Where to Focus When Motherhood Gets Messy - by Illiah Manger for MotherHustle
“When life hands you lemons, it’s hard to measure the sugar that makes lemonade.”

“That’s been one of my mantras – Focus and Simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But, it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

In seasons of uncertainty and loss, focus is sometimes just out of reach for weeks at a time. It feels like the rope of your life has frayed into hundreds of separate strands, and knowing where to look first is difficult and overwhelming.

Sometimes, just getting out of bed and getting dressed is success. Or feeding the kids a real breakfast, even if it’s Cheerios and milk instead of a cereal bar as they rush out the door in the morning.

When life hands you lemons, it’s hard to measure the sugar that makes lemonade.  

Focus will return eventually, but during these times I’ve found it important to simplify and shift my attention to three things: self-care, a list of absolute priorities, and a constant practice of gratitude.

Self-care means focusing on yourself first.

If you’ve lost focus for any reason, it means that you must find joy again in work and play. Take that list of fun activities from the back of your head and make plans with your girlfriends. Watch your guiltiest pleasure television without a second guilty thought (and order pizza delivery while you’re at it). Make time for exercise, even if it’s Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube. Read a book you cannot put down whether it’s for business or fiction or poetry. Pay attention to your boundaries and don’t apologize for saying no. It may seem super cheesy, but taking care of yourself first gives you the fuel needed to take care of others.

Setting priorities shows you that it’s still possible to make movement.

Remember the advice to sleep when your newborn sleeps? IT IS STILL REALLY CONFUSING. How can you keep your household intact if you don’t use this precious time?

Now that I’m newly single with kids, I hear similar suggestions — for example, that planning my next career move should not be my focus at this time. While this advice on both occasions is actually sound, it can be hard to find the balance that’s right for you. I’m making movement by shaving off the tasks that aren’t going to bring immediate results. By focusing on three priorities a day, little-by-little we can make slow forward progress.

Focusing on gratitude as a constant practice creates more joy, motivates through fear and allows you to be more present.

Gratitude happily lives with all the other emotions: joy, fear, sadness … even disgust (yes I watch INSIDE OUT like 2x a week).

It is scientifically proven that gratitude creates a happier life with better sleep, deeper relationships and increased energy. It even helps improve decision making and increases productivity.

Making gratitude a practice is as easy as noticing the blessings around you, like your children playing quietly together or the beauty of falling snow. Keeping a gratitude journal helps — and is proven to increase your happiness by 25%.

It’s easy to add simple gratitude practice into your daily life. Call a friend to tell them the impact they’ve had on your life. Pay a genuine compliment. Write down one thing you’re grateful for each day and keep a gratitude jar. And if those don’t work for you, this article suggests 9 ways to cultivate gratitude for a healthier life.

Refocusing on what truly matters keeps my head above water.

At this time in my life, the dishes in my sink or being a day late on deadline matter much less than snuggling on the couch with my girlies or reading them a story. 

Through adversity and loss, my focus shifts in and out, like my Nikon J5 camera adjusting to find the clearest picture. Eventually, clarity and focus return again and again — and I remember what Mr. Jobs said: “you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

I know that focusing on my kids will bring more focus on my work in this season of challenge. Focusing on love will help keep the rope from unraveling, fraying, coming apart … focusing on love will build a new rope.


Illiah Manger is the creative mind and chief designer behind C&V, where she collaborates with daring business owners with heart. She is known for creating clarity and focus while allowing her clients to co-pilot the design process. Illiah wholeheartedly believes in brands that are intimate and designed to tell a story. She is also the co-founder of Elevate & Cultivate, an online community for design professionals to strengthen their skills, get feedback on their work and make friendships stronger than Gotham Ultra. 

Outside of C&V and Elevate & Cultivate, Illiah is a paper lover, mom of two daughters, earl grey tea drinker, cookie hunter and typography lover. Find her on Facebook,Instagram and Pinterest

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