We’re happy to welcome back Laura Marquis ! You can check out her first guest post here. Laura lives in St. Augustine, Florida with her husband Jeremy, her son Will, her daughter Caroline, and her dog, Lucy. She works part time and enjoys reading, painting, writing, swimming, and pilates. Welcome back, Laura!
I recently returned from a long weekend away with my husband. We went to our favorite beach spot on the Florida Panhandle and tucked ourselves away. I napped on a white couch, ate breakfast at 10am, and thought only of my own needs.
To say that this was a treat is an understatement. There is nothing I know that is better for the soul of a mom (particularly one like myself who is at home with two toddlers every day) than time away.
Being a perfectionist, during my time away I imagined myself returning to my life after the trip ready to do it all better. I would carve out 30 minutes to write every day, I would work out six mornings a week without exception, and I would squeeze in both more self care and more part-time work. Needless to say, by lunchtime my first day home I was reeling from the shock of re-entry, and becoming more painfully aware with every hour that my plan was likely not to be followed.
I was baffled by the fact that a fully rested version of myself couldn’t execute the plan on day one. Then I realized: this is hard.
For years I have believed that someone else, or perhaps just a less addled version of me, could do my job so much better than I have been doing it. Somewhere in my mind, I genuinely believed that there was another gear I just wasn’t accessing, and that was why I wasn’t able to fit it all in. It is in so many ways a luxury to be at home caring for my children, and I had assumed that because that was true, it would be possible for me to at some point live an idyllic life. Even if that only lasted a week. Or a day.
But back in my kitchen, I was struck by the fact that I am already doing the best I can right now. One day, my life may look more productive from the outside. One day, I may have more time to dedicate to work and side projects. But for now, I am operating at my capacity.
I often feel envious of the capacity of others. I know so many moms who do so much and care for so many. And worse, I keep up with so many moms that I don’t know well or perhaps personally at all through the screen of my smartphone. Next to a mother of four on the playground or an Instagram feed full of successful Etsy shops, newly completed international adoptions, or accomplished fitness goals, I often feel less than. It is as if I am driving a car that can only reach 60 mph on a race track. I am pressing the pedal to the floor, but still feel the sharp whoosh of a race car as it thunders past me towards the finish line.
And here’s the worst part. These other moms make that race car life look so easy. What’s one more child? What about a podcast? Major home renovation? “Bring it on!” I imagine them saying as they give themselves a perfect home manicure, before cooking up a Sunday morning style breakfast for their kids on a Tuesday.
And I know that comparison is unwise. But I cannot help wandering there, especially when my expectations for myself start to climb toward new and unreachable heights. I think that the accomplishments and abilities of other moms don’t bother me as much, as the “making it look easy” part.
I think as women, we often feel so much pressure to make things look easy, natural, and effortless. If you want to make a woman’s day, tell her she is either “a natural beauty” or “a natural mother.” The highest achievement a woman can seem to reach (particularly in American culture) is to do it all and not break a sweat.
But, let me be the first if only to say: I am at my capacity and it is really freaking hard. That grocery store trip where no one cried? I am proud of that, and no, it is not a given. The balanced dinner my kids just ate? I sweated bullets while making it and silently cheered as they cleaned their plates. My three-year-old son who just happily complied with my request that he climb in the stroller so we leave the park? A gift from God, because he knew I needed a win.
My wins all come out of hard work, sweat, and a good amount of self doubt and internal waffling. My losses involved the same. I am proud of all I accomplish in a day, but it is far from effortless and doesn’t involve a lot of extras.
My son is pretty bright, and I always work to say that he is a “good learner,” rather than “smart.” As my daughter, who is a bit under two years old, has started to stretch herself cognitively to keep pace with her older sibling, I find myself committing more and more to praising the effort rather than natural gifts or a particular outcome. I want both my children, but particularly my daughter, to know that effort is the goal rather than perfection. I want her to not be afraid to sweat, to stumble, and to admit she needs help.
I hope to absorb some of this myself. I don’t want moms who know me to see only a façade of order, certainty, and confidence. I want to both be proud of all I do and gracious with myself, but also honest about how hard I am working to do my job each day. I am tired of adding “make it look easy” to the to-do list.