We love them, right? Snotty noses, wet kisses, messes and all. But sometimes it's just enough to send you to the loony bin. Almost every time I leave the house with my whole crew I get comments such as, "Oh wow! Are all of these yours?" and "You sure have your hands full!" and "You must be a busy mom."..... All true statements to be sure, but what I really think they want to say is, "Dear God help this woman! She's got to be drowning in her own misfortune of the sudden onslaught of chaos and responsibility in her life!" Most of the time I just answer with "Yep, I'm so thankful for this blessing!" But sometimes what I really want to say is, "Would you like to babysit? I haven't showered in three days and my jeans are sticking to my leg due to the syrup my toddler threw at me during breakfast."
As a mom of four young children, I have found a few things that really help me balance the joy of motherhood and the need for solitude. But first a preface. My experiences and family are not the same as all of yours, dear reader. You have your own schedule and set of personalities in your homes. Some of these suggestions might work for you. At some, you may roll your eyes or burst into laughter at the thought of implementing them into your life. That's okay. Roll and laugh away, we're all friends here. Please read them all, I saved the important one for last to add to the drama.
1. Get out of the house. I try to get the whole lot of us out and about at least once during the day, preferably in the morning. Most days, I have at least 2 children occupied with school. Which means I only have two to wrangle at the store, or the donut shop, or the nature center, or the walk up and down Main Street (every town has a quaint little kid friendly Main Street, right?). Just anything to get us all out of the house. This accomplishes two things. One, I don't have to worry about the mess at home. And there is always a mess at home when you are home. And two, it creates a nice sense of wanting to be home in all of us that we store up for later in the day, more on that later.
2. Invite a friend over. Perhaps for some reason you cannot leave your house. Like for instance those days when you are making broth from scratch and must babysit it.... or perhaps you have procrastinated on laundry and have to dig yourself out from under it before you can open the door. Or perhaps the lack of showering has you confined for the sake of the rest of humanity. Whatever the reason, you can't leave. Find a friend who won't be offended by your stench, and invite them over. I have found that when I throw an extra kid into the mix my kids are occupied for four times as long then if they were on their own. Then I put on a pot of coffee and get to talk about nice grown up things with the nice grown up who is sitting next to me. Even if she is sitting on a pile of clean socks. (Even the playing field by switching houses and promise not to clean beforehand - that is advice from my mother-in-law and it saved her bacon while she was raising my
crazy active husband.)
3. Childcare swap. Same principle as above except this time let that nice grown up go out for an hour or two and shop in peace and quiet, or get her nails done, or take a nap. Whatever she wants, you can't judge. Then set a date for your kids to go to her house. I promise it won't be terrible. Your kids will love having a new face to show all their stuff too and run around with. It will hardly be any more work for you at all. Unless one of you has a baby. In that case, if you don't hate your friend, consider putting the baby down for a nap at their house to ease the burden.
4. Let your kids watch a cartoon. Here is my confession. We watch tv in this house. My kids even have *gasp* favorite shows. I don't even feel guilty about it. Phew, so glad to have that out there. I'm not saying to adopt this as your only strategy. But when it is time to wash the spit up from your hair and change your clothes and the only thing that will pry the 18 month olds' attention from your leg is Super Why! I say strap them into the high chair with a big pile of cheerios and the iPad and smile all the way to the bathroom. Stop beating yourself up for taking care of yourself.
5. Don't do any of the things I just said. This one is actually the only important one so I hope you are still reading. Strategies 1-4 are my band aides for a gun shot wound. My need isn't really to have more "me" time. My need is to have more Jesus time. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive. But hear me out. A shower or one hour a week to yourself is not going to give you peace and contentment at home. There is only one thing that will do that. A heart that is peaceful and content is a gift from the Father by the Holy Spirit by means of the Son. Let's get down to the heart of the matter. Our situation is not changing, we love our children and we know we need to take care of ourselves to love them better, but something has to give. When you give time and attention to nurturing your soul through time spent in the Wrd, God breathes life into you and you are able to see your circumstance in light of the gospel.
Here is a concrete example for al you visual people out there. Picture this. It's been a long day, from the moment you woke up things have been hectic. You have been consumed with an ever growing to-do list and forget all about the Bible Study book stuffed in the cushions of the couch. The kid has been fussy, not napping. You love them so you have held them all day and now have a crick in your neck and a twinge in your back. While cooking supper one handed you step on something wet a squishy. The cat decided at this very moment to get sick under you feet. Lovely. Put the crying baby in his highchair clean up the cat junk, smell something burning, grab the hot skillet handle to save dinner, burn your hand, kid wriggles out of highchair, grabs toilet paper and decorates the house. Mommy cries.
Rewind. It's been a long day. Every day is a long day, you know this, this happens all the time. Better spend some time in the word. You read:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,
fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:20-21)
The kid has been fussy, not napping. You love them so you have held them all day and now have a crick in your neck and a twinge in your back. While cooking supper one handed you step on something wet a squishy. The cat decided at this very moment to get sick under you feet. Lovely. Put the crying baby in his highchair clean up the cat junk, smell something burning, grab the hot skillet handle to save dinner, burn your hand, kid wriggles out of highchair, grabs toilet paper and decorates the house. Mommy remembers the truths spoken to her from the Word this morning. Mommy laughs. Mommy thanks Jesus that he loves her and saved her. Mommy prays for strength. Mommy carries on with help from the Holy Spirit within her.
Let's not be confused. We cannot do this on our own. We will fail and crumble under the immense weight of it every time. So stop trying. Rely on the One on whom the whole world rests. Do not fear motherhood, do not wake up one more day with fear and trembling of what kinds of trials you might face and if you are strong enough to handle them. Take hold of the promise:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanksto the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14 emphasis mine)
It's not our power, it His.
How does she do it?
Love and prayers,