This piece originally appeared at findingjoy.net, published with permission.
The other day a friend of mine told me to have fun with my kids.
I said in reply – I don’t know if I know how to do that anymore.
Just typing that brings tears to my eyes.
I know how to be the busy mom – moving from one urgent to another urgent to another there’s no toilet paper and the toilet’s overflowing and the kids are fighting and the smoke detector is going off and I can’t find my math sheet that was due three days ago urgency. I’ve mastered the art of building lunches with almost bare pantries and finding last minute presents and helping with homework that was to be done the night before but now it is 7:11 and we need to leave at 7:18 kind of days.
I’ve figured out how to survive on three hours of interrupted feet in my face kids waking up sleep. I know the quickest way to Starbucks and that on certain days, like today, it is perfectly acceptable to order the extra shot of espresso and to get it extra hot and maybe with a bit more sugar. I determined that making my bed isn’t required but that the kitchen island better stay clean or it’s a green light telling everyone that the rest of the house is okay to be messed up.
I’ve mastered counting to ten ten times in a row and gathering my resolve and dealing with stress and listening to music to calm me down or trying to take an extra long shower so I can have maybe four minutes of quiet without hearing mo-o-om called and dealing with one boy who decided to sneak the last chip bag and throw the wrapper in his closet behind the box of legos. The beast of laundry may still haunt me but even that has become putty in my mom hands as I know that those pants that were needed in the morning will get done even if I have to stay up to 2:30am.
But having fun? Laughing? Just being the happy mom?
Sometimes I fear I’ve lost it in the busy and the stress.
I’ll try to play a game with them but my mind will race through the to-do list that has it’s own index and days of rolled over I’ll do it tomorrow items. While they’re drawing cards and laughing I’ll be creating a list of things I’ve forgotten to do and need to do and don’t really want to do but I can’t put off much longer.
Mom! It’s your turn!!
And I’ll be thinking about the toys that should be sorted or what to do for dinner or how to hide the card that brings you back to the beginning of Candyland because the game isn’t ever ending. Yeah, yeah, yeah… that’s a skill of motherhood. Perfecting the art of not going back to the CandyCane Forest.
Oh, please don’t get me wrong, I love love love my kids.
But sometimes I feel guilt. Guilt about not being more present or laughing more or having fun or not doing all the cool things that I think my kids deserve. I’ll feel guilt about having to work and telling them just give me fifteen more minutes to get this done and then those fifteen minutes turn to thirty and then they’re on to something else. It’s so much mom pressure that I don’t think we talk about.
I want to be the happy-go-lucky, fun mom.
But being a mom is hard.
I’m not complaining. For real. But I’m just talking about some of those truths that moms deal with. Like Saturday – I spent almost an hour going back and forth with a very crabby five year old who refused to get dressed. Sounds simple, right? Like there’s a five step program to fixing this? Well, in that moment, there wasn’t. There was just me trying to understand why this was like this and then feeling guilt and like I wasn’t a good mom because we were in the midst of this battle over putting on clean underwear and pants and a shirt.
Where did the happy part go?
Where did the laughing, the Hallmark moments, the sitting at the table with the glitter and making snowflakes part of being a mom go? Because I could sit at the table and make snowflakes with glitter with them and even though I’d be having fun part of me, truthfully, would be thinking now how in the world am I going to get this glitter cleaned up?
You know. I think the truth is that sometimes we just need to acknowledge that there are seasons in our life that are just hard work. Motherhood being one of them. Especially those years when they’re all under five – that’s when I need Starbucks delivered and extra help especially in cleaning those bathrooms especially again when I had little boys who had no sense of aim and their directional abilities included hitting anything within five feet of the target. But just because it’s hard or we lost that happy for a bit doesn’t make us a bad mom.
I want happy mom to return.
So I’m deciding every day to do one thing that makes me happy. One thing. Maybe it’s listening to music that I love or spending thirty minutes watching Modern Family on Hulu. Maybe it’s cleaning up my Facebook stream and getting rid of people who cause me angst. Maybe it’s deciding to play that game with my kids and to really really play it but letting myself have grace if I find myself thinking about the dishes that need to be done as I flip over the double yellow card.
I don’t want to minimize the hard parts of motherhood and to shout just be happy moms! because I know it can be a hard hard thing and you can feel lost in the midst of motherhood and wondering if you make a difference and then wonder who in the world am I and why am I not happy when it seems like the rest of the world has mastered that?
Sometimes sometimes sometimes it’s easy to lose us and our happy in the midst of this crazy life journey with twenty plus years of motherhood tucked in the middle. Tears.
You’re not alone, sweet mother, if you’ve ever felt this way. Listen, please, please, please. You are not the only mom who has ever stood in the kitchen with kids running around and dishes piled high and loud noises and tears have filled your eyes as you wondered what happened to happy. It’s okay. For real. I know those moments hurt and can make you feel like you just want to throw your hands in the air and that sometimes you just want a break and sometimes just a hug or to be loved and told you matter.
It is okay. You are a good mom. Even in all those moments.
Maybe we should all make a goal for this year to find one more thing to do to be happy. A Happy Mom Project, perhaps. Not built on artificial pretenses or doing crazy extra things or being perfect, but really on loving ourselves and taking time for ourselves and learning to be in the moment just for a bit with our kids.
It’s about grace today. And knowing that happy can come back. And maybe maybe maybe just allowing yourself a moment to be happy and to let the cares of the world and never ending to-do’s fall off of your back just for a moment. It’s in stepping back and working hard to get that deep breath and to fill your head with words about the awesome that you do versus telling yourself all the things you didn’t do. It’s in letting that laugh come back and the wonder that your kids have mastered but you’ve temporarily lost in the busy.
Yes, that. That is what I want you to read.
And yes, you’re doing unbelievable things. Even if it feels ordinary and exasperating and tiring.
With love. Hope. And the words I’m proud of you to all of you today.
Happy can be there. We didn’t forget. We just got busy.
From me, the real mom up here in the semi-frozen tundra of Minnesota, to all of you – My friends on this crazy exasperating loving amazing tiring and beautiful journey called motherhood.
If you want to know how I uncovered happiness and found myself you can grab my book, The Brave Art of Motherhood.