Happy Friday, friends! If you’re like me, you’re watching the summer come to a close (maybe with a tear in your eye? and also a sigh of relief at the sheer exhaustion of an eventful few months?) and doing your best to will the fall weather here ASAP. Were I in my typical mid-August routine, I’d have the air blowing super cold (so I could break out those dreamy boyfriend cardigans in perfect fall hues) and fill the house with my pumpkin spice candles with clove oil diffusing in every room. Sigh.
But. We’re in a new home, and undertaking an entirely new routine for the fifth time in six years. This time, we bought a fixer upper (one with sentimental value- it belonged to my husband’s grandmother and has been a place full of fun and happy memories to a lot of people in his family) and are expecting baby #5 in just a few months. We also watched our oldest daughter head to live with her dad for the first time ever, which is an awesome situation for her and will benefit her in HUGE ways, but is nonetheless a tremendous adjustment for this crew who loves her and misses her so much. And we left behind a beautiful and happy life in Salt Lake City, where we felt loved and content and surrounded by people who filled us up. Sigh. Change is tough.
My initial plan when we moved here was to push up our sleeves and get to work. And true to form- we knocked out some BIG projects right off the jump. We scheduled contractors for our remodel, met with the midwife, coordinated with our local homeschool community, found a babysitter, and signed up for karate. My awesome hubby painted the house and we pulled up old carpet and restored hardwood floors. Things were coming together in a beautiful way. But then something happened. Our remodel contractors came back with bigger and bigger budget projects (and no matter what HGTV says- there’s no contractor out there who will price match Chip and Joanna), and a realtor friend set us straight with what we’d eventually expect to get in the resale of our home, essentially rendering any of those big budget projects a terrible investment. And my squad? They hate our new karate dojo: “It’s just not the same!” What’s a mom to do?
Then I read something, in the midst of my mindless scrolling on the eternal vortex that is the internet, that reminded me that I already know exactly what to do. It’s funny. What I read was a ridiculous, meant-to-be-hilarious, snarky barb at millennial moms, but it was so accurate it hurt. In a countdown of all the things every other generation laughs at us for, was the fact that “everything is a production, and kids are the props.” Not for me, I thought. But true story- even the minimalists who don’t do the mega birthday parties and don’t have Santa visit and “live more and own less” make a production out of life. In looking back at this move, I feel super confident that I’ve done better than I’ve ever done at any point in my life of saying “no” and not pursuing things that would take me out of the present and push me into “where I want to be.” But truthfully, there’s still so much room for cutting back. As I sat at my kitchen table, crying to my husband about how the house isn’t what I want it to be and how exhausting it is calling contractors and babysitting adults and planning for a new baby and homeschooling the ones we have, I realized half those problems are actual problems (with solutions!), and the others are responsibilities. There’s a difference.
It’s funny how the things we take on voluntarily can suddenly assume the heavy weight of responsibility, when they can just as easily be dropped without the dire consequences we fearfully envision. And here comes the case for making and holding space. We can’t possibly be the Pinterest-perfect internet moms, wives, families, career-individuals, whatevers that the world tells us to be. And we all know that, but we still try anyway. It’s true: I want a house with quartz countertops and a frameless shower and a Mad Men-inspired reading room that lets me bask in all my hipster glory, but I can’t justify spending $300,000 to do it (no, seriously, that’s what a full home remodel in this house would cost). I want my kids to have meaningful activities that fill their hearts with energy and stem their curiosity and lend themselves towards lifelong good habits. I want to have thoughtful conversations with other moms about the long-term effects of pressuring our kids to societal conformity, and I want to do it over locally-roasted coffee in a cool coffee bar of my choice. But I also want to breathe, rest, and enjoy that there is enough money in my bank account to do unplanned fun activities when we all have the energy to do them.
Making and holding space is about recognizing what you can and can’t do, and being open to where you are right now. It’s about letting go of what you think you need, and leaving room to be who you need to be. Right now, I need our house to be a home. Yes. There’s carpet in my kitchen, my master shower is tiny and covered in coral tile, and we don’t have air conditioning. And I was reminded by many a good friend that none of those things are fatal. Right now, my children need space to adjust to life without their sister. That change affected them so much more than I expected it to, and I need to give them time to be together and to become a slightly different family unit. We need to adjust to life without the friends we made and the routine we loved in Salt Lake, and we need to do that without immediately diving into a replacement routine. For us, right now, holding space means hitting the pause button, and not rushing to fill every opening left by yet another move, but giving ourselves time to see where the openings are, and how we want to fill them, if we want to fill them at all.
It’s okay for life to be a journey. It’s okay to be a person whose needs change, and whose wants are met differently in different places at different times. That’s growth. In the last ten years I’ve been an aggressive, ladder-climbing career woman and a stay-at-home-mom, a farm-to-table vegan and a farmer’s market meat connoisseur, a scheduled cesarean mom and a home birther, a passionate public school parent and unbridled unschooler… I could go on and on. Our lives and our interests and our needs don’t have to stay the same, and they don’t have to fit the norms of whatever the internet tells us. But that doesn’t make it easier, and it doesn’t smooth the transition from one place to the next. For now, I’m holding space for what the rest of the year holds for us. Maybe we continue our remodel, maybe we don’t. Maybe we find a new karate studio, or maybe we keep playing with 40 year old Hot Wheels and the original 1974 edition of Clue. For sure, we’ll have another baby, do our homeschool thing, and hang on to each other. The rest is open. And I’m just leaving it open.
So wherever you are, friends, whether it’s a long way from where you want to be or exactly where you’re supposed to be, know that your needs are yours- don’t take on anyone else’s, don’t create “needs” because someone else tells you you have them- but know you deserve the space to meet the needs you have. It’s okay to take a break from the hustle and just enjoy your life. And you don’t owe it to anyone else to do more than that.