“Anything worth doing good takes a little chaos.” – Flea –
Yesterday was one of the pants on fire kinds of days, where you are almost literally running from one thing to the next. I made the grave error of not getting up at 4:30 am because well, you know SLEEP, and I paid the price the rest of the morning. No time for coffee or day planning, which I’ve learned is critical for my sanity and therefore, my day was insane. My 10 year old woke up on the wrong side of the bed, a feat that is impossible because his bed is against the wall, and yet, his attitude was nothing short of gnarly. “Don’t look at me!” kind of gnarly when I did the unthinkable and asked if he wanted peanut butter or honey on his toast. I lost the battle to the 4 year old mutineer who demanded a swimsuit over her clothes because ain’t nobody got time for trying to stifle that strong woman’s sense of style. I’ve learned not to engage in fights I cannot win.
And so the chaos began. The chaos we all have gotten so accustomed to and accept as normal, believing it’s just “how it is.” In some ways the chaos is exhilarating, so much motion deludes us into thinking we’re really productive. And there’s no energy or time to feel guilty about all the things we aren’t doing (exercise, self care, organizing closets) because well, look….chaos.
Moms are busy, and that is never going to change. I can’t imagine a day the majority of us aren’t the default parent, even with the best partner ever. We can’t erase the chaos. As long as toddlers hate pants, chaos will be a part of parenthood. Instead of letting chaos run us though, let’s figure out how to get it under control.
Challenge the Chaos
Before we can get control of the chaos, we need to accept that many of our daily obstacles reside in our own heads. It doesn’t mean the they aren’t real, but it does mean that a lot of the chaos can be subdued with simple mindset shifts.
Do you believe you have to do it all? Do you delegate tasks or take on everything out of a sense of obligations or guilt? Is the bar too high, could you maybe lower your standards a bit? Where are you investing unnecessary time and energy that could be better spent?
Make time to really ask yourselves these questions. You may be surprised to realize that a lot of what you juggle in a day can be shared with others or eliminated all together. Get honest about the lies you’ve bought into and seriously consider being a “good enough mother,” one who is done wearing their sacrifices as a badge of honor. The mom who suffers the most does not win.
If this makes you uncomfortable, just try it. You can always go back to being a one woman, control freak, burnt out, perfectionist momster if you choose. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize life’s better without the death grip of control and all those expectations.
Camouflage The Chaos
I don’t know about you, but I feel so much more together when I am put together. When I take extra time to get dressed, do my hair, and put on some make up, I feel less like an afterthought in my own life. Sometimes all it takes to feel a little more in control is to fake it ‘till you make it.
When you put your foot down and say “listen, I am not so busy that I cannot prioritize getting properly ready to head out into the world as a grown ass woman,” you’re taking back control. When you stop using busy as an excuse to not take care of yourself, you’re taking back control. You have time to get dressed woman. I mean, if your house was literally on fire you’d run out in your PJs. Are you really telling me in this very moment you don’t have any more time than if you were rushing your family out of a burning building? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Calm the Chaos
You cannot get control of your overwhelm until you learn to slow down, rest, and take time to recharge. It sounds easy, but is probably the hardest step to actually master. The roots of motherhood guilt grow deep. We know we need to put our own oxygen mask on first, yet how many of us consistently do? And how many of us do it without guilt?
For years, I wore my sacrifices as badges of honor. My rushing, overwhelm, frustration, and exhaustion all proved that I was a “good” mother. Well rested, happy moms were selfish, and I was not a selfish mom, therefore, I wasn’t supposed to be happy (or rested). But to become the mom I actually wanted to be, I had to shed the security blanket of overwhelm and make myself a priority again. Taking care of myself makes me a better mother, and a happier one.
It begins by prioritizing whatever you need to recharge. Self care isn’t just about wine and bubble baths (although I recommend both). It’s about knowing what you need to feel connected to yourself and then getting connected on a regular basis.
Consider the Chaos
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Who are you surrounding yourself with? Are they people you aspire to be like? Do they lift you up? Do they challenge you to be better? Or do they fuel drama and create more unnecessary chaos in your life?
Some would say it is necessary to cut people out of your life that don’t align with who you want to become. I think it’s more important, especially in the beginning, to simply be aware of these influences. Try to cultivate friendships and spend more time with the people who lift you up and inspire you to be your best self. Minimize time with those who drag your spirit down, add to your stress, bring drama and more chaos into your life. This may be easier said than done of course, but if you can at least recognize that your sister in law, for example, is constantly bringing her relationship drama to your front door, you can take steps to insulate yourself from the personal impacts of her chaos.
Also be aware of what you’re spending your time and attention looking at. Find books, blogs, podcasts, and tv shows that challenge and excite your spirit. Become aware of who and what is getting your attention. Protect your mental space and spirit at all costs. Say no to those who poison your mind and bring chaos to your already chaotic life.
Comprehend the Chaos
Your life is extraordinary. It isn’t slow, simple or stress free because it is bursting with life. Kids who are in constant motion = healthy active children. A child with the flu = a child not fighting a terminal disease. A stressful job = steady income. Most of us have stress from everyday life because we are out there living and learning, making mistakes, working towards goals, climbing ladders, creating our kids’ childhoods and simply building and living our one wild and precious life.
Maybe you are struggling through some unimaginable loss. Maybe you suffer from depression or illness. Maybe you’re in an abusive relationship or you’re in real financial trouble. I’m not here to cheerfully say “everything happens for a reason!” or “God only gives you what you can handle!” That shit is tough. I don’t have the answers, but I do know that you will get through it.
Elizabeth Gilbert so wisely states,
“The women I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong and they handled it. They handled it a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.”
To become extraordinary, to lead a full, rich life, there will be chaos, there will be heartbreak, and there will be struggle. Accept the good, the bad, and the ugly as necessary parts of a full, well lived life. Let go of the expectation you have to get everything under control. Accept that chaos will be your dance partner for the foreseeable future. Your job isn’t to eliminate chaos, but rather tango with it while never letting it lead.
Your to do list will never be complete so stop waiting to live and rest until your work is done. Find a way to relax now, amidst the chaos, so you can enjoy your life instead of white knuckling through each day.
I don’t think it’s ever been said better than by Hunter S Thompson, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Conquer the Chaos
Okay so once you get your head in the game, once you give yourself permission, let go of the rules, make non-negotiable time for self care, evaluate who you are surrounding yourself with and accept chaos is a part of a well lived life, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty work.
What areas of your life are especially painful? Where does the clutter pile up in your home? What is a source of stress? What do you put off because you don’t want to deal with it? Brainstorm a list of all of the day to day tasks and obligations that overwhelm you.
There are so many great life hacks out there for mastering almost anything. Systems for balancing your budget, meal planning, organizing family photos, conquering laundry, motivating kids, planning date nights. Begin searching for solutions that work with your life. Learn from those before you and start streamlining and simplifying tasks in order to free up the mental space they occupy each day. Teach your kids to do more and foster their independence. Small changes and routines woven into the rhythm of daily life will help control the chaos tremendously.
I am constantly seeking to coordinate the chaos in my own life. I want to grow my perspective, shift my attitude, make decisions that improve the quality of my life, and learn tips and tricks from others who have succeeded before me. I want to be happier, laugh more, feel my best, enjoy my children, and stop the hamster wheel that runs me ragged each day.
I am obsessed with finding the path to my best life. I am actively learning how to live this way WHILE surrounded by chaos that is a parent’s life.
As Michael Rosen says as one is going on a bear hunt….”you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you have to go through it.”
What do you find the hardest to balance? What chaos gets the best of you? What is one small shift you can make today to help get things under control?