Each month, I write a post for the Chattanooga Moms blog. This week, as I approached my due date, I found myself totally blank. No ideas. No hint of motivation. Nothing. I also have a personal blog and it hasn’t seen a new post in almost a year. It’s not that I don’t want to write…I love writing. I have a passion for sharing my story and thoughts in hopes of encouraging and inspiring others. It’s not the lack of desire at all. Instead, it’s the total void of energy. Even as I’m writing this now — venting in hopes of having some spark of something amazing to write for my June piece — I notice that this is a common theme across many areas of my life.
In so many aspects of my life as a wife, mother, woman, and friend, I feel tired and worn down, like I’m constantly trying to impress others with my performance, but never quite having it all together and that leads to guilt.
It’s not that I don’t want to be active and take control of my health, I just don’t have one single ounce of energy to make that happen — not physically or mentally. It’s not that I don’t want to play with my children more often and have our days filled with fun-filled, hands-on, memory making activities — I’m just exhausted. It’s not that I don’t want to have the Instagram-worthy house that’s always ready for company, aesthetically pleasing, and organized to a tee — I’m just running on empty.
For some reason though, I feel like I have to fake it. I have to smile and pretend that I’ve got it all under control. I have to push myself to be everything or everyone — and do it perfectly — or else I’m a failure in all areas.
And as I’m typing this, I know absolutely none of what I’m feeling is true. I’m constantly feeling like I’m trying to fill up everyone’s cup while my own is empty, and I can never seem to pull that off, but it doesn’t make me a failure. I know I’m not alone. I know the perfect motherhood we see on social media is fake– we’re ALL struggling out here. I know this. I also know that when I’m feeling this way, it’s my depression starting to creep back in and steal my focus from the things that matter. I know that it’s ok to not do all of the things…or even half of the things. I know my identity is not found in how much fun my kids are having, how immaculate my house is, or how well I perform at the day-to-day tasks before me, but that doesn’t stop my mind from slowly buying into the lies we see on social media.
I know that it’s normal for moms to feel totally burned out and buy into the lies of the Instagram Mom, but what am I going to do about it?
Do I continue to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and guilty over my inability to be perfect just because it’s “normal” or do I do something about it? As I’m writing this, I’m thinking through everything I’ve learned through counseling because that’s what helps me get my mind back on track. Since I know I’m not the only mom feeling this way, I want to share some random thoughts of encouragement that help me when I can feel the pressure of my imperfection crushing me:
- All of those thoughts — those lies that so many of us believe as women, wives, and moms — are called ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts). Similar to real ants, they need to be squashed. The very moment we have an ANT pop into our minds, we need to squash them with the truth. I’m not a failure of a mom because I didn’t play with my kids when they asked today. I’m tired and I have a lot on my plate; maybe taking a mommy minute to myself will give me the break I need to have the energy to play.
- It is far easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action. What I mean by that is that if we wait until we feel like cleaning the house before we actually get up and do it, it’ll never get done. Instead, start by doing it in small increments just to get yourself going. The more you do, the more you’ll feel like doing.
- When anxiety and depression start to rise up, think about your head, heart, and hands. Think about what you know to be true in your head, then calm your heart by praying, meditating, reading scripture, etc. I also like to listen to worship music or listen to podcasts. (Some of my favorites are Risen Motherhood, Mama Bear Apologetics, The Daily Grace Podcast and The Commonplace.) For hands, you need to physically do something that is good and productive. Instead of dwelling on how many times I didn’t play with my kids today, I can take them outside for a walk or prepare a craft for us to do together. Simply taking the first step in the right direction is (oftentimes) enough to get our mind going in the right direction.
- Find a friend. One of the biggest blessings for me in the past year has been establishing and nourishing relationships with like-minded, encouraging mom friends. One way I did this was joining a church and attending as many women/mom events as I could. I also reached out, awkwardly and uncomfortably, to people that seemed to have things in common with me. Taking the time to nurture those relationships can be tiring and it takes work, but having people to support you and love you in these times is helpful beyond measure. One of my sweet friends in particular has shown this to be true time and time again. Last week, we were talking and I mentioned that my kids were struggling and I, in turn, was really struggling to keep my cool. She immediately told me to drop the kids off and go get coffee. Last month, I came home to a note on my door. It was a gift card for coffee and an encouraging note. Finding friends like this, and being one in return, to walk through life with can build us up more than we could ever imagine. Make the effort to seek out and grow these relationships.
As I proofread this post, I know it’s all over the place. This piece isn’t winning any awards. It’s not the best article I’ve ever written, but it’s raw and it’s real and hopefully it’ll be an encouragement to a mom out there feeling defeated and discouraged.