Mothers are feeling more burnt out than ever. The pandemic has only amplified the strain mothers feel, as well as the outdated and unrealistic expectations to “have it all.” 

As a researcher, coach, educator and an author, I have talked to scores of mothers and read endless pages of research and reflection about being a mom in the modern era. What I’ve learned is that we’ve got to start thinking about the phrase “having it all” differently. We have to give moms the freedom to fulfill ourselves in real ways, beyond these fake ideas of what a perfect mother looks like. It’s time to roll up our sleeves, dig in, and to literally get real.

Here are four ways moms can unsubscribe from the false narrative of “having it all” 

1. Debunk: The myth of “Having it all” 

One of the most damaging messages women hear is that, with a little effort, they can “have it all,” which really ends up meaning they can “do it all.” That phrase is not only stressful but it's also harmful. Because, there's an underlying assumption that you're supposed to do it "all" alone. And, without any support. Whether it's society, culture or even our own families, there's an idea floating around that says mothers have to be all things to all people. But, that's not okay and it isn't true.

Unfortunately, this myth is setting mothers up for failure and burnout. We’re measuring ourselves against a person who can never exist. It’s time we smash the false image we’re supposed to be checking ourselves against.

2. Redefine: From having to nourishing

The way forward and out of this limiting belief is to expose it for what it is—a myth. There is no one correct way to lead a satisfying life and achieve your dreams.  

Be radically honest with yourself. What’s going to make you happy? What are you getting because someone told you you need it? Forget about being the best: This is not a contest. There is no such thing as the best mother. Let that go.

3. Observe: Fulfillment begins today

Observe the roller coaster we call motherhood, which is always going to be full of highs and lows. Often we think we must be doing something wrong if it is hard to achieve, but motherhood—and life—won’t be smooth all the time! If we’re always striving to reach this impossible idea of perfection, we’re going to miss the beautiful lessons and great moments.

If you’re feeling stressed, try to use those feelings to your advantage—they can serve as an invitation to remember to check in with yourself, and ask if you’re actually satisfied? Or are you feeling stressed because you’re chasing an unrealistic expectation or going after something that doesn’t fulfill you? Mindfulness around your behavior can lead to a life where you’re striving for goals that are aligned with what you as a mom and person actually want. 

4. Action: Face your truth and grow

Try to be willing to reveal more of your authentic self—this can be scary, but living in your truth can be a key to growth. We all have tough times, mundane times, and beautiful times. Real change often requires us to live with integrity and honesty—that’s how we can break old belief systems. Ultimately, you hold the power to redefine what “having it all” means to you. What if having it all meant being present, in touch with your feelings, living in alignment with your purpose, and bringing authenticity and integrity into your life as a mother? In the end, you are the “all” you are craving. Having everything is no more and no less than having the most intimate, fulfilling, joyful relationship with yourself possible.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please email [email protected]