Pandemic Grace Narrative
In the midst of this pandemic, there’s a narrative of grace emerging– especially among moms. Social media is full of positive affirmations and a reminder that we’re all in this together. That none of us picked this sudden shift in lifestyle, and that we’re all okay. What a beautiful reminder of unity and strength in a time of such uncertainty.
I do want to say this, though. It’s okay if you’re using this time to attack your goals, dust off old ideas, pursue new dreams. It’s okay if you’re rocking at life in the midst of a global pandemic. And it’s okay if the only attainable goal for you right now is survival.
In the midst of a global pandemic or in regular old motherhood, here’s the truth: grace and goals can coexist. There may be seasons where one needs to overtake the other. Seasons, where grace needs a heavy application and goals, are as simple as taking a shower or remembering to eat a meal. In other seasons, the stars align, our support systems overflow, our kids are sleeping and we can breathe a little. Conquer a little. Achieve a little– or a lot.
But as life settles into this new rhythm, it’s good to take a step back and evaluate the relationship between grace and goals. Are goals consuming your life? Stealing your joy? Robbing you of comfort? Increasing your anxiety? Is your goal really healthy if it’s causing you shame, fear or a lack of joy?
Remember: you can’t do it all. No one can. Nope. Not even her. I don’t care how perfect her photos are or how regimented her schedule is– there’s not a single mom on the planet who doesn’t need the grace to go with her goals. All of us have dirty dishes to do and laundry to fold. All of us have to choose to set aside one thing to focus on another. It’s just the way it works.
And just as everyone needs a hearty helping of grace to navigate motherhood, I think we all need goals, too. They don’t have to be fancy or public or anything like your friends’ goals. And they don’t need to be fitness related. Sure, taking care of our bodies is a great thing– but take a look around. If you could pick one thing to work on, what would it be? Is it something for yourself (a reading goal, a boundary you want to set, a schedule change or habit), or is there something you see in your kids that you might want to work on?
Naming Our Goals
In our case, naming the goals we have for our kids has been crucial. My oldest son has taken us on a parenting journey we didn’t expect. He doesn’t fit the mold. We’ve been on the conveyor belt of early intervention and IEPs and therapy appointments and the tangled web of which deficit to tackle first for six years now. With only 24 hours in a day, we’ve had seasons where we are knee-deep in things to work on and not enough time to conquer them all. If I’m not clear in naming which goals I want to focus on, it’s easy to feel like I’m constantly failing. Because here’s the honest truth: after six years of hard work, he’s still not “caught up.” And he may never be in every single category.
If I’m not intentionally narrow in my focus, it would be easy to lose sight of the victories we’ve had in the midst of the not-yets or the less-important. It would be easy to drown in a sea of not-good-enough or why-can’t-he.
While school is unbelievably amazing for my son to work on social language, following directions, and keeping pace with his peers, his long days away from home leaves us with very little time to work on self-help skills. There were deficits still lurking from his preschool years. When our family received the unexpected gift of 9 weeks of school at home, we mourned many losses. And then we pushed up our sleeves and got to work.
While reflecting on his most recent IEP meeting, we realized there were skills we could target at home. We settled on all the things we never had time to let him practice: preparing food, turning clothes right side out, putting items away in the right spot. And to prepare for first grade, we set our eyes on locker skills: hanging up his coat, putting on hats and gloves, putting them away, etc. My husband built a locker with hooks in the same places as the lockers at school. With my three-year-old starting preschool in the fall, we decided that the boys would be “locker buddies” and that we would practice different weather scenarios each day. While those might seem like a lot of skills to focus on, they all come back to a big shift in focus: allowing my son time to struggle with and practice skills he can in the environment we’ve been given.
Acknowledging Our Capacity
Personally, my goals during quarantine have not been weight or nutrition-related. Choosing to tackle a goal for my son in addition to teaching my sixth graders from behind a computer screen meant letting go of some things for this season. Capacity is real. In some seasons, our capacity for goals is big. At other points in life, our capacity is zapped by responsibilities. Enter grace.
Not wanting the disappointment and failure of an unrealistic goal, I shifted my focus. What could I do that would give my brain a break and fuel my body? I’ve always enjoyed running, and in other seasons of life, I would run much more consistently. I settled on a total mileage goal for the month of April. For me, this was a nice, measurable goal I could see progress in. It was also an activity that gave my brain and my body a break from the computer screen. By chipping away at a goal, my brain has a concrete reminder that I really am doing something on the days where it feels like nothing has changed in weeks (or months? Has it been years yet?)
If I set my mileage goal without acknowledging the grace I was giving myself in the areas of weight and nutrition, it wouldn’t have felt as rewarding. Choosing a skill to work on with my kids without acknowledging the grace I’m giving to all of the other (countless!) skills we could be working on, would cause me to feel inept and inadequate. If I look outwardly at everyone else’s goals and don’t choose any of my own, I’ll be pulled into a sea of disappointment and shame. An unnecessary sea of disappointment and shame.
When I’m careful to name my goals and acknowledge the grace I need in other areas, it opens me up to enjoy life and truly be happy for others. I can be happy for the mom who is baking with her kids each day, accomplishing elaborate art projects, losing weight, or teaching her kids how to mow the lawn. Freedom comes in naming your goals while simultaneously letting go of all the other great things that just aren’t a priority right now. It’s okay to not do all the things. No one can. No one is.
The question is, how are you doing? How are you really doing? Do you feel ashamed at how “little” you’re doing? Here’s the truth: you’re doing much more than you think. Are your kids fed? Loved? Clothed? Cared for? That’s worth acknowledging!
As life slowly returns to normal and our pace quickens, I wonder– how will grace and goals weave themselves into the fabric of our lives? We each have the opportunity to rebuild — new habits, new priorities, new life– each and every day. I wonder where you’ll start?