“Your pace is your pace,” she says in my ears. I receive her words with a bit of desperation to feel peace since my pace is currently slower than I prefer it to be. I repeat the phrase to myself, saying each word slowly, attempting to hold the idea still as I etch it into my soul.
My pace is my pace. My journey is not going to look like anyone else’s. It’s a gift to realize this, but a little disconcerting when I’m trying to figure out if I’m on track for where I should be.
My kids are sucked into a Pixar film, and I am here, sitting in the corner of our jumbo couch with all the supplies that help me keep hold of the musings of my soul so they don’t scatter to the corners of the house where all the other clutter of my life lives. I’ve got my computer open with about a dozen documents minimized in the toolbar, my thought-keeping notebook, and the planner I’m giving a shot for the first time, even though I haven’t kept a planner in about a decade. I’m hopeful it will help me put just a little order to the goals I’m setting for the year, and my husband gave me a set of fine point pens in 48 different colors to jazz up the pages as I scratch out the longings of my heart.
I want to have an impressively productive year. It’s what I want every year, or at least in January, it’s what I think I want. I love thinking about the pile of dreams in my soul, large and small, and thoughtfully considering which ones might be best slotted for the next twelve months. The swath of open spaces on my calendar are an invitation to entertain exciting possibilities, but even though I’m excited for the year ahead, I also feel a twinge of pressure to make the most of the blank slate in front of me. It feels like I have this one shot to engineer success and ensure by the end of the year I have something impressive to show for my time.
The thing is, what I dream of doing and what I can actually accomplish often do not match up very well.
For starters, I’m twenty-four weeks into my seventh pregnancy and come April, there will be a new human in my care at all times. I’ve done this enough times to know that, while I’ve got some newborn skills, you never really know what will come on the other side of a birth—how the whole family will transition into the new season of one additional baby. Many of the goal-oriented pursuits that are on my list today will take a back seat to the care and attention my family will need from me throughout the year, not to mention the care my own body will need in the postpartum period. I’m no longer at a place (by age or baseline fitness) where I can reasonably expect to ‘bounce back’ after this baby arrives.
As much as I hate to admit it, my big plans and wild dreams will have to submit to my personal limitations, and this is most likely not the year I will mark with impressive productivity and goal-crushing progress. It is not my favorite message to hear that I cannot, in fact, do everything I put my mind to. Some things I will not be able to do and knowing this at the beginning of the year helps me come to terms with what is true about my experience: My pace is my pace, and my story is my story.
I don’t know if you struggle with the same difficulty I do to embrace where I am vs. where I want to be. There are so many things I wish were different about my focus and follow-through, and about my ability to transcend all challenges. I wish it didn’t seem so impossible to juggle all the things and to do so with some amount of grace.
As I come to grips with what the year ahead will look for me, I’m giving myself permission to dream, as well as permission to hold those dreams with an open hand. However this January is hitting you, I want you to know I’m cheering for you, and you similarly have the same freedom to step into the new year with a vision that may or may not match up with what you’re really able to do in the coming months. It’s ok. Your pace is your pace, and your story is your story, too.
For moms who are out there already crushing your goals with gusto and bravado, I’m cheering for you.
For moms who feel a little bewildered coming out of the holidays, moms with anxiety about picking the “right” word for the year or setting the kind of goals that will make you a certifiable success by December, moms who are up to their ears in the most ordinary tasks of growing children, caring for your home, and investing in your marriage—who maybe don’t have plans to conquer the entire world in the next twelve months but hope to survive the onslaught of motherhood in one piece—I’m cheering for you, too.
It really matters to me that you know your humble goals to get the playroom organized, or serve healthier meals, or walk with a friend a few times a week for some exercise—those goals are every bit as courageous and important as the goals announced by the movers and shakers, CEOs and business owners.
With all my heart, I want you to know that your dreams and goals are valuable and important, but the pressure to produce results in one thing you can check at the door if you want to.
Instead of feeling the pressure, you can take a deep breath and see the lovely life around you—and the limits of motherhood—as a place where you have total freedom to rock this gig one humble day at a time.
Your pace is your pace, your story is your story, and your everyday faithfulness to invest in your family is a beautiful, inspiring thing.
Featured image by Robin Chapman
Emily Sue Allen is the founder and visionary behind KindredMom.com, an online community and podcast dedicated to helping women find joy and purpose in motherhood. Emily is passionate about living a deeply nourished life and celebrating the beauty of ordinary moments. She is forever marked by the rescue and redemption Jesus Christ has accomplished in her life. Emily is a featured contributor in Strong, Brave & Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, a collaborative volume of essays written to encourage moms in the weeds of parenting kids at home, a member of Hope*writers, and an ongoing devotional writer for Joyful Life Magazine. She lives with her husband and seven kids—three girls and four boys—in the Pacific Northwest. Emily’s website is emilysueallen.com. Subscribe to her newsletter “Flowers, Children & Other Lovely Things” at emilysueallen.substack.com and find her on Instagram.