The other night could be what is called a mom hitting her limit as the entire world seems to come crashing in and I don’t have any options and the kids all need me and I have not an ounce of energy left kind of night.
It was a culmination, an adding of more and more, like the lint build up in the back of the dryer until one day, unknown to you the smallest of sparks sets it on fire. That was me, a whole pile of mom/life/work/home lint building up and up and one thing lit it all on fire.
And then I was there in that moment panicking, not knowing what to do and feeling like everything was crashing in on me.
Seriously, now, I’m admitting this to you, because if I don’t you might live in the illusion that everyone’s lives look curated like an instagram feed of white couches and toddlers with chocolate ice cream sitting on them and no drips.
Life is messy.
And sometimes there comes a moment when all the pressures build up and up and up and up and then we are at our absolute limit. So let’s establish something: if you get to that point when the pressures crack you please understand that you are absolutely 100% normal. No one is expecting to deal with everything perfectly all the time. And sometimes it is the smallest thing – milk spilled, your name being called, an email sent, missed homework – that can ignite the whole thing.
So first, if you are at your limit (or approaching it) please please be gentle with yourself. This is not the time to be making big decisions NOR the time to walk into a salon and decide that the drastic haircut will make you feel better (trust me, did that one, and that, my friend is like adding gasoline to the lint and starting a massive fire). It is not the time to hash out relationship issues nor decide to repaint. Not the time to start Konmari-ing your whole house because chances are not much will spark joy and you might discard something priceless and you’ll have to search for it at Goodwill.
This is the time to survive.
Because you have limits.
There is a reason that roads have certain speed limits. It’s not that we couldn’t drive faster it’s because it’s not safe to drive faster. You my friend, might be ignoring the speed limit sign in your own life OR you could be in a life where you’re way way past the limit and in those instances you need to slow everything down so you can catch your breath..
But first, you need to know you WILL survive this massive hitting the limits day.
You have before, you will now. That doesn’t mean it’s going to go down as the best day ever. Trust me, I’m not asking you to try to redeem it. That’s like trying to put glitter over a mess – it just creates even more of a dreaded mess.
So no extras. No guilt. No 42 second fixes.
Just breathe. And know that you are so so normal.
(Remember the speed limit sign? All of us have limits. Remember the lint? All of us have build-up of pressures too.)-
You see, there are seasons in our lives, or days or weeks when we just have to survive. We have to make it through. Those first weeks with a newborn? Hello, survival. It’s sheer grit, sheer exhaustion, sheer giving. Same with these moments when you are pushed to your capacity. It is okay to have to survive. Make the frozen dinner, watch Netflix, eat some ice cream. Just know that you won’t stay there. (And if you find yourself in a constant state of survival read Chapter 5 in my book The Brave Art of Motherhood to understand why you shouldn’t stay there AND how to get out.)
Now, second thing – just as important as those don’t get a haircut or tattoo or book a ticket to Italy in your limit reached moment -I really need you to never assign a grade to your motherhood story and adventure and skill based off this second. This is a normal part of life. No one can prep you for those moments when all the domino falls – and what one mom says helps you might be the opposite for you. That’s like trying to use the same parenting tactic with two different kids. It will not work.
Instead, instead I think there’s a whole bunch of wisdom in a quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt. He said when you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. Notice, again, sweet mom, he did not say change the world, he simply said to hang on. He didn’t say let go, fix things, grade your story – he just said hang on.
I know hanging on might not be the most glamorous part of motherhood, but none of us make it through without a few hang on for dear life moments. Trust me, if you have toddlers and you think you’re in the clear there will come a day when you sit next to that toddler in a moving vehicle frantically pressing the imaginary brake on the passenger’s side while you hang onto the handle and tell them to watch, you guessed it, the speed limit.
That’s all I want you to do right now. For real.
And then, then when you can catch your breath and you can see the beauty in normal and all those dominos that crashed down get picked up, then is the time to create reminders of normal and good. Think of it as building a bigger knot on your rope in life – so that in the hanging on moments you have more to grip and sooner you can reclaim normal. So start to circle the days in your life that work well. Write down wonderful things – record happiness. Talk with a friend who can be your go-to friends for those challenging days. Hide some chocolate that can be your g0-to for those moments. Take time for yourself. Walk, run, kickbox, go to yoga. Drink water. See your friends. Drink water. And friend, love your story.
You see motherhood and life can be so challenging at times.
Sometimes the limit moments happens.
Grace, sweet mom, grace.
Sometimes knowing our limits means respecting our limits.
So breathe, wonderful mom. You are doing great, mighty, life-changing things. No wonder you get worn out, tired and exhausted. You are raising another generation. You are solving problems and are expected to always have it together. You are teaching and molding little humans to become big humans. You are living a life. A real life, where the ice cream drips and somedays have you waving the white flag of motherhood.
Remember: nowhere in the definition of mom does it say perfect.
It is only real.
You are only real.
With limits. With love. With trying.
And that is what matters most.
oh, and ps….clean out the dryer lint.
Good read! I hope mom’s who needed this take a break and read it! It has been shared many times, and that is a good thing!
Thank you Rachel. I’ve hit my limit and I’m surviving by hanging on to the knot in the rope. Im so glad that I took the minute to read your article and allow myself to just survive today and maybe even tomorrow, too!
I always enjoy all of your stories. They really touch my soul. I don’t have toddlers anymore. I have full on teenagers. Uuuuuggggghhhh!