Before I had children, I used to imagine life as a stay-at-home mom to six delightful children. We’d be the Brady Bunch for the new millennium, and we’d spend each day making elaborate crafts, delicious meals, and charming music videos.
When our family of three grew to a family of four, I decided it was the perfect time to fulfill that dream of stay-at-home motherhood. I figured that since my schedule was no longer set by someone else, I could be more flexible with my time, and we’d magically become the Pinspired family of my dreams.
I found myself with more time at home, but that “free” time filled up with things to get done, and instead of having time and energy for more quality time with my family, I was just as exhausted as I’d been when I was commuting to work every day.
I responded to being overwhelmed and exhausted by trying to control everything. I made list after list to keep track of everything I absolutely had to get done, but for every item that I checked off my list, three more sprang up in its place.
After months of attempting to fit into the mold of the stay-at-home mom I thought I should be, I didn’t know what to do anymore. Leaving the days unscheduled wasn’t working, but neither was planning every minute, and I didn’t have the emotional energy to be fully present with my little ones.
The major flaw in all my plans was a basic misunderstanding of what it means to be flexible.
Flexibility isn’t just about having a wide-open schedule or seeing where the day takes you. It’s letting your kids stay up past their bedtime or making mac and cheese for dinner three days in a row. It’s trying new things when it feels right but not feeling guilty if you don’t.
Being flexible is about being open to possibilities while being content with the way things are. It’s about identifying what really matters each day and letting go of whatever doesn’t have to get done.
Some days, when all I can feel is the weight of past failures on my shoulders, my son gives me a huge hug and proclaims, “You’re the best Mumma I’ve ever had!”
The first time he said that, my immediate thought was “I’m the only Mumma you’ve ever had,” but a rare moment of clarity quickly batted the intended snark away.
I may never be the mom who pulls off epic celebrations and elaborate crafts, but I am the mom who has intense conversations about what dinosaurs probably sounded like, coaches him on delivering a joke, and helps him make silly beatboxing tutorials.
He’ll never have another one of me, just as I am. I owe it to him (and myself) to be gentle with his Mumma, to see myself the way he sees me, and to adjust my expectations of what motherhood is supposed to look like. We both deserve it.
And you deserve it too.
Give yourself permission to let go of whatever’s exhausting you or blocking your path.
Set goals that are reachable, change them if you need to, and let them go if they don’t work for you.
Figure out what you need to do to care for your family – and yourself. When you’re exhausted, it’s almost impossible to be the parent you want to be.
Take the night off from something: get takeout, leave the laundry, ignore that email, or take a social media break.
Indulge in something luxurious: dark chocolate, a hot bath, or a long nap.
Remember, you don’t have to be everything to everyone, especially not to yourself.
Flexibility in motherhood doesn’t have to mean finding time to do it all or figuring out how to best maximize your energy to get everything done – though it can be if that’s what you need. I think being a flexible parent means accepting who you are and letting go of who you think you should be. It’s about being present with your kids, with your loved ones, and most importantly, with yourself.