Decision Making Mama

Do you ever feel like you need to have a long ass nap except for like… a week instead of an hour? Or that you wish someone else could make the big decisions for a change? Or here’s one, you kind of want to die but like… not permanently? More of an extended state of unconsciousness so that you can catch up on all the rest you’re missing out on due to being a mom. No, just me? Okay.

Over the last six months, I’ve had to make some really tough decisions for myself and my family. I think the weight of some of those decisions are catching up with me, causing it to manifest physically. I’ve been irritable and tired beyond comprehension. I’m so tired that it’s pretty much my default setting. Whenever I get a boost of energy, it usually stems from stress and anxiety. Rather than having the desire to do anything, sometimes, it’s the need to move that allows me to blog or clean my house admist the heaviness of having to make those tough decisions.

I’ve been increasingly overwhelmed while trying to maintain some semblance of peace and patience. At night, my limbs become restless, refusing to be still so that I can sleep. Preferably, I would love to sleep it away and wake up when it’s over but I know life doesn’t work like that. You face your shit or your shit faces you and when you’re not ready to confront it head on, guess what happens? History repeats itself. I’ll let you decide what that means.

How do you really know if you’ve made the right decision?

It’s tough trying to navigate motherhood when it seems like every other day you come to a crossroads with a decision that must be made. The consequence of that decision will either propel your family forward, allow you to be still for a while, or potentially set you back. The hardest part about that, for me, is how do you really know if you’ve made the right decision?

“You sit in shit too long, it stops smelling”¹

Throughout my teenage years, I had a young man in my life who was dead set on controlling my thoughts and actions. So much so, that when he was no longer in my life, my ability to make decisions for myself was affected. I didn’t know how to make them on my own. I was too used to him making decisions for me, especially the important ones. From what I wore to where and how I would make money. I’ve carried that for years, trying to feel grateful that the destiny of my life is my own but it is difficult. Sometimes, I would rather someone else make my decisions for me because at one point I was used to it and it seemed easier. I was so accustomed to these circumstances that I didn’t realize how detrimental it had been to my well-being.

Obey that inner voice

Recently, I was at a crossroads, trying to decide whether I would move back to Toronto or stay where I am. Toronto had always been the goal since I left my ex. It was my home, my stomping grounds, or so I thought. When time came to make the move, I realized that Toronto wasn’t my home anymore. It is absolutely a place I will always go back to but it didn’t hold the same sentiment that it used to. Through very careful consideration, I weighed the pros and cons. When I finished writing my list, in a neatly organized table, I realized I hadn’t made much progress because the pros and cons were equal. What it boiled down to when I finally made the decision is that I simply didn’t want to move. That was a difficult conclusion to reach because I didn’t fully know why I didn’t want to move. Ultimately, the fact that I didn’t want to was enough. Something inside of me told me “no” and I learned to obey that inner voice.

While collecting information, someone whose opinion I value greatly, suggested that maybe I feel like I have to do something (in this case, move) because I’m used to things going wrong, being unstable, and having to move around a lot. It resonated immediately. Since I was a preteen, I’d been moving from home to home, a pawn in the foster care system. At times, I wouldn’t even bother to unpack. When I left Nova Scotia in my early 20s to pursue a life for myself in Toronto, I moved ten times over the course of six years. I’m yet to truly feel at home… a sentiment I’ll explore later. For now, I have virtually everything I need where I am. The main things that are momentous to our survival and comfort are within our reach. That includes our safety, a home, the means to eat healthy-ish (I love me some sweets, especially cheesecake and mhmm pizza!), and we have access to resources such as childcare. We’re good. Why then, do I feel like I’m one decision away from being homeless again?

As mothers, particularly those of us who are single, we are required to make all types of decisions from meals to where we will live to deciding who is trusted enough to be in our children’s lives. Gone are the days when the only person directly affected by our decisions was us alone. Now, with everything we say, do and seemingly think, we have to consider how we will be affected plus how our children will be affected. We must be mindful of our language as to ensure that our children have positive views of themselves and the world around them. We have to be cautious of other people, whether it be family, friends or strangers. We have to be 1001% positive that these people are safe and will be a healthy influence on our children. When we’re not all the way sure, we have to act accordingly and sometimes that is an uncomfortable decision to make but it has to be made for the betterment of our babies. Our thoughts become reality. If we’re not careful, we may create one that we don’t want. Are your thoughts aligned with the reality you wish to create for yourself and your family?

Ode to the mothers who are also martyrs,

who are also daughters of God and therefore saints

…I wake up everyday and love what I do and still wonder if I’m doing enough

If I’m worth enough?

And sometimes, all this self doubt gets tiring

More tired than a bag of old diamonds

So I ask myself if today were the last today, would I be okay with the life I’ve lived?

Would I be okay with the woman I am now?

And then, I forgive myself.

No matter what the answer, I forgive myself.

I forgive myself until there is no more sand left in Egypt²

The fear of making the wrong decision coupled with the weight of making the decision itself can purportedly be backbreaking. If and when we are in a constant state of deciding, when do we have the time to be still? When do we get to stop being the caretaker and start being the one who is taken care of, if only for a moment’s peace? When the day has come to an end and you can hang your mom hat up and simply be yourself, where do your thoughts go? How do you decompress? What do you need to feel confident in your ability to make decisions? What’s left for you when the day is said and done? We must be mindful to count ourselves in while raising our youth and taking care of our tribes.

When the night falls and we put our littles to bed, asking ourselves if we did enough or made the right decisions, we must be mindful to put our weariness to bed as well. We must give ourselves a break. When the mom guilt settles in, as it so often does, we must know that it’s a heavy burden to bear, particularly when we are unwilling or unable to forgive ourselves. We must forgive ourselves for our shortcomings. We must forgive ourselves “until there is no sand left in Egypt”².

When you take the time to intentionally evaluate and make decisions for your life, the satisfaction that comes from executing a well planned thought is a reward no one else can give you. There are few things I love more than bringing my intentions to fruition and seeing them blossom, even if it takes some time. Instant gratification is just that, instant. It may last for some time but it will never equate to the joy and relief that comes with achieving what you set out to achieve after putting in the work to do so.

Tips on how to lessen the pressure of being the decision making mama

  1. Take care of yourself first – Practice self care, even if it’s a little self indulgence in your favorite snack.
  2. Take a step back – If you’re able to take a step back and “sleep on it”, do so. Sometimes, what you need is a refreshed brain to ensure that you are making the right decision.
  3. Make a list of pros and cons – It can be helpful to organize your thoughts in a clear way rather than attempting to think about a million things at once.
  4. Be honest with yourself by asking yourself questions – It doesn’t serve you to be dishonest. When you pretend something isn’t a factor when it is or vice versa, you are more liable to make a decision that you’ll regret. It’s imperative to take a critical look at your life in order to make the best decisions for yourself and your family.
  5. Collect information – Whether you are speaking to others who will be affected by the decision, bouncing ideas off trusted people, or speaking to a professional, gather all of the necessary information needed to make your decision. For example, when choosing a daycare, you may want to ask questions such as: What type of surveillance do you offer and do I have access to it? What are your hygiene practices? Are you able to accommodate various dietary needs and allergy restrictions? Jot down a list of questions to take to the daycare tour so you don’t forget.
  6. Take other people’s opinions with a grain of salt – It’s natural to wonder what your parents or friends will think of you but the happiness of yourself and the wellbeing of your family is not up to them. If you are worried about someone’s opinion of your decision, ask yourself if this person is directly affected by the consequences of said decision. If they aren’t, they don’t matter in this instance. You can still love those closest to you while living your best life. The people who genuinely love you will want to see you do what’s best for you! Keep in mind that those who love you have every right to establish boundaries between the two of you if your decision affects their mental health in a negative way. You must respect this. Ideally, you can find balance in your decision but ultimately, your life is your own. Choose wisely! 
  7. Relinquish control when it is reasonable to do so – Though it makes sense to consider potential outcomes and I encourage you to do so, it is impossible to predict every scenario. You can’t always control the narrative but you do have control over your actions. There will be bumps along the way. Give yourself the freedom to make mistakes and begin again. This is your life. Take the wheel but drive smart!
  8. Listen to your intuition – It is never wrong. The most difficult times in my life have been when I ignored my gut feeling. For this type of trust in yourself to work best, you must learn to discern between when your intuition is speaking to you and when your insecurities are lying to you. I learned from Imani Cohen (@thehoodhealer on Instagram) that you feel your intuition from your gut and anxiety in your chest. Tune in!

¹ Quote from Jenifer Lewis, January 2018 interview with Jezebel

² Excerpt from “This Woman”, spoken word poem by Alysia Harris