You know those times when you know what you SHOULD be doing for yourself but you don’t do it?
Things like – going to bed at a reasonable hour so you can get enough sleep even if your kids wake throughout the night (which they always do!)? Or taking the time to sit down and rest when you’re tired? Or taking the time to make and eat nourishing food for yourself (especially when you’ve already fed the kids)? Or taking the herbs you need to strengthen your body at the beginning of a nasty cold instead of taking care of everyone else and running yourself ragged?
Well, the above is pretty much where I’ve lived for the past month.
Yep. I have not been taking my own advice to rest, eat and nourish my body and spirit into good health.
In my own defense, it’s been a crazy month. First, we made a pivotal decision about taking our house off the market. Then we jumped on the year end roller coaster of gigs, weddings, trips and a visit to Disneyland, which I discovered is actually super fun when you’re not pregnant as I have been the last three times.
Meanwhile, I caught a fast and horrible stomach bug with my kids, followed immediately by a secondary respiratory infection which has morphed into a kickin’ sinus infection.
So, I have been cut off from most of the world for weeks as I’ve nursed the kids and me.
In between, I went to church only to serve in the nursery with MORE little kids (don’t worry, only on the healthy weeks). It’s been a long, lonely month. Robert’s been around but he’s working extra hard on work projects and extra gigs so he’s maxed out too.
And as I look back at the last few years, I realize that a lot of motherhood is like this. Things might go smoothly for a while but pregnancy, recovering from birth, nursing & caring for said small child and his or her siblings along with normal life stuff, this is pretty much motherhood for most of the women I know. Crazy with a little bit of calm.
And like a lot of moms I know, I’m in that weird place moms of young children often are.
Before I say this – PLEASE HEAR ME.
I am only sharing my heart. I am NOT judging anyone’s choices or saying what YOU need to do. This is a place for support and encouragement, not condemnation. ‘Kay?
That said, I choose to stay home with my kids because I want to be home with them. I want to see all their little first moments. I want to see the world with them for the first time. I want to help them understand how Robert and I view God and other people and our response to all that we see. I want to be available for them as they’re figuring out life.
However, being home with my beautiful, funny, incredible kids – who I adore – has in some ways been the most mentally, physically and emotionally challenging experience of my life.
Please hear my heart in this. I LOVE my kids. I love the gift of being home with them.
But some of the harder parts of being at home are things that I should expect the third time around – or maybe be better at fielding but I still find them so hard.
A lot of Stay at home mothering = loneliness.
No one tells you about this! Our schedule is fairly limited. Small children do better with a predictable routine and a nap. For us, that only happens at home. It’s not that you’re not surrounded by people. They are precious. But the emotional and physical demands of small children without any adult interaction can be SO LONELY. Plus, I stink at the phone. It’s just not practical when you’re watching small children (believe me, I’ve tried!). Playdates are awesome but one cannot playdate every day. And usually, the best playdates are more about saving a toddler from his own ambitious climbing than it is about visiting with his friend’s mom. Ok, pretty much always.
Staying at home often means mom gets no quiet time. I don’t have daytime babysitting time so I take my free time in late night when the house is quiet and I can hear my own thoughts. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I clean or put away the laundry while watching a movie. (I know – such a party girl!) Mainly, I’m trying to find some “me” time at the wrong time of day. Then, I get worn down and a little crazytown and soon I’m not thinking straight about taking care of me. It occurred to me lately that this might be why my grandmother (mother to many) took forever to eat. It was probably one of the only moments in her day she sat down.
Staying at home on a single income = super frugality.
Like a lot of families, we’re living on one income so we budget carefully. But a lot of times that means when there is a decision to make between groceries and something I need (like clothes, makeup, a night out), I choose groceries (duh).
I’M NOT COMPLAINING!!!! I chose this. I know it. But I am sharing it because I know a lot of you mamas are in the same boat and it’s hard. It’s hard to feel like you’re doing the right thing but your friends stop calling because you can never afford to go out. It’s hard to know you look unfashionable and have people make comments (Yes. They DO!) about your wardrobe. It’s hard to get a rare invitation out and know you can’t go because you don’t have appropriate clothes. (Obviously this is a sore spot with me. Gulp).
Sometimes it just seems all wonky. The sacrifices seem overwhelming. The pace is breakneck. The house is a mess even though I work hard to keep it nice and teach the kids to help. I don’t have free time and Rob is at his limit. I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m pretty sure I suck at this whole staying at home thing. If I could just parent and not deal with the rest, I’d probably feel like a rockstar mom.
But I don’t, so I question my whole existence and why I am even doing this.
The inner dialogue starts.
Crazy Monna: “I can’t do this anymore! When will there be time and money for me to do something I love? I’m going to be doing laundry, changing diapers, enforcing homework and piano practice and cleanup till I’m too old to have a career (and I’m not even that good at it!). Then I’ll die and what will I have to show for it? AH!!”
(Drama? Hey, it’s my blog).
Rational Monna: “Ok. Just take a deep breath. Look at those sweet faces. Think of how many parents can’t stay home with their kids out of necessity. You love them. They love you. They are definitely benefitting from your being home.”
Crazy Monna: “Are they? Or will they just remember a wild eyed, frumpily clothed, scattered woman who clearly didn’t know what the heck she was doing? How much therapy are they going to need because I’m their mom? I don’t want them to be ashamed of me. What kind of an example am I to them? I don’t know how to fit more into my day. I am just.so.tired running after the small ones.”
Rational Monna: “LOL. We ALL need therapy because of our parents. After all, we are ALL just figuring out life and we’re doing it WITH our partners and our kids. You are doing great. You just need some sleep.”
In short, I stay home by choice for the sake of my kids and our budget but sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind because of it.
Yet somehow I talk myself off a ledge, usually with a call or two to my kind hearted husband thrown in, but I’m still not entirely settled in my heart about how I spend my time.
Because I really AM spending all my time taking care of other people and not taking care of me.
Since I’ve started having babies, I’ve consistently put myself last despite knowing I need more.
When I don’t take care of me, besides getting sick, I retreat inside myself and it’s hard for me to respond to other people, particularly the physically and emotionally demanding needs of my small children.
Not only am I not a good mom, partner or friend when I’m like this, I’m not enjoying my life. Since this is the only life I remember having, I want to be present in it. I want to enjoy it.
I know I have the ability to make a meaningful difference in my circle of influence and I don’t want to miss it. But at the same time, I am not superwoman. There are only so many hours in the day. I’m not out to prove that I can do everything AND still be a good mom. I simply want to be the fullest version of who I was created to be and in doing so, I know I’ll be a better mom.
Maybe I just need to be more organized. Maybe I just need to ride out this phase of exhaustion and small child growth.
BUT I really can’t wait for everything to line up perfectly to make some healthy changes for me. I have to take care of me for me and I need to do it for my kids.
My kids need to see me enjoying life right now – with them, not at at their expense.
RIGHT NOW –
I need quiet time.
Not just away from my kids but away from EVERYONE!!! A brief walk in the morning isn’t cutting it though it helps.
I need interaction with adults who are not chasing small children as well
(though I LOVE the friends who have time for me despite their being in the same boat!).
I need to pursue those things about which I am passionate – BESIDES my children.
God gave me those passions and gifts and I don’t believe that I need to put them on hold indefinitely to be a good mom. I just haven’t been able to figure out how to do them all well to the degree I wish to pursue them.
And so, friends, I am telling you the truth.
This is not a “Here’s how you live a life of fulfillment” post, unless you’d like a Bernstein Bears version (As a perfectionist I always hated those books! Boy, have I had my comeuppance. Heh, heh).
This is me – being honest about where I am and making some commitments to me.
1. I am taking better care of me – sleep, eating, drinking water.
(Embarrassing that this is so hard when you have small children but it is!) I’ve already been sleeping a lot more, taking a page from my friend Chelley’s play book. She’s gone to bed around 7:30 pm since I met her years ago and she always looks beautiful and rested. Chelley, I want to be you when I grow up – even though we’re the same age.
2. I will find some more hours to connect with the adults in my life sans kids.
Our youngest wakes at 5 so Rob and I are getting up to hang out a little then instead of just plunging into our day. I’m also going to spend some more time out with girlfriends (or in with girlfriends) without kids.
3. I’m going to make more of an effort to do the things I love – even if it’s just a few hours a week.
Hiking, writing, reading, singing… Whatever. I’m going to do it even though it’s not what I’d be able to do if I could really throw myself into it. Quite frankly, I don’t have the energy to go to law school right or be a full time writer. But, a little is better than nothing. To his credit, Rob has been saying this for years but it’s hard for me to do things halfway.
4. I’m going to work harder at dressing up in the morning – FOR ME.
I intend to wear clothes I LIKE even if they’re likely to get dirty caring for my kids and cleaning my house. I want to feel good about how I look and I want my kids to know it’s good to decorate the beautiful body we’re each blessed to possess. If this means we eat beans more often so I can afford it, SO BE IT. “If mama ain’t happy…”
I don’t have a number five right now. I realize lists of 3 or 5 look a lot cooler. But right now, this is all I’ve got, man. So there.
(Besides my ever-loving husband Robert, I want to give a shout out to my Mother-in-law here. Without her, I would truly lose my mind. Poor woman gets to spend more time with my sleep addled brain than most and she is amazingly patient. God loves her and so do I.)
How are you doing this fall? Are you barely holding it together or feeling like a champ?
Share where you are right now in the comments so we can cheer for you either way. Let’s encourage each other!
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