You finally got the kids to bed. You’re so relieved on the days they have early bedtimes and you can finally just sit in peace.
But once their day is over, it sometimes feels like yours is just beginning.
You open your computer and start working. Maybe you’ll type that blog post you’ve been meaning to get to. Or finish those notes from last night’s sessions.
How do other moms do this? you ask yourself as you open a new tab and hop on Facebook. You scroll through your newsfeed, random sponsored ads sprinkled with delicious recipes and other people who look like they’ve got it all together.
When you first decided to take the plunge into private practice, you told yourself that it would allow you the flexibility to spend quality time with your kids while also using that license you worked so hard for.
You were so naïve.
Now it feels as if you’re never done working. Between runny noses, meal planning, and those sweet moments of blowing kisses, you somehow manage to squeeze in being a small business owner.
When other people hear that you’re in private practice, they look at you like you’re so put together, driven, and ambitious. Wow, that’s so impressive!
What they don’t know is that most days you return client phone calls when you’re in the car so that your children are more likely to be quiet. Or that you frantically write response emails during nap time, trying to fit as much as you can in that hour and a half that I refer to as “the calm before the storm.”
Being a mom in private practice also looks like setting aside an entire day at the office to catch up on paperwork, but you’re so tired that you end up just taking a nap on your couch.
It looks like trying to hold back a yawn in the middle of a session because you were up with a sick child who didn’t have the words to tell you how much they were hurting.
You try so hard to be present on the days that you’re home, but your mind often wanders to the endless to-do list known as your practice.
For you, work is never done. There’s always something or someone fighting for your time and you think to yourself, “If I can just finish this one thing, then I can relax.” But when you finally get around to finishing it, 5 more things have piled on top. You just can’t get ahead. And oh my god, you’re so tired.
If you’re being honest with yourself, you feel like you’re never actually present with anything you do these days. When you’re home, your mind is on work. When you’re at the office, you’re thinking about the kids. It’s relentless, and you know deep down that you’re not doing either one well.
In our field, we call this “work/life balance.”
It’s far from a balancing act and more like a magic act.
I know you feel like a failure. Some days you question whether or not you should even keep trying to do this whole private practice thing, or if you should just give up and do something that doesn’t require so much energy.
To the overwhelmed, overworked, exhausted mom in private practice: You’re not alone.
Sometimes I feel like motherhood is just a constant battle between wanting to get past the current phase of my child’s life while simultaneously grieving the fact that this phase will soon be over.
I often check my phone when I should be present with my daughter. I feel so guilty when I work on my business instead of getting on the floor and playing with her. It’s like I’m always being pulled in two different directions and can never quite find my footing.
Tonight, she was eating dinner and just started laughing for no apparent reason.
She got the giggles, then the hiccups, and then was just a complete mess.
I laughed with her. Not just a chuckle; a full-on belly laugh, tears streaming down my face as I held onto my chest to brace myself.
We were connected by something out-of-this-world, and for that moment, I was the mom I always pictured I would be: Carefree, present, and so full.
We mothers in private practice are a different breed. Our jobs require us to create connection, to teach mindfulness, and to demonstrate empathy and compassion. Yet, we so often struggle to accept ourselves for the imperfect humans we are and instead hold ourselves to this standard that we’ll never be able to meet.
Tonight, I felt that connection with my daughter, and it was incredible. My love for her can only be described as fierce. It’s unmoving, uncompromising, and all-consuming.
What a gift it is to be able to use our own knowledge, training, and expertise to connect with other people in such a meaningful and powerful way. People come to us so hurt and vulnerable, and we’re able to create these moments of connection that can potentially change the trajectory of our clients’ lives.
If I could give you one piece of unsolicited advice, it would be this: Keep going.
When you’re up (again) in the middle of the night rocking a crying baby, and you have a full caseload tomorrow.
When you throw a frozen pizza in the oven instead of making that delicious recipe you found on Pinterest because you had to stay late with a client whose world is falling apart.
When you cry alone in the bathroom because you feel like you’re failing at all of it.
Ten years from now, you’re gonna look back on these days, and you may not remember how scary it was the day that 3 out of your 5 clients cancelled and that you weren’t sure how you were going to pay your rent.
You may not remember how isolated you felt, trying to juggle the constant demands of both your toddler and your clients without asking for help.
You probably won’t remember the long, sleepless nights of having a sick child sleep in bed with you, their fevered bodies shivering as they fought through unrelenting body aches and all you could do was hold onto them so tightly, fearing that they might break into tiny fragments if you let them go.
But you’ll remember the unprovoked belly laughs that led to tears.
You’ll remember sneaking into your child’s room so that you could get one last glimpse of their most perfect, angelic face, knowing that, no matter how hard you tried, they would still be one day older in the morning.
You’ll remember that somehow you made it work, and you’ll laugh as you say to yourself, “Wow, that sure was a crazy time.”
And without warning, you’ll begin to feel this lump in your throat as you look back on all of those moments and see that there was never another time in your life when you were needed as much as you were when you were trying to balance it all.
Trying to balance your own fear of failure and your primal desire to succeed.
So keep going.
Keep going despite having to move (again) and rebuild your life and your practice.
Keep going even though you’re still not even sure if you can.
Even though you’re burned out.
And just so. Fucking. Tired.
Keep going because that’s the only way you’ll find out how strong you really are.
As you trudge along – one tiny step at a time – something will begin to shift inside of you.
You’ll start to notice that this path you’re on is the only one that’s going to take you where you need to be. You can only learn so much about humility, faith, and the unknown from a textbook. The rest comes from going through this exciting, terrifying, and gut-wrenching journey, you’ll be shaped into the therapist — and mother — that you were always destined to become.
So keep going. You’ve got this.