At various points in my life, I can remember thinking that I was over something. Whatever stage I was in, I would naively declare to myself, “I am never going to be back here ever again.” However, a few months or even years later, I often found myself back in the exact same situation. No matter the subject, one thing I have learned over and over again is that everything in life works in cycles; it all eventually comes full circle. I venture out expecting something completely different, only to end up at square one all over again.
Unfortunately, my mothering journey is also cyclic in nature. I have recently completed a full cycle of what I am now referring to as “The Seven Stages of Motherhood.” Let me know if this sounds familiar…
Stage 1: Motivated – This beginning stage is great because I have newfound strength and motivation to get tasks done. I am optimistic and make opportunities for learning and fun, because I feel capable of juggling all the balls I have in the air right now.
Stage 2: Finding my stride – This stage feels productive and may even include tackling a home project or two. All the theoretical cogs in our family machine are functioning well at this point.
Stage 3: Approaching peak capacity – Like any other activity or skill in life, we are only able to maintain a high level of performance for a short period of time. At this stage, the work that was easy in stage 1 and 2 begins to feel tedious and tiresome. It is all still manageable, but begins to feel like real work.
Stage 4: Overwhelmed and losing steam – At this stage, I am a train running down hill. Paper plates are a regular occurrence at family dinners, the kitchen is clean but not by stage 1 or 2 standards, there are no extra chores being done, and fuses shorten for everyone involved.
Stage 5: Sleeping on the couch while the kids play/scream at each other – By this stage, everything takes great effort. Ironically, this is also the stage when the house typically implodes with soiled clothes, messy kids, dirty dishes, and socks missing their mates. I haven’t quite figured out if this stage causes all the mess, or if the messes cause the stage, but either way they always go hand in hand. Stage 5 usually ends in crying or screaming (sometimes both).
Stage 6: Respite and Rejuvenation – After the tiring drama of stage 5, I make intentional plans to get away. I do whatever I need to do to feel like myself again. This usually requires some assistance from my husband and/or family. I take some time to be quiet. Exercise has been a huge stress reliever for me while in this stage. I also love music, massages, pedicures, eating, and spending time with friends. The rejuvenation stage is something of a building back up after the complete collapse.
Stage 7: REPEAT – The unfortunate truth of the matter is that all cycles have a repetitive pattern. I am never able to maintain levels 1, 2 or 3 without eventually ending up in stages 4, 5 and 6. BUT I have noticed that as I become more aware of my mothering cycle, I am better able to manage my workload and hopefully reduce the severity of the stage 5 collapse.
For Mother’s Day this year, I got a card that read, “Motherhood: A Summary – Holy crap! It’s hard! The End.” I thought this was right on the nose. I love my family and I wouldn’t change it for anything, but MOTHERING IS HARD! And as I process through my Seven Stages of Motherhood, I am learning how to find grace. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that I should be Superwoman. I should be able to maintain levels 1, 2 and 3 without ending up in stages 4, 5 and 6. But motherhood is like all the other things in life; it is a cycle. We will all eventually need the respite of stage 6 – and that’s okay.
Maybe you need to hear that today, it’s okay if you need the respite of stage 6. And I hope you find some comfort in the fact that, no matter what stage of motherhood you are in, there are millions of other moms out there in that same stage right along with you. I’m currently in stage 1 again (after a real whopping stage 5)… how about you?