I'm exhausted at the end of the day. All the bottom-wiping, dish-washing, food-preparing, making tears into laughter, and generally staying sane. It wears me out. And there are so many times where I'm like, "Oh yeah, I'm definitely going to do this thing that starts at 7:30. I can leave as soon as hubby gets home, have a little time to myself, enjoy the company of other adults for once... This will be GREAT!"
But then reality comes. It's 6:30 and hubby is walking in the door and I'm ready to turn off. I'm ready to pretend I have no children instead of four and I'm ready for a little "time out" of my own, in my own space, where no one can pull the belt loops on my pants so that they start falling down, or make a mess of a room in five minutes flat, or call to me crying from the bathroom because they peed in their pants just two inches from the toilet (this seems to be happening daily in our house).
In theory, I love hanging out with friends. I love meeting new people. I also love blogging. And crafting. And a slew of other really cool things.
But the first thing I really want to do when I am no longer fully responsible for my children? Be ALONE. I want to finish a coherent thought. Think through a whole sentence from start to end without being interrupted.
So let me just take this opportunity to apologize if I have ever made evening plans with you and cancelled them. I am tempted by the allure of adult freedom and conversation. I am tempted to imagine all the fun I will have by escaping my house for just a few hours. I am so tempted by these things that I make the plans.
But then I don't follow through. I am the lame one making an excuse at the last minute. I am at home realizing if I make the effort to go out, I will be all the more cranky when I get home because I will be doubly exhausted. People think I'm an extrovert. And don't get me wrong, I do love being with people. But when it's the end of the day and I've been managing small humans for most of the time, it feels like putting on a show to keep friendly conversation.
Oh, and did you notice how this blog is a day late? Just another plan I made that got left behind. Like a pile of clothes discarded for a time when they're clean again, I just put all my "fun" things-to-do on a list that never stops growing. Some days the laundry gets cleaned. Just like some days I actually follow through. But most days, the piles and lists are much bigger than what's actually done. It's just reality.
I often tell myself that it's just a season of life. And that's probably true. It's also true that as I age, I am being more and more careful with my time. It's full of the important things. And the important things aren't always the "fun" things I used to fill my time with. It's okay. It's okay if I don't hang out with a group of people or make new friends. The things that fill my life right now are wonderful. It's work, for sure. But it's the best kind of work that fills you with satisfaction and joy and a deep sense of goodness. I'm blessed to be given such a job.
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Wordy title, right? There's no easy way to trim down all that *stuff* that goes on inside the mama mind. The angst. The guilt. The confusion. The frustration. The attempts to control every situation and the advice we seek from others when we're not sure we're doing it just "right."
You can see the signs everywhere, "You're a good mom." Every mom wants to hear it. We want to know we're doing an okay job.
I know, it's getting heavy today. No light-hearted Libby joking about velcro and elastics, or stuffing her face with chocolate. I spent the better part of my day at a specialists office for my oldest son, and the more time that I spend thinking about "am I doing it right" with my son, the more frustrated I am with myself.
Do you know why?
It's not because those questions are bad to ask. We should always be trying to better. We should try hard to make wise decisions and serve our families. But how many times are we looking around at others wondering how they see us? How many times are we trying desperately to hold on to control to our lives and our parenting? How many times are we asking advice just so we can say, "yep, I did that. I'm a good mom."
I am so tired of it. I am worn out from trying to look like a good mom, and I'm tired of everyone else judging whether I am or not. I don't even like that slogan "you're a good mom." You can't even think it without comparing yourself to someone else. You will NEVER be happy when you compare yourself to someone else. Ever.
It is so tempting in our culture to control every thing we can. We are so sure that parenting in ways A and B will lead to C behavior. We are so sure, in fact, that we are quick to give advice even when others haven't asked for it, or they have asked advice from certain people and you're NOT those people (but you give your advice anyway because you're sure it will help).
Just stop. Stop giving people advice when they don't ask. How many times has unsolicited advice helped you in your parenting? I'm going to guess that more times than not it's put you on the defensive and it's pretty hard to listen when you've got your shield in front of your face ready for battle.
Just stop judging other parents and how they're doing it. I know not all of you are Christians, but I firmly believe the Bible is true. And you know what's pretty amazing? God Himself walked around in the flesh telling people how to live righteous lives and He still found a way to do it with grace and mercy. *You* can't dole out grace and mercy but the only person in the whole world who ever lived a perfect life can?
Stop comparing yourselves to others. Stop feeling elated when your kid isn't tantruming in the store and you've done "such a great job" of being a parent. Stop feeling totally down on yourself when your kid IS tantruming in the store and everyone is looking at you. Guess what? Your worth isn't in how your child behaves. It isn't in how clean his face is or how well she did her homework. First off, I'm here to tell you that your worth is in Christ and nothing you do makes Him love you more or less.
And secondly, the most wonderful way to parent is to work hard at it and make the best decisions you know how. That's it. It's really not complicated. I know, it feels more complicated than that. But it's really not. Since we're so distracted by our joy-stealing, habit-forming temptations of guilt, questioning, controlling and advice-giving, here are some things to consider:
1) In that moment when you glance at another kid/mama and thinking to yourself "I would have....." or "oh boy, I wouldn't have....." Just STOP. Stop yourself in your tracks. Look at your precious child and smile. Consider all the wonders you've been blessed with and just leave it at that. You're not making anyone's life better by comparing yourself to them.
2) When you're hanging out with friends and you see them do something you wouldn't, or you hear them struggling with a particular part of mommyhood, ask yourself these questions:
- Is she actually asking for advice, or is she just bemoaning the fact that her child is having an off week and is screaming every day?
- How would I feel in her shoes?
- How can I best encourage her right now?
If the answer to "how can I best encourage her right now" is telling her some great thing you found useful in your own parenting life, then by all means, share away! Don't get me wrong, I love getting advice from other moms. At the right time. Seasoned with love. Try not to go spouting off things as if you are Anonymous, The Internet Troll without any consideration for her.
3) Use that God-given mama instinct. So many times in my seven years of being a mom, I wish I had let go of that anxiety-driven need for control and just listened to my instincts. Don't try to follow the crowd just for the sake of following the crowd. Cut a path for your family that blesses all of you. Figure out what's best for YOUR family. And once you've figured it out, go back to #1.
Now it's time to start using it. Grace. Mercy. Kindness. Temper all your parenting with it and I guarantee your whole family will benefit. If you start clinging to control or wanting answers, check yourself. Am I doing my best? Am I working at it? That's it. Leave it at that. You are NOT in control and you will never know everything. Let's all start encouraging each other to do our best. Let's gather around and lift each other up.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Temptation #2 in the week-long series on Temptations Only Mothers Know:
The After-The-Kids-Are-In-Bed Dessert
It's 9:30 and all is quiet upstairs. My 7 year old probably still has his nose in a book, but he won't be coming down again until morning. It's the time of day that I can eat whatever I want and no one is watching. For the first time. All day. There are occasions when I try to sneak something earlier in the day, but I inevitably get caught. It seems that my kids are just as good at sniffing out a treat as I am at sniffing out a poopy diaper. Unfortunately.
The problem is that when a person feels deprived, they often overindulge once they finally get that thing. No? Never happens to you? You obviously have the whole "will power" thing down, then. I can tell you are the spitting image of Frog from the short story "Cookies." (Frog and Toad: Cookies) We could all learn a lot from you, I'm sure.
The fact is that last night I was so stressed that I ate FOUR cookies. (Maybe it was all my angst at having let the washing machine run a load only 1/2 full since I didn't add the bucket of dirty towels and bibs? ;-) ) I like to soothe my conscience by telling myself that the cookies were only half the normal size, so it was really like eating two cookies. But, then, I like to follow that thought with the reminder that the REASON I made them half the normal size was so I would ultimately be eating less cookie. Clearly, I am at war with myself. But hey, I figure, as long as the pants fit, eat a cookie. Tonight, I'll just try to eat one instead of four.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
In an effort to lighten my otherwise stressful week, I'd like to get back to blogging. Today, I introduce to you what I hope will be a week-long series I'd like to call:
TEMPTATIONS ONLY MOTHERS KNOW
Truthfully, these will most likely be temptations that only mothers of small children in America know, but hey--that title just seemed far too wordy. "You get what you get and you don't get upset," as my son's kindergarten teacher used to say. But, enough with the chit-chat. Let's get down to business.
Temptation #1: Adding that bucket of dirty bibs to the washer load of underwear and socks.
Okay, this may be a temptation that only I struggle with. I'm willing to guess it's not an across-the-board struggle of all American young moms, but it's definitely a struggle at my house. Every. Single. Time. I put in a load of underwear and socks I want to dump in that bucket of dirty bibs and towels that have collected from the kitchen. But you know what happens every. single. time. I give in?
Velcro. Velcro happens.
Ever experienced velcro on elastic? No? You're not a mom with a small child in bibs, you say? Lucky you, I say.
Bibs. Such a love/hate relationship I have with these things. Snaps you say, snaps! Yes, I know.... snaps don't get caught on everything and ruin your perfectly nice underwear. Snaps make that wonderful little (you guessed it) SNAP sound when push them together and they are near impossible for the child to take off. Snaps. But of the approximately 40 bibs that we own, only about 3 have snaps. Yes, I could make my own (in fact, I have an Etsy business where I do just that), but why make new bibs when you already HAVE 40 bibs? I'm all about using what you have. Even if I have material to make something new without buying it, WHY make something new?! People are way too used to throwing out what they don't like and replacing it with something they'll only like a little more. But let's not get off on a tangent here. The point is, VELCRO.
I like to be as efficient as I can with laundry since there are six of us in this family. (And when one is potty training, isn't that more like three people??) That means when a load of dirty things is going on the hot cycle and it's not full, my basic instinct is to add whatever else I can. That bucket.... that bucket that I always keep in the kitchen to toss dirty bibs and towels and washclothes in... that bucket sitting there ready to be cleaned and put back in the cabinets....
Just. Say. No.
I learned that phrase in the D.A.R.E. program in elementary school, and yet it's still so applicable today. Just say no. Just don't do it. You know what will happen. All that nice velcro is going to fall in love with all that lovely elastic in the underwear and next thing you know you'll be spending twenty minutes painstakingly pulling each "hook" of those doggone hook and loop closures off your once-unfrayed underwear.
Ladies and Gentleman, I want you to know that tonight I said no. Tonight, I did not give in. May there be many more nights like this one, for the sake of my will power and the longevity of our underwear.