Every day is so different as a mom. It's not the kind of thing you can do on auto-pilot and survive. It's not the kind of job you can clock in and out of. It's not the kind of environment you can 'check your baggage at the door' and keep your personal life separate from your work life. It's messy, it's hard, it never ends, and the challenges are always changing. There's no question, parenthood is a glorious adventure in the 'big picture' view of life - but some days (or weeks maybe even years) are an out right struggle. Some days are like running a marathon without even knowing which mile marker you're at, let alone how far away the finish line is. The struggle is real. So is the sense of defeat and failure.
Yesterday was one of those days for me. To be perfectly honest, the frustration came from many sources. We are considering moving out of state, leaving behind the only life we have ever known and most of our family. I am personally struggling with the trial-and-error learning process of running a small business and having to confront it's limitations as a one woman operation. Overnight, our 3-year-old suddenly refuses to listen, talks back and has the sassy attitude of a 13-year-old. These are things I don't have answers for. There are lots of possibilities and ways of dealing with these obstacles, but no real answers. I prefer answers; clear, concise, easy to understand, easy to execute - answers.
Sometimes I wish parenthood came with a manual that has an answers section in the back, like my math text book had in college. Or a step-by-step guide to illustrate how you can achieve your own personal dreams while simultaneously being a stay-at-home mommy, teacher, play mate, chauffeur, chef, cleaning lady, and loving, attentive, supportive spouse.
As I was putting all of this into words, I suddenly thought of the old adage that says a healthy marriage is '50/50'. I've never believed in that mindset and this is why. When I look at that laundry list of roles I play everyday as a wife, mother, business owner, friend, (etc.) I am never able to do them simultaneously and equally. Ever. Somedays I am a great mommy but a lousy friend. Somedays I am a great cleaning lady but a lousy wife. In marriage, like in life, the workload is rarely (if ever) 50/50 - and it certainly should never strive to be as a measure of it's welfare.
Marriage is about supporting one another, loving one another, and carrying the burden for one another absolutely; but that is never an equal shares scenario. Sometimes that partnership is 70/30 or 60/40. When one is weak, the other is strong and vice versa. It's an equal partnership in the sense that you both help carry one another. What it isn't, is an agreement that you carry your own 50/50 weight or you're not fulfilling your role as a spouse. When you become a parent nobody tells you the same is true of balancing parenting with the other roles in life that you carry.
When I tell myself that I should be fully invested in serving God, supporting my husband, raising my daughter, pursuing my work, being a loving friend, etc. - all in equal measures - I set myself up for epic failure. I only have so much 'me' to work with, and most days it's focused on trying to survive the long list of tasks that need my attention.
This week I've managed to miss a friend's bridal shower because I screwed up the date with another birthday party. I realized I still haven't written the thank-you notes for my daughters' birthday last month. I mailed our rent check without a stamp. I've handled 3 separate situations with clients that make me feel like a terrible person because I can't work for free and have no control over packages misplaced by USPS or international customs departments. I have broke down in tears, not once but twice, simply over not being able to get my toddler to eat.
After reflecting on all of this yesterday (again, in tears) I had the personal realization that I have been defeated by life. It's too hard to manage it all and truth be told I just can't do it. Obviously. It's clearly not possible to live out everything I dream of doing in my head when it physically demands so much of me in one role, that I have to sacrifice the others.
This is where the art of finding triumph in defeat lies.
I am choosing to accept defeat by acknowledging that I will never be able to be 100% awesome, on-target, killing-it, best-of-the-best in every role I play, every day. The triumph in this statement of defeat is that by accepting this reality, I am now mentally free to physically be invested where I am needed, when I am needed most.
Knowing that I can't give equally of myself in all of these roles every day, means somedays I'll be a 30/70 friend because I have to be 100% mom. Hopefully my friends will show me grace in those times and understand that I am sorry I can't be more for them. Somedays I'll be a 40/60 mommy because I'm buried in laundry, errands, and work. On those days I hope my daughter will learn to recognize what hard work looks like and appreciate the play time we do have together because it is special. Somedays it won't work at all and I'll feel like an utter failure. That's okay. I'll accept defeat knowing inevitably those days will happen. But I will choose to see the triumph in knowing that when I can only give 10% in my defeat, God is giving the other 90% it takes to try again tomorrow.
The struggle is real. Life is challenging. There are always hurtles that lie ahead. I'm learning that sometimes all it takes to claim victory amidst hardship is the simple reminder that I am only capable of living today and tomorrow is new.
If you can identify with this struggle and you want to share in any way, please do! Comradery is good for the soul!