Don't Mess With This Mama
BALANCE IS A MYTH
With Mother’s Day this weekend, I wanted to finally blog about a question I get A LOT. The million-dollar question, folks—how do mothers balance it all?! Now while I can’t speak for all mamas, I can let you in on what I have discovered over this past year.
You see, while I kept trying to figure out this “balanced” life after I quit my job—taking care of the kids, lovin’ the hubby well, spending time with God, managing the home, helping with finances, being chef Erica, starting my own business, writing my book—I found myself crashing and hitting burnout over and over and over again. And I’m not going to lie, I recently hit that wall again (mostly because my husband was out of town for work), so I do not claim to have it all together. FAR FROM IT.
However, I have had a revelation of sorts and am now in a much better place because of it. I realized I never needed to aim for balance to begin with. Striving for balance only lead to catastrophic circumstances for me, just ask Thanos. Ha! Instead, I needed to set up some serious boundaries to keep me from losing my mind. And once I set up boundaries, I began to blossom, baby!
So what are these magical boundaries? After wrestling with myself as to whether or not I should share them, I have decided to because if this helps set even one mama free, it is well worth any criticism or judgment I may face.
PLEASE NOTE: these boundaries work for me—a working-at-home mama of 3 children who are 6 and under. You might not agree with some of these and you might think I am crazy, but after what we have been through over the last few years, Philip and I have had to set up some serious boundaries to help bring health and peace to our home.
I will also provide a few scriptures that have helped us set up these boundaries. God is always at the center of our decision making.
BOUNDARY #1 - I DON’T DO PLAYDATES
I realized during my first few years as a stay-at-home mom and being playdate queen, that it absolutely sucked the life out of me. So as I entered this season for the second time, I realized I couldn’t do that again. You see, I am a 2 wing 3 on the enneagram which means I am a helper, servant, hostess with the mostest, who wants her friends and their kids to have the best time ever and I must achieve that goal! In other words, the perfect recipe for burnout. Also, playdates threw my kids off their schedule (and our schedule is KEY for a happy life). Another also, it took time away from me and my children. I quit my job so that I could soak up these last moments with them at home before they enter elementary school. So, I choose to be selfish with them.
All-in-all, playdates were not a positive thing for me, so they had to go. The boundary needed to get set.
Now for many of you who might be like, sheesh Erica (especially the mamas who I have turned down playdates with…which… I sorry *nervous laugh*), I have found a beautiful solution to this—spending time with my friends alone, no kids! I would much rather meet for dinner, coffee, or drinks than put on all the pressure of a playdate where we hardly get to speak two sentences to one another and where we are tempted to silently judge one another on how differently we parent. Yup, we all know that last thing is a truth. I will just be the one to say it out loud. ;)
“… make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NIV
BOUNDARY #2 - I SAY NO A LOT
I have said it before and I will say it again, what we say no to is just as (if not more than) important as what we say yes to. Up until quite literally the past year, I have been the queen of YES. I wanted to do one thing growing up, please people. I wanted to please my parents, my friends, teachers, and pastors. I wanted to help everyone, so I said yes. And guess what? People loved that about me! They knew I would not, could not say no. It resulted in having friends, family, teachers, and pastors take advantage of that like CRAZY.
One would think motherhood would be a cure for the yes syndrome, but nope. I turned into a monster trying to please everybody. This first year of school for Emmy alone could have killed me with how many times parents were asked to volunteer. And if it weren’t for this boundary, I would’ve said yes to everything and may as well have enrolled in Kindergarten, too!
So what changed for me? After a massive panic attack last year, I cried out to God and asked Him what was wrong with me?! Why was I always drowning myself in everyone else’s to-do lists? And you know what He told His daughter?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28, NIV
I needed to come to Him, rest, and say YES to Him before I said yes to anyone or anything else. Being a “yes” person is not necessarily a problem, in fact, it’s a gift. Because the things I give my yes to, oh baby, they will get knocked out of the park! I will always have a heart to help people when and if I can. I just need to use the word “no” sometimes, or in this season specifically, a lot.
God brought peace and understanding and then my husband helped me set the boundary. We now have a rule that when it comes to me being approached with a yes or no question, I come to him first and we talk about it. Yes, you read that right. Do I get side eye when I tell people that I need to discuss it with my husband before answering? Oh, hell yes! But our husbands are supposed to be our help mate, our greatest support. We are one. And let me tell you, Philip pulls out the best in me time and time again. He helps me choose my yes’s and no’s with such clarity, wisdom, and unity. And if you aren’t married, I want to encourage you to find someone to be that for you. Set that boundary and give your best yes’s and even better no’s.
“Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:37, NLT
BOUNDARY #3 - WEEKENDS ARE OFF LIMITS
We get invited to a lot of weekend events—parties, games, concerts, hangouts, etc. But we realized that weekends were getting stolen away from us a lot for two big reasons: 1.) I work a lot of the weekend and 2.) weekends are our time together as a family. So on very rare occasions will we say yes to a party or event. But 3 out of 4 weekends of the month, we turn those things down.
It is an extremely difficult boundary to have. But what’s worse is getting to Monday and in tears when we have had yet another weekend apart from one another or finding ourselves utterly exhausted and unable to begin a new week well. Weekends are for rest and reconnection in the Canant Casa and for mama to get some work done, son. And we like it like that. Okurr?!
Are there things on the weekend that you can say no to so that you and your family are in a much better place when Monday comes or so that you can get some work done, mama?
And again, am I saying your kids shouldn’t be in sports or that you should say no to every party? NO WAY. I am saying that for this season we are in (our kids are not in any sports and I am an entrepreneur who has to work weekends a lot) that it’s what works best for us. And guess what?! Our family has never been healthier and happier. The kids LOVE our weekends. WE LOVE our weekends.
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” – Genesis 2:2-3, NIV
BOUNDARY #4 - I DON’T CHASE ANYONE DOWN
Friendships are extremely important to me. I love people and love them hard. But just like everything else I have talked about up until this point, I can be a little EXTRA. I invest heart and soul and to my detriment a lot. Again, as a 2 wing 3, I aim to be a help to all of my friends, serving them as best as I can but feeling drained when I am, well, drained. So I did an exercise that helped me set up some boundaries. I examined the friendships in my life, specifically those I considered to be my closest friends, and I looked back at the last few times we talked or got together and took note of who initiated the conversation and planned each hangout. It was me. My heart sank for a second because you never want to feel like people don’t really care about you, but then I decided to take it as a win and choose joy.
I decided right then and there to stop chasing friends down. And you know what happened? I was perfectly okay! Sad? Yes, absolutely. But after some time, I realized it was honestly sad for them. Do you ever find yourself on this side of friendship? You can’t be the only one invested, and it is perfectly okay to take a step back and give it some time. I know somebody needs to hear that right now.
Now, do I still love people well, YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT! I continue to pour energy, time, and gifts into friendships; but now, the circle is smaller and more attainable. I can be a better friend to the few AND invest more time in the work God has purposed me to do as a writer and creator which in return has given me countless women to connect with. God redeems! Loving people well is still at the core of who I am, whether or not it is reciprocated.
And will I still be there for any one who wants to come back into my life and fix things? OF COURSE. What has Jesus challenged us with?
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-22, NIV
But He has also challenged us with this pearl.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” – Matthew 7:6, NIV
It’s about forgiveness, not foolishness. Setting up boundaries in my friendships has helped me greatly, especially as a mama!
BOUNDARY #5 - I BARELY COOK OR CLEAN
The final boundary I am going to share with you mamas is a tough one and was very hard for me to do because I am the clean one in this family…well, next to Emmy. I have given up much of the cleaning and cooking. Yup, you read that right. If you come to my house, keep your shoes on or else you will take some of the Canant Casa with you because I can’t remember the last time I mopped. We also live out of laundry baskets and I am oddly okay with that. I also rarely step foot into a grocery story thanks to the greatest invention of my millennial lifetime, curbside pickup! My weekly orders consist of easy-to-make meals that Philip mostly cooks, tons of snacks, lunchables, frozen pb&j’s, and already-chopped fruits and veggies. Whatever time I can save, I save it.
I have set these boundaries because I found myself spending hours cleaning and cooking daily when I could put that time towards writing, reading, editing photos, and especially, playing with my kids. The kids don’t care that we pull their clothes out of a laundry basket. They freaking love instant mac and cheese! And better yet, they’d choose playing with mama over having clean floors all day every day.
Are there things you can give up around the house in order to spend more time with your children or doing something you love?
BOUNDARIES OVER BALANCE
In conclusion, this is how this mama “does it all”. Healthy motherhood comes from setting tough boundaries versus unattainable balance. And setting boundaries has produced bountiful blessings for us! Our marriage is in a better place, I am having far less episodes of anxiety, the kids are happier and understand boundaries with mama better as well, and I am starting to make a full income working for myself! I never would’ve dreamed of making money doing what I love, the God-given passion and purpose that has been planted in me, but here I am doing it! God is so good and so very gracious. And guess what?! God is who I learned boundaries from. Jesus broke boundaries but He also set them, showing us that it can be done in a healthy and loving way.
Poor “balance” gets a bad rap these days, but in mama land it’s for good reason. I honestly don’t think it’s possible to balance it all. It takes a village, it takes planning and prioritizing; and most importantly, it takes setting boundaries that will enable me to do what’s most important.
Set those boundaries, mama, and watch yourself bloom!
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
P.s. here are some BEAUTIFUL Mother’s Day graphics created by one of my favorite artist amigo (the one who designed this stunning site), Kristian Alveo. Thank you so much for these, Kris. Share them with the mamas in your life!