do the same;
– Another blogger who’s getting a free family vacation? Yes, I’m totally jealous. No, I have no idea how to score that same deal;
– SIGH. Maybe I should just give this all up. I can’t keep up with whether I washed my face or not; am I just kidding myself that I could do more with this platform?
It’s disheartening y’all, this jealousy and comparison trap that I let myself fall into sometimes. Even when I truly value another woman’s advice or perspective and feel like I could truly learn from her, at the end of it all I find that I have fallen short yet again. And here’s the thing: I’m not smug enough to think that I’m alone in that.
So gals? I know I am probably not one of those work-at-home moms who looks like she has it all together, but I want you to know these everyday truths about me. Because we’re not alone; we already ARE strong, smart, capable women without having a perfectly curated Madewell/Everlane/Anthropologie-worthy wardrobe or red-hot smoking bikini body.
– I’m an imperfect mom who spent most of this past Friday yelling at her kids and then crying about it.
– About twice a week I remember that I haven’t showered in a couple days and literally write down on my calendar that I need to take a shower.
– Speaking of calendars, I’ve tried every single calendar on the market to try and add more hours to my day. It hasn’t worked yet with any of them (so get the cheapest one you can find that you’ll enjoy using).
– I “dress up” once a week for church, which basically means I wear jeans and some sort of cute-ish top. Oh, and shoes.
– I tried to garden this year and basically failed with all the plants.
– I’m great at filling up my to-do list and even better at only checking off 2% of those things at the end of the day.
– I actually do workout almost every day, but it’s more of a sanity-keeper than seeking to get a great figure.
– About 50 times a day I panic about the fact that a) I haven’t posted anything on Instagram and b) that there’s nothing really Instagram-able going on in my life at that moment.
– Not a single thing in my wardrobe comes from Banana Republic, J.Crew, Madewell, Everlane, Anthropologie, or anywhere else that’s deemed trendy or awesome right now. Oh well.
– I have approximately 15 fantastic books that I’ve been dying to read and just haven’t yet on my nightstand as we speak.
– In that same vein, the only books I’ve read for the past week have been Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons and The Night Before Christmas. On repeat.
– I frequently download apps onto my phone and then delete them because learning how to use them isn’t worth the time or effort.
– Have I mentioned I’m a walking parenting fail? At least that’s what it feels like most of the time of most every day.
– I have about 10 different pitches to great companies in my Drafts folder that I haven’t sent because I’m either too scared or feel too lackluster to actually do it.
There are about a hundred more points I could make, but the reality is this: there is no such thing as a formula for doing it right other than lots and lots of grace. Grace for you, grace for me, grace for them. Realization that no one has ever or will ever have this thing called life figured out, save the One that created it.
If you’re looking for how to balance working at home and motherhood, my biggest piece of advice to stop looking side to side at the other gals doing it and look up first instead. Allowing God’s design for your life to take precedence over your desire to design your life after someone else’s. Seeing that you are perfectly equipped to do exactly the jobs that He’s given you to do, and make peace with the fact that it just will not look identical to anyone else’s. And then rejoice in the fact that a good and creative Father has something special in store for you, and that a big piece of that something special is those precious children you’ve been given.
Friends, we can’t do it all but we live in a world that tells us we can and we should. But I would urge you (and myself) to step back and embrace the blessings and imperfections and to LIVE. Not live so that you have more to share on Facebook or cooler pictures to post on Instagram. I’m talking LIVE so that you can enjoy this one wild and precious life you have, LIVE so that you can encourage your children to do the same.
As for me? This week I’m calling myself out in the comparison trap and then embracing the mess – no makeup, dirty hair, yoga pants and all. Amen.