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I look at women my senior who seem to have figured out the key to life, and I can’t help but wonder when I’ll reach that milestone. I don’t mean they’re flawless, making wild sums of money, or are massive social media influencers. These women, instead, have mastered the art of self-acceptance, being present in relationships, having patience, and truly enjoying their time on earth without the incessant rush and hurry. The type of woman you gravitate toward and instantly think, that’s what I want to be like one day.

We live in an ever-evolving world surrounded by changes. Where promises of bigger and better loom at every corner of contentment. As a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie who thrives on change and novelty, I find myself eagerly planning our next vacation before we’ve finished our current one, decorating for the upcoming holiday a little too soon, and complaining that the current weather isn’t transitioning to the ensuing season quick enough.

I continually catch myself obsessing about what’s next rather than enjoying the now.

How do we decide to simply be content with how we are aging, raising children, and in our most important relationships? Do we turn a magical age and it all clicks? Does it take a major life event for us to become wise and instantly patient?

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Sure, daily reflections on gratitude and mindfulness exercises along with better time management skills certainly support this lifestyle. But, if that’s all we needed, no one would have anxiety or stress over the future. Something has to change internally.

I know I’m not alone. I’m not the first woman to be stuck in this pattern that only sets us up for failure.

As women, we have been hard on ourselves for generations. It started with the “thin is in” movement that glorified unattainable body types for most of the female race decades ago. Still today, more women are waiting to buy their new wardrobe or that idolized dress until they hit a certain weight. We bought into the notion that being content with where we are today is somehow considered unacceptable. Finding contentment as we age is harder with pressure to be wrinkle-free with the gray strands on our heads fully hidden from sight.

How will we know when to begin loving ourselves for who we are and in the here and now if the version of us keeps changing?

Acquiescing to the pressure of raising children in a Pinterest-perfect style, ruthlessly eliminates the opportunity to be content as a mother. It’s nearly impossible to be at peace with our parenting when we compare ourselves to the 1% of the population who are able to create Martha Stewart level crafts with their 18-month-old while looking adorable, and somehow neither glitter nor glue manages to touch the floor.  

Competition is our worst enemy when it comes to motherhood. We all do it differently, and that’s what’s satisfying and amazing. Oh, and in case you needed a reminder, each child is different too. There’s no one way we should be doing it. How you do it is absolutely stellar for you. But if we’re looking too far down the line at what we tell ourselves we should be doing now or in the future, we’ll lose far too much precious time with our little ones in the comparison trap.

Contentment is not synonymous with settling.

I was raised on The Bachelor and every movie produced by Hallmark where all dating experiences are portrayed as euphoric and categorically unachievable. Each show leaves the viewer with an insatiable thirst for the perfect romance that simply doesn’t exist. It’s easy to begin thinking there’s someone else out there who will love and appreciate you more than the significant other you have chosen, that you’ve settled in your relationship and things could be better elsewhere. Future thinking can get the better of us and cause a rift in our marriage rather than focusing on the contentment and sanctity of what we have today. Being content in our relationship does not mean there isn’t romance, but it may mean it looks different than the TV screen.

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At the end of the day, what we’re striving for is a future form of perfect that we’ll never reach, and that striving leaves us unable to enjoy true contentment in our lives today. We tell ourselves that if our house is clean, our bodies look just so, and we own all the right stuff, we will be at peace. The problem with thinking this way is that we’re placing the emphasis on what our future contentment will look like, rather than appreciating the stage of life we’re in and learning how to be at peace where we’re at.

We are all on our own journey. One that deserves respect and appreciation. To choose contentment does not mean settling in life. Quite the opposite. It’s accepting what we have and finding peace and gratitude in that place.

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Lacy Jungman

Lacy Jungman is a wife, mother of four boys, and corporate marketing executive living her best life in Nebraska. She recently co-authored the book In A Good Place, which highlights the journey of an adult daughter navigating the ever-changing terrain of her aging mother. At work, Lacy is known for crafting unique solutions that drive results through innovation and collaboration. At home, she's best known for a killer salmon recipe, cowbells at little league games, driveway beers, and an open door for neighbor kiddos.

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