Surviving or Thriving? The Choice to Move Past Survival



Several weeks ago, I was driving to Target without kids (AKA vacation), and I was listening to a podcast about motherhood. The basis of the discussion was whether we are simply surviving motherhood or thriving in motherhood.

This opened up a million thoughts in my mind. If I’m being honest, my first 6 years of parenting were survival mode. It wasn’t until the last year that I could even leave the house alone for more than about 2-3 hours before a baby needed to be nursed again. I was far from pursuing my own passions. In fact, the only thing I felt all that passionate about was my deep longing for sleep.

But the last year has offered me the experience of having children who slept through the night and could be fed in my absence. Children who have started to play with each other and are slightly less demanding of me for constant input. I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I am realizing a lot of mistakes I made along the way that probably kept me in survival mode longer than I needed to be there. I’ve never fancied myself an advice-giving writer, but I am going to attempt to encourage you with some life lessons I have learned recently while contemplating how to move out of surviving and into thriving.

Let me start by saying that some moments are purely about surviving, and these challenges do not apply.

If you have a brand new baby, you’re surviving. If you just moved with a family and are fighting for a new normal, it’s survival time. Going back to work? Surviving. Adopted a child? Surviving. There are moments in life when you don’t need to challenge yourself or expect much from yourself. If that’s you right now, ignore this post and just keep on getting through the day to day. Know that we’re rooting for you.

This post is for the moms who are realizing that they’re stuck in a bit of the motherhood rut.

This is where I was personally. I was coming out of the new baby fog. I was adjusted to life with three. I was adjusted to our move back home to the Mississippi Coast… but I was still just treading water. I was exhausted, but with no real obvious reason for being so.

We have all heard the sentiment that we have to take care of ourselves to be able to care for others. And I genuinely thought I was doing this as best I could. I worked in a little “me time”. But this mostly involved eating junk food while watching Netflix or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook while half-watching my kids at the park. I was doing these small things for a momentary escape from the now.

And I kept coming up dry. 

I was taking what I thought was time for myself and to myself, but I didn’t feel energized or renewed. I just felt drained. That’s when I came to the realization that my body is far more dynamic than I was giving it credit for. Social media scrolling, reality television, and junk food could not satisfy the deep longings of my body, mind, and soul. I feed my children nutritious foods. I read to them daily. I pray with them. I understand the importance of these things for them. But I couldn’t find even a moment to treat myself with any of the same grace and kindness. So I decided it was time for a change.

I started with my body.

I refocused myself on putting food in that was going to give me solid and sustainable energy. I still love a Diet Coke and a bowl of ice cream, but I’m learning to treat my body with the kindness it deserves to feel well and function well by mostly eating cleaner. I really struggled with finding a way to get exercise into my schedule because, as a stay at home mom, I just felt like there was no time. Finally, through trial and error, I found an exercise routine that worked for me and for my kids. With just dedicating a very small chunk of time to exercise (I try to do 30 minutes most days of the week) and eating a little better, I was shocked at how much my energy levels improved. I wasn’t dragging any more.

Once I had a little pep in my step, I started working in some time in the mornings to devote to my spiritual life.

Some days all I get is 5 minutes, but it’s 5 minutes that I’m dedicating to renewing my heart to prepare for what the day will hold. I have found that replacing my old morning routine of scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed with even just a moment of refocusing my spirit gives me the lift I need to approach the day with a gentler, kinder, more content heart.

And lastly (and most challenging for me), I’m working right now on nourishing my mind.

I’ve started pushing myself to listen to a podcast while I watch the boys play instead of doing the social media scroll. I’m trying to pick up a book to read when I’m waiting at a doctor’s appointment or an oil change. I still love a good Netflix binge at bedtime, but I’m trying to temper that with pursuing other interests as well. Whether that’s writing, reading, or just spending some time processing life with my husband.

I realize that this all may sound like a lot, and I’m not suggesting a total overhaul of your life. We all need those moments sometimes to sit and veg. What I want to do is challenge those of you who, like me, are starting to feel like your needs are not being met by coffee, wine, and reality television. I challenge you (and me) to pick something this week that you will focus on for your whole self.  Maybe you’re ready to drink more water or read a great book. Maybe you’re ready to dedicate time to prayer or meditation. Maybe you’re ready to start exercising.

Whatever it is for you, take one step towards nourishing your incredibly dynamic body, mind, and soul. I guarantee you won’t regret it, and before you know it, you’ll find that you’re no longer just surviving.

You’re happy. You’re healthy. You’re energized.  And you, Mama…you are thriving!