I see you there, tired mama. Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store (how do you always pick the slowest lane??), a crying baby in your arms and a screaming toddler in the cart. I see the messy ponytail you created in a rush, in place of the freshly-washed do you had planned. I can even see that baby spit stain on the back of your sweater that *you* haven’t seen yet because you haven’t looked in the mirror all day. Don’t worry. When you do notice it tonight as you change for bed, you can just tell yourself “oh I’m sure that *just now* happened!” I’m fairly confident that the baby will not pipe up and say “oh no Mom, I did that right before we went to the store this-morning!” So go ahead and choose to believe that you didn’t wear the spit all day.
The same goes for that big sticky spot you just found on the back pocket of your jeans. No, I have no idea what it is. But I’m quite sure no one else noticed it.
Let me be the first to say, it’s okay to grab that over-priced little box of crackers at the check-out stand just to buy yourself a moment of calm. Sometimes peace is worth the extra few dollars.
Next, I would like to assure you that you’re not alone. While it may *seem* like every other mother in the store has perfectly calm children who are not begging you to buy every item that catches their eye, it’s an illusion. You are not alone. You are not the only mother who has cried over spilled milk today. Hey. It was chocolate milk, all over the floor that you JUST mopped. For the first time in a month. These are legitimate reasons for tears, people! You are not alone.
I’m struggling through my current season of motherhood, too. I tell myself often, “this will only get easier.” Eventually, the baby WILL sleep through the night. My 2nd grader and Kindergartener will be able to do more and more studying independently. Not every day will involve a battle-of-the-wills with my 3 yr old. One of these days, I will wake up in the morning and realize that I am actually ready to get up! I am looking forward to that day. Until then, I’m gathering tools for survival. Little keys to not only making it to my bed in one piece every night, but somehow having enough energy left to go back in for “one more kiss” when my children call for it at night. I wanted to share the few helpful things I’ve found… before I forget them.
I’m beginning to see that one of the greatest lessons to be learned in every difficult season is our need for an intimate relationship with Jesus. How else does “come to me, you who are weak and burdened, and I will give you rest” work? It’s a relationship. It’s a challenge, like any other relationship, to keep it close. But it comes with promises! Rest. Peace unlike any other. Renewed strength. He sees where we’re at, and understands the challenges. I don’t think He is offended when our prayer time happens over a stack of dishes or laundry. So long as it happens.
You probably know what I’m about to say. It’s no secret! It’s been passed down from wiser mothers for years. But somehow I guess I just didn’t think it applied to me. Maybe it sounds too selfish? But alas. The truth remains. You need YOU time. It probably looks different for all of us. For one, it may look like an hour at the gym. For another, a quiet moment in a coffee shop with a friend. Maybe it just means a hot bath with some relaxing music while your husband stands guard at the door. But really, I think the best way to recharge (at least for us mamas who are home all day every day) will be getting OUT of the house. Alone. I know, you’re going to say “alone time with a toddler?? HA!” Remember I have 4 kids, 8 and under. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it CAN be done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Make it happen.
Ask for help. Your husband, a girlfriend, another mom with kids that you can trade babysitting hours with. Don’t be “that mom” who is too proud to ask for help and later ends up shopping for cheap hairpieces because she pulled all her hair out during the last stressful mealtime!
If by chance you are not a mother of small children, and you are reading this anyway, kudos. If someone forwarded this to you, tagged you in a link to it, or somehow it magically appeared in your inbox, can I say something directly to you? You can help. Don’t tell us “oh these days will be gone before you know it. I loved EVERY MINUTE of my kids being little!” First off, we know you’re lying! Some minutes are just not lovable. Beyond that, you actually CAN help! If you can spare an hour somewhere in your day to play a game with the kids while we take a walk around the block, that helps. I once had an older woman approach me in the store, pat my hand, and tell me “you’re doing a great job, honey. One day these babies will rise up and call you blessed.” This, over the din of my screaming infant. I may have hugged the woman and thanked her profusely through my tears. Not that I was crying in Walmart. *ahem*
Hang in there, friend. I have been assured that we won’t remember the level of exhaustion that these days find us in. Supposedly, by some miracle, we won’t be able to recall the thousand little things that happen throughout each day to completely unravel our nerves. We will only be left with memories of a house filled with giggles and love. And, I hope, compassion for that young mother in our lives.