The Challenge of Being a Mom of Many (When I Need Breathing Room)
This might be the hardest part (for me) of having a big family.
It’s the part I didn’t really expect, because, prior to having kids, I always saw myself as an extrovert. A quite marked extrovert. Not only that, but I always liked being around kids. Loved it, in fact. Playing, wrestling, tickling, laughing, snuggling down to read a book, silly names… it’s not overstating it to say I was a killer, super-fun babysitter, back in the day.
So to (semi-regularly) find myself in the position of wanting to hunker down under the covers and hide… not just from my children, but from the world… has come as a surprise.
THE URGE TO HIDE
It comes on very suddenly. I feel overwhelmed. Panicky, almost.
Like I can’t.
How, I’ll ask myself in my overdramatic-angry-inner-voice, am I supposed to deal with THIS?
[The “this” changes, by the way. Sometimes it’s an absurdly-messy kitchen floor, a snarky teenage response that catches me off guard, an 18-month-old who just threw up down the fabric-mesh side of the pack and play, finding out that that basement that they said was “clean” yesterday is actually one step away from a Hoarders episode. That kind of “this.”]
What I want to do is HIDE.
Let someone else deal with it. Make it stop. Yell. Belittle.
Whatever I have to do… to just NOT have to deal with it…
… but what I end up doing, most often, (well, sometimes I yell.)… but after I blow that short-fuse of yelling, what I mostly end up doing is dealing with it.
- Call everyone to the kitchen and ask everyone to pitch in and “take 4 things that don’t belong on this floor and put them where they DO belong.” Then “so-and-so please grab the broom.” And “so-and-so, will you please go over to the shoe area and make sense of it?” and on and on. In the end, when I opt for this response, we work together on the problem that seemed impossible. And the problem that seemed impossible gets handled.
- Or (maybe after blowing a gasket), I point out to the teen why what he said was disrespectful, or wrong, and ask him to please rephrase it. And then he does, and I try to cultivate a heart that forgives fully and (heaven help me please help me) really LOVES him — ala 1 Corinthians 13 — without keeping a record of wrongs, and we move on with our day.
- Or, someone (I don’t know who; it’s a blur in the corner of my eye) grabs some paper towels and I hold the still-puking toddler while he gurgles out the nastiest curdle-ish throw up I’ve ever seen, and someone else bolts for the clorox wipes, and my daughter holds out the grocery bag while I get the sleeper off of him and deposit it inside the bag, and somehow, despite being pregnant and about to gag the whole time, bit by bit, I get that nasty mess wiped up, and someone else gets the radioactive grocery-bagged sleeper into the wash, and someone else draws the bath water, and someone else throws out the garbage as soon as it’s all collected in there. Soon, the throw up is just a bad memory and a new prayer request (Lord, please don’t let anyone else get it.) <—- that’s one He truly answered… hooray!
- Or, sometimes it gets “handled” by me texting my husband “I can’t even deal with the basement” and calling him in for back-up at the day’s end. Yes, sometimes I do this. I need my husband to run defense sometimes when I am past my limit. And so he gets home at night, and steps in and coaches the kids, bit by bit, team by team, toy set by toy set, area by area, to clean the basement as it ought to have been done the night before. And maybe that’s when I hide under the covers, or go to the grocery store, or just get away from it. Because, maybe that day, I’m truly past what I can take.
MY FIRST RESPONSE HAS TO BE “DO THE NEXT THING”
For the most part, as a large family mom, the first response is to get the needful things done. Our kids need (and we need) faithfulness over the long haul. We need to be women who “do not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season, we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
That means that, in the short term, I need to (if at all possible) do the faithful thing that needs to be done.
- The disobedient kid still needs to be disciplined.
- The throw up needs to be cleaned up and the floor needs to be sanitized.
- The math lesson needs to get done.
- The bedtime routine still needs to happen.
[I *do* cut out the unnecessary, by the way. If I hit a moment of extreme overwhelm, I don’t make an elaborate dinner (even if it’s on the meal plan), or necessarily tackle the messy basement right then.]
For the most part, though, there are typically needful things that need to be done in that moment. And I’ve found that God helps me get those things that need to be done, done.
But THEN… the next thing I do is this:
START LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO BUILD IN MORE MARGIN & SANITY
Because here’s the deal…
I just read this article that started out talking about how the first few weeks of September are “bliss” for moms because the kids are packed off to school and you have 6 “glorious” hours each day to do the things that nurture your soul.
Nope. Not for us homeschooling moms over here.
September is the exact opposite for us. It’s the time we LOSE those beloved summer mornings, with the kids blissfully entertaining themselves and playing non-stop.
But you know what?
I wouldn’t change that for the world. I don’t want my kids to go away. I like them right here. I just need to build my life in such a way that I can *remember* that I like it.
And as the primary person in charge of the daily things in our home, that job is up to me. So… I start hunting around… considering, and asking myself (and occasionally discussing with my husband):
Where in our homeschooling morning, and in my life in general, can I build in some pressure-release valve moments?
- Do we need to make ourselves immediately stop and pray more? (Even if, initially, I have to grit my teeth and feel like a fraud because the last thing I feel like doing when I’m angry is stopping to pray?)
- Could I have the kids do a 5-minute “sprint around the house” (literal or figurative– i.e., “go pick up 4 things that don’t belong where they are in the dining room, and put them where they belong.”) while I get another cup of coffee, read a quick devotional, fire off a text to a friend, or do something else that will help me regulate the building stress of non-stop questions/reading/parenting-while-schooling?
- Do I need to be more diligent about my Bible reading and personal spiritual evaluation?
- Do I need more coffee? Less coffee?
- More food? Less food?
- Could there be a lunch rotation where the kids could handle prepping an easy lunch (we’re talking: homemade lunchables, or simple sandwiches?) while I do something personally restorative? (Snag a bath, pop in my earbuds and listen to a podcast, eat a meal that suits my health goals, exercise?)
- Should I take a nap this afternoon (or *most* afternoons?) with the 3-year-old?
- Do I need to scrub the sink and take my frustrations out on IT, rather than on a child?
- Do I need to ask my husband to help me figure out a way to take a “night off?” (Perhaps, even, on a semi-regular basis? One friend, during a particularly stressful season, worked out a once-a-week Saturday “morning off” routine with her husband.)
- Should I be reorganizing the kids’ chores, so they’re taking on more responsibility?
- Can we do a simpler meal plan?
- Do I need to consider a different/less mom-intensive homeschool plan?
- Is there something I need to cut out? (Too many commitments? Too much running and time in the car?)
- Is there something I need to add in? (a ladies’ group? a once-a-week call with someone who is life-giving?)
- Any other ways I can find to add breathing room to life?
When I start asking myself questions like this, I feel LESS like running and hiding, and MORE like I’m taking responsibility for my life, and being a good steward of this heart, body, and mind.
IN THE COMMENTS: What about you?
How do you deal with the urge to run and hide?
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