While scrolling through Instagram a couple weeks ago, I happened upon another mama’s setup to celebrate the first week of school. She had decorations in her living room, a first day of school breakfast planned out, a banner over her mantle, and several other details all fitting the theme. It was fun, creative, and adorable. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “I should do this!” But I came back to reality after a few minutes and realized that just the idea of gathering the supplies and setting it all up felt overwhelming rather than exciting. What gave that mama joy, would give me unneeded stress.
These days there are so many “extras” that we can do as mamas. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these extras, they’re super fun! However, I do think it is both important and necessary for us to figure out which extras fill our cups and which extras drain us. For instance, I love throwing my kid’s birthday parties, but they are never extravagant. I have several friends who do the whole nine yards of printed invites, labeled snacks, an intricate theme, and a plethora of activities. They prep for weeks in advance and I love seeing their creativity shine through. At the same time, I love keeping our birthday parties special but low-key. At one point, I could’ve let myself feel bad about this, but no more.
Another example is clothing. Thankfully my older daughter wears a uniform to school! I love it. Same thing, every day. At my younger daughter’s school, there’s many a matching smocked dress and big bow. These kids look adorable! Our family embraced the southern charm for Day One and had a perfectly smooth braid as well. Day Two, it was a completely random outfit all picked out by my four year old: an LSU skirt with a pink striped shirt, blue and white striped socks, white and gold striped shoes, and hair in a messy ponytail. It was a lot of stripes. It’ll probably just be downhill from there.
Here’s the thing: there are many things that I love to do as a mom. I have a lot of bandwidth to tolerate messy crafts and I even enjoy playdough. I love to read aloud and research the best picture books to get from the library. I enjoy going out of my way to plan adventurous outings. I’m learning to lean in to the extras I love and shake off what I don’t.
As moms, we have enough on our plates trying to feed, clothe, and tend to the emotional needs of our children each day. Our children need love, attention, and physical care. And many days, providing those basics is exhausting. Additionally, there might be certain seasons where we feel the grace to do things that don’t come naturally to us, but there are other seasons where it is more than ok to just say no. It’s high time to accept the fact that there are many extras that we just won’t be able to get around to without losing our ever loving minds. And, guess what, I think it brings a lot of freedom to other mamas to acknowledge the things we love as well as the things we just can’t get to. At the zoo this week, I ran into a mama friend who told me, “I was so happy to see your Instagram story of your daughter wearing a random outfit to school.” Her comment brought me a lot of joy, because I hope that when I let go of certain extras I can give other moms the freedom to do the same.