Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Balance


A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire


The Struggle

I'm sitting in a coffee shop and three women are nearby. One of them is talking about life and she said, You struggle and you struggle and you struggle and you make some mistakes and then you're okay. I have to tell myself that. It might not be true, but I have to tell myself that.

Well, what perfect timing, I'm so glad I accidentally eavesdropped as I walked through and sat down next to them, adjusting myself into my big overstuffed chair in the corner. I sat down here to write to you. To talk to other mothers, here in the imbalance of life and work and family and self. We really can't do it all, not all at once and we can't say that we will find balance because it's unattainable. This is depressing, much of the time, and in the face of it, we struggle. We make mistakes. But I believe that it's true--in the end, we are okay and so are the people in our care. If we can begin to let go, to accept the chaos at face value, we can find peace in that surrender. This is when our families feel it too, coming from us. The peace that flows from a mother has a wider ripple effect than we can imagine.

Yesterday, I cleaned. I'm a grumpy cleaner. Why is everyone trying to sabotage my plan? Following me around and making messes in my sighing wake? I was pretty much the opposite of peaceful and they feel that even more, I fear. The Christmas aftermath was everywhere, on top of all the dust and its bunnies. I wanted it all done. Fast. Cleaned and kept clean. Laundered and put away. I was trying to do it all in one day, and I really just wanted a break, from all the gathering and even the eating. I wanted peace and quiet and time away from all the stuff. The gifts and the dishes and the recycling bags overflowing with wrapping paper and toy packaging. I wanted to write.

Sometimes I know there are words bubbling to the surface and I'm not sure what they are but they are telling me they want out. They start to feel like another little person wanting snacks or whining about their brother's latest offensive action.

The only way away from it all is to answer to the needs, and that means a whole lot of letting go. This is difficult for the mother who prefers control and order, bent on perfectionism. I'm working on it. I'll never have it all right, but I'm learning that stopping, to take a deep breath, to remember that it feels good to simply do the next right thing, is the freeing answer I'm looking for. Grumbling about every tiny little need leaves me angry and ashamed. It's not worth it and the tasks aren't going anywhere so the grumbling must.

The children and the laundry and the dust, they mean me no harm. They, like the words, are here in me and around me because it is all grace. Gifts, these daily grind repetitious aspects of life. Results of the bigger picture--maybe it's too Pollyanna to say it but I don't care--the bigger picture is that I have a family and a house and it's all a miracle, if you can slow down long enough to really take it in.

Right before I left this morning, this way of thinking meant that I left twenty minutes later than I had planned to leave. I started to feel the frustration and tension of my own needs, my desire to flee after so many days never quiet. But I took a deep breath and helped finish a few things for my children, these three of mine who are trying to sprint through the marathon that is their growing up.

I did not play the martyr, not today, though I certainly did yesterday. I left with my head held high, my three little troopers in the capable hands of their daddy. I made no apologies for what may be in store for that house or my dear husband's stress level. I left, knowing that the words and the time away would do something magical within me, returning me to them a softer mother and wife. Coffee shops are good hibernation zones for just this thing. And you never know what you'll learn from the people around you, out sharing all of this grace and connection, spaces and words. We miss it if we are too busy striving for control that is not ours. Let go, Mama. Sit here with me. It's a struggle. So we'll struggle and we'll struggle and we will make a lot of mistakes, together. And then we'll be okay.

Heather King is a married mother of three young children living in rural Minnesota. She writes at The Extraordinary Ordinary and is co-directing Listen To Your Mother Twin Cities. Heather also hosts a weekly free-writing exercise, Just Write, every Tuesday at The Extraordinary Ordinary.

More from

beautiful! And just what I needed this morning. Thank you!
This. Yes, this. Your words are like a salve because these same thoughts have been beating me up lately. I just vacuumed and thought, "so here I am vacuuming (and eating the last of the candy I made over the holidays) instead of writing but I can't write when the dust bunnies are vacationing RIGHT HERE in every room in my house. And why are these game instructions right here next to a random hex wrench? In the foyer? WHY?". Sigh. We try. We struggle. We'll do it together. That DOES make it ok. xoxo
after many, many years (my kids are now 18 and 20) of figuring it out....I've come to the conclusion that the laundry can wait, the dishes can be washed later. Kids come first. You'll never regret that choice. Ever.
I can whole-heartedly relate to your article. Working part-time from home is such a challenge sometimes, with all the clutter of the household all around me, but I need to be able to let it go and appreciate it for what it is: my life which I love. Thank you for writing this, Heather. Looking forward to Just Write this week. :)
i love this --you got me "Let go Mama" --it feels so good
After years, I finally figured this out. The house is usually a mess, the dishes are in the sink, but the kids can talk to me without getting their heads bitten off and I can write! I think that's a pretty good trade-off!
Stunningly gorgeous piece. This year, instead of making New Year's Resolutions, I chose a phrase. The phrase I chose was "let go." And this summarizes perfectly what it is I was trying to let go; my perfectionism, my stress, my ugh. I want to let go and I want to BE, fully, a mother. Love this.
Yes! Exactly! Sometimes we have to just LET GO! That's when I go grocery shopping! :-)
Thank you, each of you, for your kind words. Yes, letting go is where it's at...hard, but true. :)
I liked your article so much, I featured it here: Have a great day!
Comments are now closed for this piece.