I could have been a different mom. In fact, I was a different mom.
Who I am today as a mother of four children, is very different from who I was with one, two or three. Not just as a mother, but as a person entirely. I can say, without question, that I was not built to have four kids. But as it turns out, that’s exactly what I have. Four little people, who so desperately depend on me. Four little people who have totally shifted my view on motherhood.
With my first child I was so overwhelmed. I found the adjustment to motherhood hard. I was always worrying about what he needed, was it enough, would he be ok. I hovered. Not literally in so many ways, but with my over planning, over preparing, and over worrying. It consumed me.
Then my second child came and it doubled. The perfectionism. I was really good at creating the image of “perfect” kids (not so good at being a happy mother. That was harder.).
By my third, I had the perfectionism nailed. I was stressed to my max and always going. Ballet classes, birthday parties, dinner parties with friends. Christmas cards out on time. Homework turned in. Don’t forget to be the guest reader at school next week. Lunches. Packed.
At the time, I don’t think I was even aware of what I was doing. The perfectionism. It wasn’t even conscious. I just thought…this is how it’s done. I’d look around, and that’s what I saw. So that’s what I became. A sea of happy mothers, juggling kids, soccer practices, and thank you notes out on time. They were “doing it all,” I was just doing my best to play alongside them.
Then to my surprise, I became pregnant with our fourth child. My heart raced for weeks trying to come to terms with two pink lines. But regardless of how many panic attacks I had wondering how it would all work out, nine months later, my fourth healthy, happy and oh so
beautiful baby was laid in my arms. (That’s the beauty of mother nature, she doesn’t wait to get your approval, she just does).
The first year juggling four kids was hard. Really hard. I struggled trying to manage everyone’s needs that were so dramatically different. I had finally hit my breaking point, and something had to give. My facade of perfect children, perfect motherhood, was falling through my fingertips. I couldn’t keep my grip on it anymore. It was gone. I was stripped down to my core; just me, a young woman raising four imperfectly perfect children who didn’t have a clue what she was doing.
I had no choice, but to make a change. And what felt like a big one. It wasn’t so much about what I was doing, but rather about what I stopped doing.
I stopped trying so darn hard.
I stopped with almost all the after-school activities. I stopped picking out matching outfits for my kids. I stopped with the big birthday parties. And I sure as heck stopped with the thank you notes (sorry to all my friends and family). I stopped waiting for my kids at the bus stop (turns out a 1st and 3rd grader know how to walk a few houses just fine without me). I stopped packing everyone’s lunch (turns out they do know
how to make a PBJ…even if it looks a little scary. It’s edible). I stopped volunteering in the classroom (turns out seeing me at home is enough). And I stopped trying to make my children’s life so magical (it turns out they do live through boredom….and in fact can create their own fun).
I don’t always remember picture days, or show-and-tell days (ok this one I never remember), or teacher appreciation week. But I’m there for them, every day, showing up and giving them every ounce of love I have.
Together as a family we lowered just about every expectation. On ourselves, on the kids, on our family as a whole. We learned to disappoint them, each other, and especially those outside our tiny little bubble. We learned to get comfortable with the new low bar that became our normal. And it felt great. We took the pressure off, and we could breathe.
When people ask me, “How do you do it with four kids?” my answer is always the same. “Not well.” I’m winging it, every day. I have no idea what I’m doing or how we’ll make it through the day. But what I do know is that I’m no longer striving for “perfection.” That didn’t work, for any of us.
My role as a mother to four children looks and feels very different to what it was when I had one, two or three kids. I honestly think I feel a sense of relief knowing that I don’t have to try so hard, because let’s be honest, the goal of being a perfect mother is impossible, for anyone. This shift in motherhood has allowed me to feel less pressure and more freedom. I feel less guilt and more contentment. And most importantly, less worry and more joy.
Motherhood is hard. For all of us. But it can be easier, by making little changes. Changes to make life simpler, to slow it down, to do less. Choices that we make every day, that we may not even realize. We can choose to parent from a place of pressure or worry. Or from a place of freedom or joy. Making choices from a place where we know that we are enough…. even on the days when we forget show-and-tell.
But, my biggest “ah-ha” moment, the point that I hope comes through this piece crystal clear, is that this view on motherhood was an option the entire time. I could have made this shift eight years ago with my first child. I could have done less, worried less, and planned less with one,
two and or three children. And so can all of you, no matter where you’re at in your motherhood journey.
So, giving ourselves grace, and being compassionate with ourselves as mothers is always an option. You don’t need to wait eight years like I did. My hope, my wish, is that all of you find this same grace and compassion for yourself, starting today.
Katy is the mother of four, and the founder of Grace in the Crumbs, a space dedicated to finding beauty in the everyday, ordinary, and often times messy moments of our lives. Katy and her family are originally from Chicago, but moved to Fairfield almost two years ago. When not in the kitchen, you can usually find Katy either on her yoga mat, relaxing at the beach, or cuddling on the couch with her kids…her favorite place to be. To learn more about Katy visit her website, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram!