It's been an unusually frustrating couple of weeks. Who knows if it is the heat, the potty training, or just good ole hormones giving me a short wick...but, I have found myself a little overwhelmed with the minutes and hours and days of staying home lately. To be honest, I've disappointed myself. I'll find myself wanting to scream into a pillow or eat an entire bag of Oreos or want to stroll an extra half an hour in the grocery store simply because both girls are strapped into compartments where they can't kill each other for one freaking second! (Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths.)
|It isn't what you think, I promise!|
Yes. Yes, I am crazy. If there is any certainty left in my life anymore, that is it. I've gone crazy. But, I know I'm not alone. (Can I get an AMEN? Are you out there? Do you hear me? Can you RELATE AT ALL????)
So, what are we to do? How do we keep this up when we are faced with new and different challenges every day? When we are pushed to our limits and still have dinner to make? When we still want to be happy and teach our children how to be civil, intelligent, kind beings? When we hope our husbands still find us desirable after they crunch their way through our un-vaccuumed floor, kiss our greasy faces, and ask us if we remembered to iron the shirt he needs tomorrow (we didn't)?
After all the Aftershocks that life throws our way, it is obvious that an Escape Plan is necessary to not only our survival...but the survival of our dreams as well. Long live the dream of the Stay At Home Mother! Here's what I've come up with for myself and the earthquakes in my life:
The Escape Plan
Safe Spots: Every earthquake escape plan starts with determining the "safe spots" in your house. Motherhood is no different. Mama's got to know her safe spots.
This starts with some serious boundaries. If I know my kids need to get outside, need to see friends, need to go to the park...I got to do it. I need to reach out. Call a friend. Go to the mall. Something! Get OUT of the house, and usually within 10 minutes of strolling around and just getting out the door and into to some fresh air (or air conditioning) it will seem like a whole new day.
On the other hand - if we have been invited to someone's house, party, park, playdate, class, etc. and I just know that Daphne needs a nap or that Matilda will throw an enormous fit or that the entire course of our day will be a complete loss if we go to said event...I need to say "No thank you" and kindly decline, cancel, or reschedule. Repeat after me: "No thank you. Today just doesn't work for us, but I'm so thankful you understand." And frankly, if they are a friend worth keeping, they will understand. Keep your sanity safe. Protect your time and energy. Find your safe spot for the minute/hour/day and do your best to cling to it in the best interest of your family.
Practice Drills: I can't expect to get good at something I want to be better at unless I try and try again. It is very hard to not just "react" when a two-year-old screams disobediently in your face for the millionth time that day. With all the years of wisdom I have over her, you'd think it wouldn't be my first thought to just yell back in her face...but, natural response, laziness, and convenience are all too easy to fall back on when you are exhausted and overwhelmed. I know if I yell across the room "That's it! Go sit in the corner!" I might get the response I want...but, the over all lesson has been undermined by my lack of patience. I need to get off my keister. I need to walk over to her and look her in the eye. I need to explain to her what she did was wrong and why and how she should change her actions.
This is a very WWJD moment in parenting, and it will never get easier. It will always be in my natural, convenience-driven-human-nature to want to take short-cuts and just have the ends justify the means. But, then, is that why I'm parenting??? Just to churn out some cute, smart kids who might make me feel good some days?
No. I want them to see Jesus ooze out of my pores to them each and every day. I want to look at them and see opportunity and potential just waiting to be nurtured (by me!) I want my initial response to their misbehavior to become merciful, grace-centered, and compassionate...even if it leads to firm, authoritative punishments being handed out. That takes some serious practice.
I'm not going to get this right overnight. But, I can't let my frustrations with myself build up and then explode at the next moment of disobedience. That's not fair to either of us. I need new habits that all center around "more Jesus and less Emily", essentially.
And it's okay to stop for a few minutes each day and remember some truths to help motivate these new habits:
- This season will pass. There will be a time all too soon when you will look back and wish they were this small, this ornery, or this needy.
- You are not promised tomorrow. If today was the last day you saw your babies, how much more would you love on them and thank God for them?
- You love your job. This is what you have been called to do. Not someone else. Not somewhere else. Not sometime else. You. Here. Now. You were meant for this.
- Kiss them more. You just can't stay mad at someone who is simply so kissable. (This one works on husbands too, btw.)
Exit Route: Know when you need a break. I'm always astonished at how much difference even fifteen minutes of alone time can make. Sometimes, right after my husband comes home, I will offer to go get the mail. No matter what, even if I was having an okay day, I feel fresher, nicer, and more relaxed after just walking the 50 feet to the mailbox and back by myself.
It can seem trivial, selfish, or even futile to schedule "alone time" as mothers. It feels like asking for extra vacation time from a boss that already bent over backwards to give you a raise. But, you know what the huge difference is - mothers don't get vacations. Never. You would be furious if your husband came home from work one day and announced that his boss just took away all his vacation time because he thought he didn't need it, right??? (I would be!) So, why do we feel so awkward asking our friend or neighbor or husband to watch the kids on a Saturday morning so we can go get our nails done?
Do it. Get something on the calendar for yourself. And, if you have had a horrendous day with the kiddos and your husband comes home in a good mood with enough energy to make macaroni and cheese...please, be honest with him about your expectations, limitations, and motivations for needing to exit the premises for a while. Everyone will survive, trust me. And don't come home (I mean, be reasonable, obviously) until you can enter with joy, gratitude, and a new appreciation for being missed.
Survival Kit: The final component to my personal Escape Plan is to prepare a survival kit. You must be armed with accessible aid at all times. Set yourself up for a successful day, in other words. Have friends to call when you need them, and vent if you must! Stash a candy bar marked "Emergency Reward Only" in the back of your cupboard. Tape a new verse to your mirror that you will see every morning. Set a reminder on your iPhone to read your Bible (and actually do it).
|Sometimes "playing robot" kills two birds with one stone|
Planning activities for the day with your children can help to. When I don't know what I'm going to do that day, attitudes always go awry. But, if I can come up with some kind of idea at-the-ready, then we have something to spend time on, a goal to work toward, and something other than burning minutes to focus on. Steal a page out of Mary Poppin's book and make a game of it if you must. If I can even plan something as simple as "Make cookies for Bible Study" or "Do the dishes" or "Make the bed" and turn it into the afternoon event, then I accomplish multiple things at once and might even giggle a little bit along the way!
Mary Poppins wasn't always so smiley because of how delightful the children were (though, let's admit, the British accent didn't hurt), she was probably perpetually cheerful because she had magic to clean up after her at the end of an exhausting day! But, she had it right when it came to this - and I can absolutely attest to the fact that singing, games, and a little creativity turn the most mundane tasks into an afternoon of fun if you can gear yourself up for it. (After all, what else is Pinterest good for if not creative ways to build forts out of laundry piles or teaching our kids how to spell their name in frosting???)
Motherhood is hard. We are awesome for choosing it. Every. Day.
Little growing humans are not easy to please and even harder to guide. They strip us of energy but fill us up with pride all in the same moment. They are little walking paradoxes, constantly challenging our efforts to want to get past the day and hang onto it forever all at the same time.
Maybe, if we can just focus on the gift that motherhood offers us, on the grand opportunity that it is to be able to participate in the actual shaping of a person's life, with a little help and a lot of prayer, we can start to appreciate all that parenting is. I don't know if we can ever truly grasp the impact our kids have on us. At times it seems too overwhelming to think about, and at others it just feel like I'm so unworthy of the experience.
The truth is, bottom line, I wouldn't change what I do for anything. I feel blessed beyond words to get to stay home and be the one who is getting maddened and going crazy with these girlies every day. I wouldn't have it any other way, and I never want to take that for granted. I never want to actually escape this life that I've been given, I would labor through it all again in a heartbeat if I had to. But maybe, with a little planning, I can set myself up for the chance to step back and see it for what it is: the beautiful, mischievous, noisy, sweet, chaotic and crazy-to-the-brim-filled life that it is.