We are mothers. And we do a lot.
We work, we cook meals, we stay home with our kids, we plan playdates, we do school drop off, we clean, we pick up (lots) of toys, we do laundry, we make lists, we check items off said lists, we change diapers, we change sheets after accidents, we grocery shop, we plan, we tend to our marriages and friendships, we treat ourselves to manicures once in a blue moon.
We get things done.
Why? Because we want to. We became mothers for a reason, and we love our families.
But, also—because we have to. We need to take care of our children and tend to our lives so we can keep them (at least somewhat) together. We have responsibilities.
We absolutely wouldn’t be able to do it all without the help from our husbands, partners, friends, parents, babysitters, etc. but, a lot falls on our shoulders. (Yes, we’re looking at you,mental load of motherhood...)
So how do we really do it all? Day after day, raising small children who have big needs?
We do it by the grace of grit.
Grit is defined by one of the leading grit experts, Angela Duckworth as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals. A goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up.”
Sound familiar? Our status as mothers gives us meaning to almost everything that touches our lives. Our long-term goal is to be great mothers and to raise happy, successful children. And it’s really tough and we fall down—but we get back up and we keep going.
Motherhood requires the mental strength it takes to keep trying day after day no matter how many times you get knocked down.
Because boy, do we get knocked down. We fail. We fail ourselves, we fail our children, we fail our spouses, we fail our employers, we fail society. But luckily, because we have grit, we also have humility which author of Getting Grit Caroline Adams Miller defines as, “The ability to learn from your mistakes and to be okay with not being the best at something.”
I wanted to ask Ms. Miller, one of the leading positive psychology experts today whose ground-breaking work on grit, happiness, success and goal setting has transformed many lives—more about grit in motherhood. She explained to me that as parents, we just aren’t going to always get it right—no matter how much we may want to.
And that sometimes motherhood can feel like something we’re trying to “win” at.
But we may never actually feel like we’re winning, because we don’t always get a ‘thank you’ or ‘great job!’ at the end of the day.
But what Ms. Miller suggests we do when we don’t get things right is to turn to our peers and the experts in the field to learn from them. Gritty people, Ms. Miller believes, learn from other people’s mistakes and failures to better their own lives.
So when my sister shares something she learned from a mom-mistake she made, I can apply that to my life and learn from it (and vice versa.) When I have #momfail during the day with my kids, I tell my husband when he comes home so we can share in the life lesson together. When I see my friend post a story about a bad day on Facebook, I can appreciate that vulnerability and I don’t feel so alone in my mistakes.
Because as mothers, we know we’re going to fail and we know it’s going to be hard in the quest of trying to “do it all.”
Ms. Miller shared, “When you have grit you assume that there will be obstacles and challenges that you cannot overcome. But when you also have the right goal, you can see those tough times through because you have the passion for what you’re doing and the resilience to get up day after day and do (sometimes) thankless work.”
The goal of trying our best for our families day after day and starting with a clean slate every morning makes all of our hustle and busyness and basically all the feels of motherhood—worth it.
And women are already pretty gritty, according to the experts.
Ms. Miller told me why she thinks women are inherently gritty, “Women have to overcome so much—being talked down to, people expecting less of them, having to fight harder to be taken seriously in school and work—a number of hoops you have to jump through to reach adulthood. I think you become pretty tough.”
So what happens if you don’t feel like you are inherently gritty?
You can work on your grit-scale, according to both Caroline Adams-Miller and Angela Duckworth.
And here’s how:
Ms. Miller shared her top getting-grit tips with us.
1. You need to set goals.
And these goals must be intrinsically important to you.
2. You need a risk-taking mentality.
Have the mindset of asking yourself “why not?” in order to have more of a risk-taking personality.
3. You need humility.
In order to get feedback from the environment and from other people about what it is you need to do better and what you need to learn.
4. You have to have patience.
That goes back to the importance of goal-setting because when you set the right goals you have the right metrics in place to gauge progress.
5. You need to work on changing the channel in your head.
So when the going gets tough, emotionally or physically try to incorporate a phrase or a song or a picture—something you can train yourself to click on in your mind which will allow you to keep going.
6. You need to surround yourself with gritty people.
The key to staying gritty and encouraging grit among other women is to surround ourselves with people who lift us up.
This life we signed up for may not be easy, but we do what we need to do. It’s hard, but we’re passionate and it’s so, so worth it. We are mothers—we are strong, capable, gritty women.
So the next time someone inevitably asks you how you “do it all” you can say...
With my superpower: grit.
This post first appeared on Mother.ly.