I see you in the grocery store, frazzled, with eyes about to spill over and join your toddler’s ugly cry. I feel your angst as you Google symptoms at midnight, trying to decide whether your child’s raspy breathing calls for a visit to ER or the application of more Vick’s VapoRub. I hear you sobbing on the bathroom floor because you can’t. take. another. minute.
I see you break up the 25th fight of the day while you’re still making breakfast. I feel your breath catch as your son hurtles down the driveway on his skateboard and feel it release when he successfully makes the turn. I hear your 2,567th reminder for him to brush his teeth.
I see you blinking back tears at your teen’s thoughtless remark to you. I feel your anger rise at that friend’s hurtful remark to your teen. I hear your long discussions into the wee hours with a teen who wouldn’t be raised from bed this morning.
Yeah, I can sense along with you. It’s one of those things we share…this messy life called motherhood that both drains us and fills us in a strange paradox. If you are in an overwhelmed season right now, can I share a few things that get me through the tough times?
Look for the Little Joys
I know some days don’t seem to hold much joy, but I promise, it’s there if you open your eyes and heart to it. The feel of a tiny hand in yours as you walk the store aisles….the mischievous grin flashing as he runs to the tallest slide….the soft smell of baby shampoo lingering on wispy locks…..the “squeezy” hugs from chubby little arms….sideways hugs from an awkward, growing boy….quick good-bye hugs from a teenage daughter….the mixed-up words, corny jokes, and teenage quips that make you guffaw out loud. Yeah, the joys are there, but you have to look underneath the stinky laundry and attitudes. And you have to reach them by stepping over the piled-up toys and emotions.
Listen for the Loudest Sirens
When you feel overwhelmed and like nothing is going right, stop and listen. Which problems are calling the loudest? Is it your baby’s sleepless nights, your toddler’s temper tantrums, your preschooler’s messiness, your middle schooler’s disrespect or your teen’s withdrawing from the family? Pick one, and bring it to the Lord. Ask Him for wisdom and focus all your energy on that one thing that is giving you the most day-to-day grief. Still not sure? It’s the thing you are most tempted to complain about, snap at your children about or cry into your pillow about. (And it may even drive you to end a sentence with a preposition.)
Love with Abandon
The Bible tells us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He cares more about our children than we do. And, He cares about us and our mothering. He wants to help us prepare ourselves to love Him and our families. Oddly enough, this often begins with caring for ourselves. No, not a self-serving, “you deserve the best” kind of care. But preparing ourselves to truly love without holding back.
- Spiritually ~ “With all our soul”
You already know you need to meet with God daily and as early in the day as possible. But, I know your little ones hear the crackle of your sheets moving when you toss them back to get out of bed. Or they keep you up every hour so an early rising time seems like a form of torture. So, it’s not perfect, but grab a Bible and maybe a journal or cup of coffee. Do it anyway. Some mornings you’ll get in a verse, sometimes a chapter, and sometimes you’ll be able to pray uninterrupted for 10 minutes. If your child comes into the room, just pull him up beside you and read together. Give him a special toy he only sees when you’re having devotions and let him play beside you while you pray. Invite her into the process. Place Bible verses near the kitchen sink to meditate on as you do dishes. Pray while rocking a baby at 2 A.M. Set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour and stop to give thanks for something God is doing right that moment. I know it’s hard, but your day will be so much better when you are equipped spiritually. Trust me. We cannot make it without this preparation.
- Emotionally ~ “With all our heart”
Why is it that we pour ourselves out emotionally, to the breaking point, and think we’re doing a good thing for our kids? It’s easy to miss until we start getting grumpy, snapping at our husbands, crying over things that don’t matter or reaching some other breaking point that makes everyone in our house miserable. It’s so much better to build little pockets of time into our days that recharge us emotionally. Bubble baths, creating art, listening to music, hobbies, an evening away at a coffee shop, writing, going for a walk–anything that helps you relax and leaves you feeling recharged and ready to care for your children in a sweeter, calmer way. I know they feel like indulgences. But, we’re not going to neglect our children to do them. We’re going to show them that we are real people, too, and we need time outs sometimes just like they do. It may be 5 minutes here and there if you have needy babies and toddlers. It may be before they wake up or after they go to bed or during their naps. It may be while waiting for them to come out of one of their extracurricular activities. Enlist the help of your husband, your mom or a friend. To meet the onslaught of our children’s emotions whether they are petulant two-year-olds or sensitive teens, we must be prepared emotionally ourselves.
- Intellectually ~ “With all our mind”
Yes, I’ve heard the jokes about “mom brain”. And, I have wholeheartedly believed them to be true, at times. Moms have told me, “I don’t have time to read a book or have intelligent conversations.” I understand some seasons don’t leave much time for this, but Jesus does tell us to love Him and others with all our minds. We must never stop learning about God, how to parent well, new things about the world around us and whatever other truths stimulate us to growing intellectually. Read books while the children sleep or play. Listen to audio books or podcasts or sermons while cooking dinner, doing the dishes, or getting ready in the morning. Take an occasional class or attend a seminar. Someday the “mom brain fog” will clear (I hope!), and we want to have something left to offer our Lord.
- Physically ~ “With all our strength”
I see you rolling your eyes at me already. You think I’m going to suggest that you work out every day. Most of us only move our bodies when we’re trying to meet a weight loss goal. I have certainly been guilty of this. Yet, the benefits of strengthening ourselves physically extend beyond losing a few pounds. Going on a hike can be a great opportunity to talk with your children or take time to pray. Exercising to praise music is a wonderful way to boost yourself emotionally. Those audio books and podcasts can teach you while you’re running or lifting weights. One of our fond homeschooling memories is a day when we had experienced meltdown after meltdown regarding school work and a myriad of behavioral issues. I packed everyone into the car and drove to a nearby lake. It took a few times of walking around the lake, but by the time we arrived back home, we were all in better spirits.
Whether I see you, hear you or feel with you in motherhood or not, God is always there beside you. His Presence makes each day beautiful and bearable. He sees you smiling at your child with love. He hears you singing sweet lullabies with His Name in them. He feels with you every pain, every joy, every failure and most of all, the overwhelming love.