Hello friends! Oh man. It’s been close to a year since my last post. Really, Lauren? What happened???
So here’s the thing. In my last post, I talked about taking a break from social media. But true story… I needed a break from media in general. I needed to work some stuff out. I knew being a stay-at-home mom would be hard, and once I was in it, it definitely was hard, but I felt like every piece of media I read just reinforced how hard it was without actually equipping me to do it better. And guys, I’m all about solutions. Thanks, scary mommy blog, for sharing eight million articles on why moms have it tougher than everyone in the universe, but can you just freaking tell me how to make it not so tough??? I am seriously not interested in convincing anyone else of how hard I’m working…I just don’t want to work so damn hard!
Whew. So since June of last year I’ve been resetting boundaries in our house and reestablishing myself as an authority over my children, a partner to my husband, and a fun, interesting, and self-developing individual for myself. I stopped giving 100% of my time and energy to being supermom (and honestly I don’t think this tribe would tell you I’m any less super than before), I started actually voicing my needs and concerns to my husband (without turning into a resentful broodmare), and I started carving out time for myself every day, with time each week for a babysitter to keep the kids and for me to meet my husband for lunch or wander aimlessly around IKEA or that used bookstore that I love. You guys. Why did no one ever tell me about IKEA????
Almost got distracted there for a second. Seriously, IKEA is a minimalist’s dream store. But more on that in the future. Meanwhile the only reason I ever even visited IKEA was because of a new BFF here- Faith- who has totally helped me find my homeschool mom mojo, and who has helped me navigate the fine line between “great mom” and “miserable slavewoman.” And this is where the social media fast really comes in. When I looked at Facebook and Instagram, what I saw were all these amazing achievements my friends had- whether it was at work or at home, with beautiful families and/or fun activities and outlets and friendships and adventures- and all I could do was compare myself and feel like I wasn’t measuring up. Like somehow if I would just work a little harder I’d have that super happy life that everyone else seems to have. It was exhausting.
First takeaway: everyone’s life is hard. The constant comparison of who has it harder or who is overcoming more in order to make it every day does absolutely nothing for building up your own sense of self-worth. It just doesn’t. It’s so much better to say “my life is hard, but there are people who love me who want to see me succeed.” And it’s totally true. When I got myself off social media, I was actually able to spend time being TOTALLY REAL with people who I met here in my new hometown, and I got to see them being real, too. You know what? I respect them all so much more. I respect people so much more. Because I have to get to know them on my own, and it’s a lot harder when you can’t stalk their profile (although, true story, profile stalking is prob the #1 thing I miss about being off social media. But I digress.).
Second takeaway: you don’t win a medal for shouldering challenges alone. I actually love being a homemaker. Like, I looooove it. I genuinely am a person who loves having a clean kitchen countertop and hearing the whir of my vacuum cleaner and the gentle tumble of clothes in the dryer. It satisfies me. (I know. I’m crazy.) But no matter how much I love serving my family in all things domestic, it’s totally unsustainable for me to do it without help. And that doesn’t make me a failure. Every mom has things they do well, or things they enjoy, and even in those things, you can ask for help. The single greatest thing I’ve done for myself in the last year is hiring a babysitter, and it started by confessing to my friend Faith (in a moment of total vulnerability) that as much as I love my children and want to keep homeschooling them, it was killing my soul. She said “girl every mom feels that way! What you need is a break on a regular schedule!” And she was right. I now have a beautiful morning to myself once a week where I can go and do whatever my heart desires- usually just enjoying the quiet of no children- and go back home to my wild tribe feeling refreshed.
Third takeaway: people aren’t mindreaders. It turns out, if you have a problem with something someone is doing, it helps to tell them. Who knew??? And it’s even better if you come to them already thinking about solutions. So I started being serious with my husband about where I needed his help. Am I the only wife who felt the pressure to be a perfect spouse all the time, even though my spouse literally never put that pressure on me? Yikes. When I mentioned that (gasp!) I might want to buy a jar of enchilada sauce instead of making it from scratch, my husband said “so do you want me to put that on the list?” I honestly don’t think he even knew I used enchilada sauce, let alone made it. Here I was, brooding over the fact that no one ever notices how much effort I put into the food I make or the clean house or the (sometimes) well-planned homeschool, and I was actually adding work to my plate. I was making things harder! Why do we do this to ourselves??? So I started getting (a few) more ready-made items, and he started religiously being the person who does all the dishes after dinner every night. He also modified his routine so we can always do the kids’ bedtimes together (after I mentioned him working out while I took care of bedtime was kind of like me going to the movies and leaving him home to clean the house), and we started spending regular time together without the kids- date nights once a week and meeting for lunch on my sitter-days. It’s been amazing.
Getting help from people who want to help you is a beautiful thing.
Final takeaway: our lives are for us. It’s so funny how my life changed when I didn’t have anyone to show it to anymore. It wasn’t really intentional, but without the pressure of posting all the supermomish things I’d planned for my super tribe, I settled into what was comfortable for us (read: comfortable for me). I wasn’t stressing about the fact that one of my sons is in his storm trooper pajamas literally 7 days a week. (No kidding, the kid changes his underwear and puts the pajamas back on. He even sits outside the washer to watch them get clean and puts them on right out of the dryer. It’s kind of cute.) I left the house to take the kids on adventures without really making sure I was selfie-ready. I got fun and funky haircuts because I wanted to, without really ever asking what anyone else thought (I think most people thought I was crazy). If you look at my photos before my social media fast and after, you’d see a HUGE difference. Not just in the number of pictures I took, but in what pictures I took, or more importantly what we’ve done. There were a lot less kid-centered activities and a lot more “because mom and dad wanted to do this” activities. And we’ve still had fun. I’ve probably only taken a hundred pictures in the last year, and most of them have been pics that only our family would really appreciate. It’s totally impossible to get a picture of four kids all looking at the camera and smiling, so most of ours have someone’s finger in their nose, someone punching someone else, or someone’s hand down their pants (not naming any names…). My girls aren’t perfectly combed or in pressed ruffled outfits, and I’m lucky if my boys wear the sweatpants that don’t have holes in the knees. That’s us. I feel like if my life were chronicled on social media these days, the most likely caption would be “bless this mess.”
But you guys, it’s a beautiful mess. Because it’s mine. Our family just got big news…we’re going to move across the country again (although not back home to Atlanta). And while we have no idea what’s in store for us in our next place or how exactly we’ll do it, one thing’s for sure: we’ll do it together, and we’ll do it for us. I love new beginnings, because we can leave everything else behind us and start fresh with what we’ve learned. Maybe you need that too. Wherever you are, whatever you’re up to, do it for you. Own your life, ask for help, voice your needs, and live for you. It’s so much better that way.
It feels good to be back.