The antiquated ideals for success transform into a brand new burden for women during the childbearing years, especially early in the game of motherhood when we’re still strengthening our sea legs for the constant ebb and flow of life–which has taken on a whole new intensity.
I had no idea what a soul-stretching marathon motherhood would be and, at first, I felt like I was drowning. Let’s be honest, some days I still do.
Three months after divorcing my corporate career (and never wanting to look back) to pursue my dream of becoming a business owner, I found out I was pregnant with our first daughter, Marleigh. That little blue line (wait, was it pink? Thanks, mom brain!) pointed to the fact that everything would be changing soon and I had no idea what I was doing. Does anyone ever, really?
Meanwhile, I had a brand new solo business to run, clients to meet with, and sales calls to make in between the constant preggo-mama googling. You know what I’m talking about—“Best midwife within 100 miles,” “What size fruit is the baby at 22 weeks pregnant?” and, “Is it normal to cry and laugh at the same time when pregnant?”—the normal stuff.
Once the doe-eyed babe arrived, she had my heart and I knew my priorities needed shifting, even though she didn’t seem to like me very much unless my boob was in her mouth. Voilà, a stay-at-home mom was born.
I never—and I mean never—considered being a stay-at-home mom. And let’s be real here: it’s more like work-your-ass-off-from-home-like-you’ve-never-worked-before mom. You need emotional intelligence, the patience of a saint, the playfulness of a 12-week-old puppy, and the mindfulness of a monk on a mountain. Oh, and you get paid in snuggly hugs, snot bubbles, and baby giggles.
Meanwhile, there was still a neatly swaddled baby-business (my husband must have done it, he’s got mad swaddle game y’all) waiting on the back burner for me when I came out of my new mama fog. So I did what we all do—I juggled. I crammed client meetings into my once-sacred evenings. I did research and meeting prep in between naps and ’round the clock nursing.
Enter our second daughter, Paige, two years later and somewhere in between the busy-ness while trying (and mostly failing) to be present for our girls, I lost what I had originally set out to create—an authentic, service-based business that aligned with my values and allowed me the freedom to live the life I want.
The expectations I had for my biz while raising two wild hearts and working from home were unrealistic though. I wanted to maintain a successful, scalable biz but was literally running out of hours in the day. Tired couldn’t even begin to explain what I was. I longed for tired.
What I realized was that the expectation I had for my business wasn’t mine at all. It was a construct of my conditioned beliefs about what success looks like:
Success is an A+.
It’s is a five-figure business in its first year of operation.
Success is pulling all-nighters to “get it all in.”
It’s the badge of busy-ness we proudly wear while sending emails in our daughter’s dance class or leaving for client meetings before we’ve fed our kids dinner.
But I had all that—and I felt like sh*t. This wasn’t the success I wanted.
Something in me was just having a hard time accepting that achievement could look like napping when my girls do. Yes, I take an occasional nap when I need it—can I get an “amen” for self-care? I never feel like the poster child for success when I’m wearing yoga pants most days but, dammit, they’re just more comfortable when you’re running around with kids.
The reality is that we were never taught to prioritize ourselves over our careers, or that doing less actually means having more, or that we hold the keys to our own happiness and success. I had to learn these things the hard way.
So, with burnout breathing down my neck more days than not, I made a conscious decision to dramatically cut my coaching hours, and my bottom line, to be more present with my babes and create space for the things that fill me up.
Mamas, success is taking care of ourselves first. It’s saying “hell yes” to opportunities that make us smile and saying “no” to anything that’s not a hell yes. Success is a messy house, an imperfect project, giggling bobblehead babes, and more time for what matters the most. It’s doing less and having that be okay for these fleeting few years while our children are still little.
The thing to remember for those of us blessed enough to be able to choose the stay-at-home mom life is that it’s not all about our kids, rather, it’s about us. We can find interests to pursue, network with like-minded people, write, read, learn, and create.
Above all, we can find something that fills our cup so we don’t have to try and pour from an empty one (we’ve all been there). Contrary to popular belief, self-care is not a pedicure every other month or a massage quarterly—though don’t get me wrong, those things are nice too. Self-care happens every day, with every choice we make. The evidence then shows up, for the better, in every area of our lives.
Even though I largely consider myself a stay-at-home mom, I still accept new coaching clients on a limited basis but I’ve dramatically changed my process to what works for me, which allows me to show up to serve in a greater way in every facet of my life.
Here’s to knowing our worth regardless of what our to-do list looks like, being present for the tiny moments that truly mean the most, and loving ourselves ever-so-fiercely so we can teach our kids to do the same.