By Laura Harris
Do people ever ask you questions like, “How do you do it all? How can you juggle kids, meals, errands, projects, a job, and laundry without going crazy?” That’s when I internally snort with laughter and think, “Somehow, I’ve successfully convinced this person that I’m actually juggling all of that.”
I’ll be honest. I’ve never been that great at organizing my life. Now that I’m a mom and my children depend on me behaving somewhat like an adult—except when they ask me to dance the “Body Boogie” with them—I can come through.
I didn’t simply wake up more balanced, however. My first brush with depression in 2015 was the real humdinger. I thought about how behind I was on every aspect of my life. How the clutter in our small rental seemed to seep from the edges of each room, coming ever closer to consuming me. How I was so tired all the time and felt so guilty asking anyone for help since there wasn’t anything truly “wrong.”
Or so I felt.
I was a stay-at-home mom with two little kids. Even though my husband was gone much of the time, he had a good job and loved his family. I’d even launched a freelance writing business a few weeks before. But all that did was remind me of all my shortcomings and failures.
You start so many projects, but you’re terrible at finishing them.
No other mom struggles with this stuff. That green laundry hamper has been sitting in the corner so long the clothes have dust on them. What kind of mom lets that happen?
Why should you get a break when so many single moms have to work full-time and care for their families? Suck it up, buttercup. This is what you signed up for.
My inner voice was very persuasive. I started believing the lie that this was my future, that things would never get better.
That’s when my mom said, “It sounds like you have a balance problem.” I had to find a way to recharge my batteries, to shift the load from one side of the fulcrum to the other in order to find some semblance of healthy living again.
A short while later, I heard a counselor describe a foundational truth that helped through her own bouts of depression. In those moments when the world weighed heavy, she told herself three words:
“Feelings aren’t fact.”
Those simple words became my litmus test when my negative voice tried to persuade me against slowing down, reaching out for help, and finding a healthier balance in my day.
For example, when I told myself, “This will never get better,” that was a feeling. The fact was, I was knee-deep in a challenging season of sleepless nights and teething and tantrums and I was letting guilt stop me from asking my husband for more help with the children and the housework. It was a season. The fog would eventually lift. Conducting that simple litmus test helped me remember that.
What if it’s not your feelings but your schedule that’s out of balance? A bonus litmus test you can run is on your children’s behavior. “Feelings aren’t fact” applies to them too. For example, when I overbooked our schedule one day with so many errands it made our heads spin, we entered what I call the “bad busy” zone. Guess how I found out our schedule was out of balance? My children acted out. They’re awesome kids; they just didn’t know how to process the craziness except to be crazy, themselves.
Their behavior, or feelings, said they were being defiant and selfish. Perhaps their actions were inappropriate and would need to be addressed; however, it also went deeper than that. The fact was, they needed a slower pace and didn’t know how to ask for that. They were the frenzied dog in the night before the thunderstorm.
If your life has a lack of balance, start evaluating some of the symptoms. If you’ve guilted yourself into a tired frenzy and feel that shame I’ve experienced so many times that says, “You don’t deserve help,” make sure you run it through the three-word test: “Feelings aren’t fact.”
What is the result of healthier, more balanced living? I believe Christopher K. Germer says it best: “A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
There are moments when you may feel like a bad mom, but the fact is, you’re the exact mom your children need. You may feel like you don’t deserve help when life gets heavy, but the fact is, you do. We all do.
Laura Harris is a professional writer, wife, and mother of two rockstar kids. She is passionate about family, marriage, and Star Wars. She has published her parenting thoughts on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Babble, and Her View From Home. When she’s not tinkering with LEGOs or engrossed in a good book, you can find her encouraging other moms who love to write at LauraHarrisWrites.com.