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The tantrums, the messes, the constant needs – it never seems to end. As soon as I get one child settled, the other starts crying. Just when I finish the mountain of laundry, I turn around to see toys strewn across the living room again. I frantically rush around trying to balance everything while also attempting to keep my cool. 

I used to constantly feel like I was failing – as a mom, as a partner, as a provider, as a homemaker. No matter how hard I tried, I could never seem to find that elusive “balance” I thought I was supposed to achieve. Dishes piled up as I comforted a fussy baby. Toys lay untouched as I rushed to get dinner on the table. Work deadlines loomed while I went days without a shower. 

Over time, I’ve learned to let go of the notion of balance and accept the chaos of motherhood. As I continue my journey of self-compassion and embracing imperfection, I’ve found peace with the constant lack of peace. In this piece, I’ll share what I’ve learned along the way about managing expectations, dividing mental labor, taking time for myself, and leaning into the beautiful mess of motherhood. 

The Myth of Balance

The concept of “work/life balance” often feels like an unattainable ideal for moms. Social media and advertising bombard us with images of blissful mothers effortlessly juggling thriving careers, attentive parenting, and self-care. It’s easy to compare our own chaotic reality to the curated snapshots of “perfect” moms and judge ourselves for not measuring up. 

In truth, the notion of work/life balance is largely a myth. Most moms struggle to find equilibrium between their many responsibilities. There are only so many hours in a day, and something always seems to fall through the cracks. We skip workouts to take our kids to activities, miss bedtimes to finish projects, or order takeout because there’s no time or energy to cook. 

Trying to emulate the fictional supermom who can do it all with ease sets us up for failure. We end up feeling guilty and inadequate when the dishes pile up, the laundry isn’t folded, or we lose our patience with our kids. It’s important to recognize that the “perfect mom” is an impossible ideal. All moms have moments of triumph and moments of failure. We need to release ourselves from the pressure to achieve an imaginary balance and accept that some chaos is inevitable. 

The Mental Load

Mothers carry a heavy mental load – the invisible work of remembering and planning everything for the household and family. This constant juggling of tasks, appointments, supplies, schedules and other details takes a toll. Moms are often the “default parent,” tracking school events, managing kids’ activities, monitoring household needs, planning meals, and more. 

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to control everything to keep all the balls in the air. But taking on all this emotional and mental labor alone leads to stress and burnout. Prioritizing self-care starts with letting go of the need to do it all. 

Start delegating tasks and responsibilities. Have your partner own certain household duties and family commitments. Make sure they are competent to fully take them over. Resist the urge to redo or micromanage if it’s not done exactly how you would. 

Give the kids age-appropriate chores. Set up organizational systems like calendars, to-do lists, and meal plans that others can access and update. Identify what you can outsource like grocery delivery or cleaning help. 

It’s difficult, but learn to accept when things don’t go perfectly. Lower your standards a bit. Order pizza sometimes. Let the laundry pile up for a day. Doing it all is impossible, and being rigid hurts more than it helps. Give yourself grace knowing you’re doing the best you can. 

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Self-Care Isn't Selfish

As moms, we often put everyone else’s needs before our own. We make sure the kids are fed, that our partners feel supported, that the house is clean. But in the midst of meeting everyone else’s needs, our own self-care falls by the wayside. 

It’s time to change that. Taking care of yourself is not selfish – it’s necessary. When your own cup is empty, you have nothing left to give to others. Practicing self-care allows you to be the best version of yourself, which ultimately benefits your entire family. 

Start small with quick self-care practices built into your regular routine: 

  • Take five minutes in the morning to sit quietly and drink your coffee. Breathe deeply and set your intentions for the day. 
  • Play your favorite music while you wash the dishes or fold laundry. Sing along and dance it out when possible! 
  • Take a short walk around the block with the stroller or dog. Bring the kids along and make it quality time. 
  • Enjoy a cup of tea while reading or writing in a journal before bed. 
  • Take a long shower or bath when kids are asleep. Light a candle, use nice soap, and relish the alone time. 
  • Say no to nonessential obligations in order to make space for yourself. Don’t overschedule. 
  • Ask your partner to handle bedtime routine for the kids so you can take time to exercise, connect with friends, or enjoy a hobby. 
  • Trade childcare with other parents so you can get an occasional baby-free break. 
  • Seek support if you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed. Your health matters. 

When you prioritize self-care, you are modeling important behavior for your kids. You are showing them that their needs matter, but so do yours. Being a mother does not mean constant self-sacrifice. Take care of yourself so you can continue to take great care of your family. 

Embracing the Chaos

As moms, we often feel pressure to have it all together – the perfect home, perfect kids, and a perfectly balanced life. But the truth is, life is messy and unpredictable. Those imperfect, chaotic moments are part of the joy of motherhood. 

When the house is a disaster because the kids were having too much fun playing, embrace it. When dinner is late because you took extra time reading stories at bedtime, savor it. The dishes and laundry will still be there tomorrow. 

Shift your mindset to appreciate the small moments of joy and connection that happen in the chaos. Laugh when your toddler finger paints the walls. Smile when the baby spits up on your new shirt. Capture the memories of your kids covered in mud from playing outside. 

Surrender the need for control. Allow things to unfold naturally day by day. Go with the flow and ride the waves. The messy moments always make the best stories later. 

Making peace with the lack of peace is liberating. Focus on creating childhood moments to cherish. The dishes and laundry will wait. Your kids are only young once.