What does it take to be “enough”? I don’t know, but I do know this: “Enough” is a flimsy plastic cookie cutter mold that piles expectations, standards, and judgements on our shoulders, threatening to cripple our confidence, our ambitions, and our self-worth. A working mom is so often faced with conflicting demands that if we ever hope to meet those expectations, we are doomed to fall short.
We are women who’ve brought souls into living, through pregnancies and through adoption, birthing love and light into this world. We’re also women who’ve trusted those babes into the arms of others so we could get back to work, keep our eyes on our careers, and follow our passions. Somehow – miraculously – we juggle it all.
And yet often that cookie cutter lingers in the back of our mind, telling us we’re not enough.
I disagree. We are more than enough.
Hi! I’m Clare. I’m mama to Nicholas, age 6 years, and Isaac, age 6 months. I feel like I was fairly young when I became a mom – or, at least, I didn’t really have a mature sense of where my career would take me. I worked so I could pay for diapers on top of student loans. And honestly, I worked because I never thought I could have the patience and care to stay at home full time with a tiny baby.
When Nicholas was 18 months old, his dad died. I was thrown violently into the world of single parenting while struggling through the despair and chaos that grief invites. Every single day, I simply focused on doing the next thing; it was pure survival. After about a year, I quit my job for another opportunity, one that actually lit up my passion for my work. I think that’s when I first realized I could use my career to grow personally as well as professionally. Since then, work has been my creative outlet, and a place for me to mature.
The feelings of “not enough” have plagued me since I was first pregnant with Nicholas. I would wake up at 3am every night sobbing that I wouldn’t be a good enough mother. Yes, pregnancy hormones are outrageous. But I don’t think my fears were unfounded. I knew even then that the expectations on mothers – especially working mothers – are more than difficult to live up to. There are so many days I feel like I’m dropping the ball; when work has been stressful, when I end up yelling over dinner, when I fail to calm my son’s anxiety, when he’s hopping around outside my office door for attention, and when (in the last six months) I am sore and exhausted from rocking the baby to sleep for hours on end. I am not good enough, I’m not doing enough, I do not have enough to give.
What helps me? In one word, gratitude. When I practice intentional gratitude, I am no longer blinded by fictitious expectations and judgements. I see the beauty of this life and I see my place in it. I see quite clearly that I am loved, that I more than enough. A little cheesy? Perhaps. But practicing daily gratitude has changed by life and my sense of self-worth. My other lifeline is the love of my friends and family. It took me a long time to learn that feelings of unworthiness are amplified by isolation but drowned out by community. My best friends, my husband, and my closest family are quick to remind me – every single time I forget – that I am never not enough.
When my kids grow up, what I want them to remember most about me are my joy and my resilience. This path has not been easy, and I’m honest with them when I struggle. In that honesty, I hope I can model how to overcome challenges and how to give yourself grace along the way.