Motherhood is hard. Something that makes motherhood even harder is setting expectations for yourself that you constantly feel like you are not meeting. We often feel that we need to do it all and at the rate that we got it done when we were single without children. Another common expectation floating around in the mind of many mothers is “I think I should have it together by now and know what I’m doing” and feeling like you are the only who doesn't have it together. The reality is you will not have it all together all of the time and that is ok. No one does.
It is important to constantly reality check our expectations in motherhood. Expecting myself to be as efficient, as productive or “together” as I once was b.k. “before kids” leaves me feeling like I’m failing. I have found that instead of being hard on myself for not living up to my own expectations, I take a step back and reflect on whether or not I’m demanding too much of myself. And then I adjust. Adjust what is on my plate to make it more manageable. Adjust my thought process around what it means to be productive and efficient as a working mom with two children. Adjusting expectations does not mean lowering your standards or that you give up on trying to do what matters to you. It means you release yourself of the pressure to keep up a pace that does not serve you well.
Too often I hear new mamas guilt and shame themselves for not getting everything on their to-do list checked off. Sleep deprived, nursing around the clock, and perhaps suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, often with little practical or emotional support and still expecting to get it all done.
Too often I hear mamas of more than one child, shame themselves because they haven't figured it out yet. To the mamas on your second, third or fourth child, I am in awe of you. Maybe you think you should know what to do by now because it’s not your first time. Maybe your family thinks you should have this parenting thing down to a science. Maybe your partner is giving you some confused looks over why you are feeling overwhelmed. Sure, some things are easier. However, other things just became a lot more difficult. This is the first time you are dealing with children in different developmental stages with different needs simultaneously. You have more to juggle. You can no longer nap when baby naps because you’re too busy making sure your 2 and 4 yr old don't strangle each other. You need more help than ever before. Do not apologize for that.
Consider that you aren’t failing but your set of circumstances which includes raising a tiny human have changed and are reason enough to cut yourself some slack.
Here are some tips for managing these expectations and reducing stress in your day-to-day
Before having kids we envision what kind of parent we will be and how we are going to manage things. Give yourself permission to let go of those ideals now that you are living it. Accept that things are harder than you thought they would be. You are not weak. You are a capable and strong mother. The worst competition you can be in is with the version of the mama you idealized you would be prior to having children. Let her go. You're pretty amazing without her shadow dimming your light.
Any tips for how you manage your day-to-day? Comment below!
Licensed Clinical Social Worker offering an authentic and compassionate viewpoint about all things motherhood, parenting, marriage and maternal mental health. This blog is a blend of my personal and professional experience as a mom, wife, working woman and therapist.