Do you often feel like you’re the one keeping everything together in your family? As moms, we are the glue, the duct tape, and the bungee cords that keep family life from falling off the back of the truck. But being the cornerstone can make you feel crazy at times. So instead of holding on tighter than ever, I’m offering this little nugget: that you learn to let go in order to hold on to your sanity.
Look, I don’t have this one mastered yet. But when I make a conscious effort to practice it, I always notice that I feel lighter and more at ease. (In fact, letting go is an essential component of emotional self-care.)
It started one lovely spring afternoon. The weather was just getting nice enough to enjoy being outside without wearing extra layers. My husband and I were out on our raised backyard deck with our 2 young boys (1 and 3, at the time).
We had a number of toys on the deck — rings for tossing, buckets with plastic shovels, balls, stacking cups, etc. I’m not sure who started it, but one of the boys picked up a toy and just chucked it over the edge into the yard. Then the other followed suit with a different toy, laughing. The game continued as they threw every single toy into the yard without a care in the world.
As the first few toys went over, my body tensed up and I thought, “Nooooo. Now we’re going to have to go into the yard and find all those small toys.” (I can’t help it; I like order and organization.) But the boys were getting along, they weren’t hurting anybody, and there was so much joy on their little faces.
By the end of the toy throw, we all felt the joy. It was exhilarating to watch them hurl buckets and balls over the edges with no hesitation. There was satisfaction with every release. In short, it was spontaneous and wonderful.
I realized this: Letting go of our stuff is liberating.
I don’t mean literally throwing your belongings into the yard. (Unless that resonates with you.)
I mean the things in our life that we feel like we must have but that we don’t really need. The things that hurt instead of help. The things that give us excess stress instead of peace. This can be physical items, but what I’m really talking about is those beliefs or emotions that we hold on to that don’t serve us.
I sometimes feel like the kitchen, living room, and playroom have to be completely cleaned up every single night. (They don’t.) I feel like I have to be right about everything in arguments with my husband. (I’m not.) I feel like if I don’t give my kids a green vegetable every night, they won’t grow up to be functioning adults. (Not true.)
Letting go of those needs feels great. I mean really letting go. Not: letting go… and then beating yourself up about it for days.
We feel like we need all our expectations met, all our preferences noted, all our boxes checked. This also includes our guilt, our grudges, our obligations, and our pain.
And it’s amazing how hard it is for us to hold on *that* tightly to our own personal needs for actual happiness. Now, what if you hold on to your sanity as fiercely as you do the housework or the laundry?
So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with life, my advice to you:
1. Choose one thing to (metaphorically) throw off the back deck.
What “need” are you holding onto that doesn’t serve you? What, in your life, is taking up time or energy that could be used for more preferred things? Just pick one thing for now.
2. Before tossing, figure out the why.
Identify why you are holding onto it in the first place. This will help you let go of it more fully (and allow you to make sure it’s the right thing to let go).
Example: I feel the need to clean the playroom every night.
Because I like things to be clean when I get up the next day.
Okay, but why?
Partially because that’s how my own mother was.
Okay, but what about ME?
Well, I feel like when it’s clean the kids see different things to play with and therefore are better occupied.
Fair enough, but is that really true?
I guess I sort of feel like a clean house = doing a good job as a mom. It means I have it all together.
The problem isn’t that I have a preference for a clean house. The problem is that I am not able to let it slide sometimes. It’s when a clean house comes before my SANITY. The problem is me packing a bunch of meaning into whether or not the house is clean.
And the answer doesn’t have to be never again cleaning your house. It just means you give yourself a break.
It means you let go of perfection and hold on to your sanity.
3. Let go.
Let it slide. Suck it up. Toss it. And remind yourself that it’s okay. Remind yourself what you get in exchange for dropping the extra weight you’re carrying. (Balance is a myth.) You get extra time to do something else you’d rather do. Or – you are happier not doing it. Maybe you have more energy. Or maybe you don’t have resentment for always having to do said task.
Alternatively, maybe it becomes an opportunity to learn how to delegate or to make it part of the kids’ evening routine.
4. Test it.
In the case of the messy playroom, how did it feel the next morning when you got up and started the day without having cleaned it?
Did the kids forget how to play?
Did you suddenly forget how to be mom?
Were you relieved that you gave yourself permission to let it slide?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there is a mindset shift that can happen that can direct you to less stress and less crazy. I like my (loosely defined) mental stability. How about you?
Hold on to your sanity. Let go of everything else.
Do you like your sanity? Probably so. In that case, you’ll like this post too: The Ultimate Guide to Motherhood. Before you go, share in the comments the one thing you can let go of in order to keep your sanity. We support you!