I recently started going through a book with a group of friends for the purpose of conversation, encouragement and inspiration. The last time we met, I was struck by a common theme: we are all your classic type-A overachievers who have found that motherhood and life in general constantly puts us at odds with our goals, to-do lists, and general sense of accomplishment.
In a word, we were all frustrated.
We discussed the problem of finding a balance between challenging yourself to set goals, grow and better yourself, and the overwhelming pressure these things can put on us when we are already operating at the peak of our capacity.
Say, for example, how do we challenge ourselves to stay fit and healthy, when it can be difficult most days to just keep our kids safe, fed and out of bodily harm, let alone find time to get out for a run?
The conversation was raw, honest, and full of both questions and insight, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
I’ve been mulling this topic over in various forms ever since the birth of my first son. Like I said, I’m a goal oriented person. I love to grow. I love to challenge myself to new things. I love, love love making lists. I like my surroundings orderly and my day full of accomplishments. And I love to go to bed each night with a list that has been dutifully completed and checked off for the day.
My surroundings aren’t chaotic, but I wouldn’t call them orderly. I’d call it orderly-ish. My day still contains accomplishments, but they are different than they were before, and they are less. Far, far less. My to-do list still has items checked off at the end of each day, but now, there are also plenty of items that have to wait for the following day.
This has been a hard adjustment for me. It’s been even harder to wrap my mind around the frustration that comes with these changes. How do I respond? What does my new reality say about me? What does my response to my new reality say about me?
Am I lazy? Do I need to push through and continue to add more, despite my feelings that I’m already operating at full capacity? Or am I the opposite – too task oriented – and simply need to chill?
Here is what I’ve come up with.
#1 It is still important to challenge myself, to set goals, and to accomplish things each day. However, I have to adjust my goals and expectations according to my new reality (ie young kids, stay-at-home-mom, pregnant, busy husband, etc). If I don’t – if I insist on operating the same way I did in a former reality – then I set myself up on a daily basis for failure, frustration and discouragement.
Yes, I used to be a boss at my to-do list, but I also only had to worry about myself each day. Yes, I used to have a perfectly cleaned home (well, sort of), but now I’ve welcomed children into this home and they don’t have the same standards of living that I do (understatement of the century). Yes, I used to run and do yoga on a daily basis, but now my body is growing a baby, taking care of little ones, and generally, just a little more tired.
What it looks like to grow, to challenge yourself and to be productive changes as you move through different seasons of life. That is good and natural and the way things should be. Plus, I’d like to point something out to you moms who are discouraged because you feel like you are accomplishing less now that you have kids – is it possible that you are accomplishing so much more, it’s just different?
Ok, things aren’t as neat and orderly as they once were. But guess what??? You are growing and fostering human life right there under your very roof! Sure your plants are dead and your kitchen is dirty, but you brought life into this world and now you are doing something so much more challenging and amazing than just the dishes. So give yourself a break. You’re not lazy because your bathroom needs cleaned. You are amazing because you are the one putting dirty kids in the tub, getting them ready for bed, and sending them off to sleep with the knowledge that they are safe, cared for, and loved.
Don’t let someone make you feel bad or like you aren’t doing enough.
#2 I can’t form my identity around my accomplishments. Period. We all do it, but it always lets us down. If you follow me on instagram, you saw this post the other day:
Here’s the thing. Goals are great. Accomplishing things each day, is great. Being productive and taking care of business is not only great, but it’s the responsible and honorable thing to do as an adult.But it is not who you are.
You are more than a check on your to-do list
You are more than an accomplished (or unaccomplished!) goal
You are more than a dirty house
#3 The book that I’m going through with my friends is Lysa Terkeurst’s devotional, When Women Say Yes to God. She said something in the pages I read the other day that has really brought so much freedom and refreshment for me on this topic. As Christians, we believe that God is perfect and we, well…aren’t. Our imperfections can really make us feel terrible about ourselves. They can make us feel overwhelmed and overpowered reeeeeal quick.
But here is the cool part. TerKeurst reminded us that God’s perfection can actually shine through us the best when we are weak. When we feel like we are screwing up. When we feel like we just can’t get it together. When we acknowledge that, yea, things are kinda a little more than we can handle, God says, “Perfect! Cause you don’t have to do this alone!” Then we move from overpowered, to empowered.
So what does this look like in real life? Here is how I’m applying it to my situation:
I stay home with my kids who are wild and crazy and super physical and so, so destructive. I take them with me almost everywhere – the grocery store, to appointments, heck I even took them to the Apple Store the other night (nightmare). I also blog, try to take care of myself physically, and am incredibly passionate about developing and building relationships with others.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when I can’t manage all of these things perfectly. But perfection just isn’t on the menu. So here is what I have to do. I apply point #1 and realize that my goals for each of these things have to change slightly for the season I’m in. My house isn’t always perfect, but my kids are well loved. I don’t always get to work out, but I do what I can. I can’t always have “girls nights” or coffee dates with friends, but I can invite people into my home to grow our relationship.
Then I apply point #2 and realize that who I am doesn’t rest in what I accomplish each day. I am a wife, mother, friend, blogger and yoga-er who has been a passion for reaching out and loving others. That is who I am. Who I am defines what I do; What I do doesn’t define who I am.
Finally, I remind myself of point #3. I will never be perfect, and that is perfectly fine. I celebrate my imperfections – not in a woe is me, my life is so hard kind of way – but simply because they are opportunities for God to show me his perfections.
So when I’m feeling crazy because my house is dirty, God reminds me of the special privilege it is to have little ones in me home, totally destroying it. He also reminds me that it’s just a season.
Or when I’m feeling blue because I can’t accomplish as much as I’d like personally or professionally, God reminds me of the eternal and irreplaceable value of forming relationships with people.
See what I mean?
I don’t think we need to deny who we are or how we are wired. You don’t need to stop being your crazy, Type-A self. But we all do need to work a little harder at being realistic, at not defining ourselves by our accomplishments, and at letting God shine through our imperfections instead of letting them bring us down.