I don’t know how you found time to read this. But then again, it’s possible you were hoping for a sliver of personal time. (The short people in your house are maybe sleeping.) Maybe you wanted to be reminded you’ll make it through this. Um, and that everything in your house will not always be sticky. That there is a REM cycle in your future.
And that you’re not alone.
To let you know that I’m not spitballing on this one—I was in fact where you are, that blur of sippy cups and goldfish and baby wipes—for almost a decade. When the youngest of our four was born, my oldest was four. Nope, no twins. (Some of them admittedly felt like I had twins.) So assuming you’re decent at math (at least when you’ve had that REM cycle), yes. Yes, I was tired for a very long time.
Here is what I might tell you, with my hand on your arm, if we had a few minutes to finish a bunch of fragmented sentences. Y’know. In between the time you popped up like toast to put in the pacifier again, or stop that one from throwing the blocks at that one, or pulled a couple of pouches of squeezy applesauce from your Mary-Poppins-style bottomless diaper bag.
First, I hope I would listen. Even if it took you staring off into space for a few minutes, because let’s be honest. You don’t even go to the bathroom or shower alone anymore.
Then maybe I would tell you that what you are doing right now is so mind-bogglingly (yep, that’s a word)…
It feels like doing the same thing over and over for kids who, if something happened to you, would not remember you. It feels like you ask them to say “please” or “thank you” about 23.4 times per day, though they really don’t seem to have much capacity for thankfulness yet. It feels like you are just wiping…everything. Hopefully before it needs wiped again. It feels like some days, ta-da! You kept everyone alive, you didn’t skewer your foot on a Lincoln Log, and no one ate dirt or dog food. Well. At least after the finger sweep.
But what you’re really doing, underneath all the diapers and obnoxiously cheerful CD’s in the minivan with Cheerios scattered like confetti, is carefully building a foundation for all their relationships in the future. Your daily, patient (okay, mostly patient) care is saying things like this:
You can trust people. Your needs matter. You are accepted. You can have whole and healthy relationships.
People respond to you. You are meaningful.
The way God made you is beautiful, and the way you learn is worthwhile. You are competent.
This world is safe for you to try new things.
You can solve problems and flourish in creativity. You have the resources you need to focus and learn and thrive.
You can express yourself.
You can have healthy, responsible boundaries that keep you safe and help you love others.
God loves you a bit like this. Tirelessly. Patiently. Individually. Tenderly. Creatively. And with a lot of celebration.
And maybe you didn’t know you’re reducing risks of mental illness. Sexual exploitation. Addiction. Aggression. Sociopathic behavior.
I’d affirm that you are just the right mom for your kids. But that it’s also okay to do stuff that’s not about being a mom. That whole “put on your own oxygen mask” thing? It’s real. Being a mom doesn’t mean being faceless. Let them enjoy the more rested, creative mom who said “no” to something, maybe took a night out, and had joy left for them.
I’d totally cheer you on for all those time you did the hard work of thoughtful, consistent discipline for the 347th time. You helped construct a moral conscience; showed your child how he or she should obey God. You helped him know how to respect healthy boundaries, love well, stay safe, and flourish within the wisdom of rules—like a train who knows how to run on the tracks (to speak toddler-mom language, for a moment). That whole right away, all the way, with a happy heart thing means something.
I’d sympathize that there’s a lot of daunting, nearly paralyzing information out there, and a whole lot of comparison with other supermoms. And while it’s critical that you not do this alone—keep in mind there’s One Voice that matters in all the (quite voluminous) noise. I’d tell you about the advice I read from Elyse Fitzpatrick:
“I wish I had never read those books,” [a young mom] admitted. “I feel guilty and exhausted all the time.” I asked her, “How would you raise your children if all you had was the Bible?” “Well, I guess I would love them, discipline them, and tell them about Jesus.” I smiled and answered, “Right.”
For the record: I would also tell you to take a nap today, and make room for one thing that makes you feel happy. Because a lot of little people are tugging on you all day. Sometimes it feels like you are taken in small pieces. (This is different than the thing that makes you feel like you will not go insane, i.e. folding at least one load of laundry from Mt. Washmore.)
Before your child melted down and signaled it was time to leave and you sang that little clean-up song, I might try to look you in the eyes and say, What you’re doing? All this? It’s a little of how God loves you. All this work you’re pouring into them? The hardest job you’ve probably ever done (or felt like you’re failing at)? He sees you. Don’t grow weary in doing good. What you’re planting right now matters. It matters immensely.
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:11)
In the words of Tim Kimmel: The days are long, but the years are short. And it needs to be said again. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
Thanks. Thanks for doing what matters, even when it’s hard. And sticky.
A mom who’s been there.
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