Just kidding… mostly. haha
I can’t believe I’m writing this today because, to be honest, less than a year ago I was so overwhelmed, physically and emotionally exhausted, that I was falling apart. [read more about it here.] It took some soul searching, honest conversations, prayer, a lot of love, and some professional help for me to go from barely surviving to thriving in my life again.
1. CHANGE IT – WHATEVER IT IS! Just because it worked last week (or last month/year!) doesn’t mean it will work today. This one covers pretty much everything from what your child likes to eat, nap times, and clothing sizes – to heavier things like what you need as a wife, mother, friend, etc.
I put this first because this is what I struggled with most of all. All of my kid are spaced close together by modern standards. The biggest age gap is 26 months. As each new baby joined our family, there was a period of adjustment, slight changes made in routines, and then life continued on. Each time I was a little more tired, but I was more or less on top of things.
Until I wasn’t. Until that day when all my old tricks, and those standard bits of advice stopped working. Until that day when my mind and my body rebelled against what I was asking them to do.
And when I continued to ignore them, they simply shut down. Change was more or less forced on me. Because… Irish. And stubborn. 😉 Don’t feel like you have to wait till it gets to that point.
When something isn’t working – change it. Stop listening to the voice (your own or someone else’s) that tells you it HAS to be this way or that way.
This life, this marriage, this motherhood – it is yours, not theirs. At the end of the day, no one else can love your family, bring joy to your home, or enjoy this life for you.
Sometimes change leads to beautiful things.
2. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST. It isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. For so many reasons, I have always had a mental block against resting during the day, sitting down when someone else is moving, walking away from a task that needs to be done. “I’ll take a break when everything’s done,” was my motto since I was a teenager. But with 4 kids – everything’s never going to be done. Ever. 😉
I’m the first to admit, every day was never perfect, but it wasn’t until after baby #4 that I finally understood how many mothers feel after 1 or 2. (Not a judgement, just how it went for me. <3) I was drained, all the time. I was suddenly resentful, even angry, and struggled to find joy in the things that always filled my heart.
There were many stretches when I went days barely eating or sleeping, because I couldn’t figure out how to make time for those basic needs. I kept saying no to myself, to my body, my heart, my mind – because everyone and everything else needed me to do and to be something for them.
The days and nights of single parenting while my husband worked long hours, always challenging, became unbearable. I lost myself and because I lost myself, my family lost me, too – for several months. I was there – always there, always trying, but my heart wasn’t in it.
As the fog lifted, I was able to make plans. I asked for help with the kids. I took time to make appointments for myself – and actually showed up for them. I went out with girlfriends who speak my heart’s language and lift me up. I stopped telling my husband “It’s okay, I’ve got this,” when he offered to help. I set goals for this year and started working toward them.
What do YOU need?
3.DRINK WATER!!! And no, the water in your coffee doesn’t count. I tried that. 😉 This one’s an easy, attainable goal that doesn’t actually require much effort. Keep a water with you at all times, and just drink, drink, drink. I don’t need to give you the mile-long list of benefits to drinking more water. That’s what Google is for. haha Just do it!
(Bonus – if you’re anything like me, you’ll also have an automatic workout routine attached – walking back and forth from the bathroom 8,000 times! :D)
4.SAY NO. I know, I know, mommy blogs are all about being a “Yes Mom,” and saying yes to life. That’s fine, too. In moderation. But from what I’ve seen, more mothers have trouble saying no than saying yes. The last thing a mother needs to hear, when she just finished a two-week round of stomach flu with littles who sometimes make it to a bowl and often don’t – is something uselessly sappy like “Say yes to one more story, Mama! Say yes to those extra snuggles!” You guys. On my worst days, when I was hanging on by a thread, I swore if one more cheery mother who was clearly long past this stage of mothering told me to, “Cherish every moment,” I might scream!
I’m sure they have a whole other perspective, those women who made it through the trenches. But we’re still in the trenches, you and I, and right now, it’s okay to say no. It’s okay sometimes, to NOT lay with your kids till they fall asleep, and instead just sing a song, give a kiss, and say good night. It’s okay to say no to the extra touching, to lock the bathroom door and shower alone, to let our children know that Mama always loves them, but that sometimes Mama needs space, too.
Go ahead. Try it. Say no.
Say no to the extra volunteer project, to the extended family dinner, to that Facebook friend who fills your feed with political or social drama. Say no to the people who just can’t relate to the exhaustion of the trenches and invite you out. (Or say yes – see #3. It depends on the day, amiright? haha)
Say no to the activities and the people that disturb your peace.
If my heart is not at peace, my home cannot be.
Motherhood is a wild ride, and something tells me that years from now I’ll look back and see this season as one of the sweetest. But the reality is, it’s also incredibly hard, and that’s okay.
You don’t have to cherish every moment. Some moments are horrible. You don’t have to always smile and say “Fine,” when someone asks you how you are. It’s okay to say you had a really bad day – maybe thought about leaving all the kids with your mother-in-law and running away. 😉
What saves your motherhood heart might look different for you than for me. These 4 “tips” gave me back my sanity, and perhaps most importantly, they gave me back my joy.
Just think – one day, it’ll be you and me, smiling sweetly and telling those younger mothers to “Cherish every moment.”
Or maybe we won’t. Maybe we’ll say something more real, like – “Hold on, Mama. It’s so hard, but it’s so worth it!”