Yesterday, I was waiting in the car rider line at my child’s school…sewing suspenders on a clown costume. Yep, you read that right. Side note: I thought my little clown was supposed to be a little pirate until about two days before said event. And while I was sitting there, I could feel the tension. Not only in my shoulders from trying to sew in a car, but from all the demands and accompanying frustration of the absolute craziness of the last few days. That’s when I realized, it was May 3rd. I had just entered what mothers of school aged children sometimes refer to as “the second December”.
May is not-so-lovingly called “the second December” because it is by far one of the most stressful times for parents. There are recitals, graduations, endless field trips, sports championships, teacher appreciation week, dress up days, field days, awards days, class days, and on and on and on. With all these events and celebrations come inevitable permission slips, notaries, costumes, time off from work, money (so, so much money), and most impactfully…a whole lot of pressure. The pressure to meet the endless deadlines and (more difficult to articulate) the pressure to enjoy the activity to the degree you’re expected to and to make sure your child enjoys it too. Side Note 2: I think I just heard the app my children’s school uses to communicate with me ding twice since I started writing this article. It’s the weekend! You get what I’m saying.
So what are we to do? Honestly, if you’d have asked me 24 hours ago, I wouldn’t have had a coherent answer, because I was drowning. Counselors drown sometimes too. But today, I’m thinking more clearly and have a couple thoughts about how to take care of ourselves during this whirlwind season. Spoiler Alert: One of the tips won’t be to plan ahead, because there’s precious little time for that in “the second December”.
First, let’s talk self-care. I know it can sound trite, but self-care really is critical to our ability to function. May is not usually the month that mothers are making lofty exercise or diet plans but aiming to stay hydrated or go outside for a couple minutes to breathe fresh air might be all that’s needed to re-center. For example, during the sewing incident yesterday, I wonder if listening to my favorite playlist would have lightened my mood. In this same vein, I acknowledge that it can be difficult to listen to the body when everyone around you is clamoring for your attention, but what I’ve learned is that the body is going to be heard whether we want to listen or not. So why not take a couple seconds during a tense moment and ask yourself, “What do I need from me right now?”. It may be some deep cleansing breaths, a quick stretch, or permission to cry. Whatever the need is, try and meet it if you are able.
Second, can we talk about shame for a quick minute? As women, we tend to forget all we have done and only focus on our shortcomings. When I got to my little clown’s play, I realized I forgot flowers and that I wasn’t quite dressed for the occasion. And that sinister shame seed tried to plant itself by telling me, “You’re not quite enough, are you.” But you know what’s fascinating about shame? It can’t stand vulnerability. Luckily for me, I had a couple close mom friends attending the same event. I mentioned a little bit about how I was feeling about the flowers and my wardrobe. As fellow mom warriors who are in this hard season too, they got it. And with a few encouraging words from them, I got through it. Are flowers a big deal? No way! Does my wardrobe matter? Absolutely not! When we’re exhausted and on high alert for things that slip through the cracks, though, the little things can feel so defeating. So, if you have a friend you can be vulnerable with, why not reach out? You may be surprised at what a welcome relief it is for them to have someone to talk to, too.
Finally, perspective can really help…well…put things in perspective. Once I was cloaked in the darkness of the audience and my little one was shining in the warm lights of the stage, I could finally breathe again. And when the to-do list tried to crowd my thoughts, I put into practice the mantra I use often in my office: “Try to focus on what’s right now, not what’s next”. I was able to really watch my child perform and thank God for the talent and exhilaration I saw up on that stage. I found myself remembering my priorities of family and faith and was able to thank God for the day He’d given. I’m not naïve enough to imply that things always turn out this well, but I was so thankful it did yesterday. And I think it’s important to be mindful of those moments and acknowledge, with gratitude, when they arise…especially in May.
Thankfully, like all difficult seasons, “the second December” will come to an end. The field trips, teacher gifts, and awards days will be in the rearview mirror, and summer will return. Until then, soldier on fellow moms. But don’t forget to take care of yourself, give yourself grace when shame rears its ugly head, and enjoy those happy moments when they present themselves. See you in June!
By Ashley Smith, LPC-S