Two years ago, I was 8 months pregnant and the thought of making new year’s resolutions never crossed my mind. My only goal for 2018 was to bring my daughter earth-side and come out on the other side in one piece.
Last year at this time, I was slowly witnessing the postpartum fog lifting and my creative juices were starting to flow again. I remember consciously deciding that new year’s resolutions for 2019 just felt too heavy. I wasn’t ready to commit to anything. I guess I was still in survival mode.
This year, I’m ending the year just coming off of a really busy season of giving. Since August, I’ve been giving every ounce of life force I’ve got to caring for my loved ones, those who are healthy and those who have been less fortunate. I feel full, but depleted in many ways.
Leading up to the holiday break last week, I did everything in my power to set myself up for a super cozy, “I’m not going to lift a finger” kind of break because I deserved it. The house was deep cleaned for holiday guests, gifts were beautifully wrapped, Goodwill donations had been sorted, and even our robot vacuum had made a sweep of the house.
A few days into break, while my daughter napped, I was sitting on my couch with NOTHING to do. Absolute stillness.
The momentum and noise of the previous months had come to a screeching halt and I had zero obligations. I achieved my “I’m not going to lift a finger” goal, but something felt off.
I had a pit in my stomach that I couldn’t quite pinpoint its origins.
Naturally, I started to scroll through all my social media feeds, trying to find some sort of answer to my unknown problem. It was one highlight reel after another, and it felt as if though everyone had something to prove. I was envious that they were able to get their kids to sit still in their matching holiday PJs. She launched a new program. She ran a marathon. They had another kid. She traveled to all depths of the earth for free! Cropped into tiny squares was their proof that they had been productive humans in this crazy world of go-go-go standards.
I felt frozen. That pit in my stomach started to manifest itself into a little bit of crazy and I started to wonder why I was feeling so bla during the most magical season of all.
I felt myself spiraling down the comparison trap…pressure building. So much pressure to build a new YOU with the onset of a new year, not to mention a new DECADE!
As someone who’s almost always a little bit anxious, comparison can be the death of me. Especially when it comes to comparing my productivity to another. Even worse…comparing my current productivity to that of my former, pre-mama self. My perceived value somehow gets wrapped up in how productive I’ve been.
The thing was, I didn’t feel like I was ready for New Year resolutions just yet and everyone else was jumping on the goal-setting bandwagon. I didn’t feel like I needed a new me or a new set of rules for the decade ahead. Hell, most days I’m still just surviving and I’ve come to appreciate this hustle of mamahood.
What I needed was familiarity, routine and predictability. I needed a consistent rhythm.
I needed permission to say f*uck you to resolutions.
Permission is what I got when I received a lovely email from another postpartum activist, Amy Taylor-Kabbaz. She too was reflecting on the past year, but in a way that I hadn’t yet observed through social media, proving to me that there was a better way of self reflection.
The timing of her words spoke to my soul, reminding me that women and mothers put too much pressure on ourselves. We dismiss our simple successes and proclaim we aren’t doing enough. We focus on the things we haven’t managed to find time for, instead of celebrating those that we did. We mourn our pre-baby selves and all that we once achieved in a 24-hour period of time.
She reminded me that my most important role is that of MOTHER.
She also reminded me that a mother’s “success” is often intangible, hidden…unspoken.
She caught me red-handed. I was neglecting to honor the parts of the year that went undocumented. The abundance of simple accomplishments had been washed away by the cultural norm of showy milestones. My sacred service to motherhood, forgotten.
I hadn’t found time to hire a nanny. Our japanese garden didn’t get finished. We’re still renovating the bedroom. We didn’t invest our money. Why didn’t we travel more?
And then I remembered…
I traveled across the country to help a dear friend photograph her new cookbook, while holding space for her creative vision to grow throughout the year. I did that.
I supported my husband as he made his way towards new heights in his career, leaving him feeling content and empowered. I did that too.
I grieved the loss of our family dog to cancer while maintaining the integrity of the household for my daughter who was too young to comprehend the fallout. I also did that.
I sacrificed my limited time and energy to travel out of town for weekly visits to my aging grandparents, where I offered a supporting hand in whatever they needed. Yup, that too!
I jumped in head first to create a safe space for mothers to retreat, honoring the call of my inner wisdom.
I held space.
I supported them all.
I was extremely present.
I did that.
This is my sacred service to motherhood.
It’s these undocumented, intabible moments that truly shaped who I became this past year.
These are the moments that make up my highlight reel, left uncropped and kept from the pressures of “the grid”.
As mothers, it’s our responsibility to bring transparency to the unspoken spaces of motherhood so that our efforts can be honored and valued in the same ways as culturally accepted successes.
A mother’s value is not tied to how much money she contributes to the family, how many kids she’s able to juggle, if the to-do list is completed, or how many badges of honor she wears. Her value is in her presence.
As a collective, we can do better.
If you are already sharing your authentic truth behind the highlight reel and staying away from comparison, I commend you. Your vulnerability is transforming the way women perceive the status quo of mothering. If “fresh starts” and a “new yous” doesn’t feel right, ditch it, especially if you’re in a season of massive transformation.
Thanks to my own inner wisdom and an email that found its way into my inbox and just the right time, I was able to pivot away from unhealthy comparison and move towards healthy reflection.
I was reminded that it’s not about what I have chosen to display as my highlight reel, but more about the undocumented, unfiltered moments that shaped who I have become. I was reminded to observe the ripple effect of my presence.
If you are seeking permission to rewrite the way you go about year-end reflection, permission granted. If, like me, your productivity has plummeted since taking on the role as mother, this does not mean you are less valuable. This means you’ve evolved. You’ve transformed. Please give yourself some grace to do so.
I invite you to look back and reflect on the less tangible moments of the past year.. You don’t have to line you accomplishments up on a shelf or even share them. Just honor them for they have changed you!
Together, you and I are transforming the dialogue around which mothers set their personal standards and what we perceive to be noteworthy. Whether you are a stay-at-home mama, a returned-to-work mama, or somewhere in-between, your service to motherhood is honorable. It’s a big F-ing deal. Cheers to another decade of transformation and sacred service.
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Each week, expect a bite-sized personal reflection with accompanying journal prompt. My hope is that by sharing these reflections and prompts, you’ll be inspired into purposeful action and we’ll both be reassured that we are not alone in this process of unraveling.
Once a month, expect a curation of resources intended to inspire a deeper personal practice. There will be Q&A interviews to showcase how other women in this community navigate transformation, articles and podcasts that have made a lasting impression and practical mindfulness exercises to bring about sustainable change. If you’re a fan of mantra…there will be some of that too.