Are you in a phase of parenthood that has you worn out? Do you get to the end of the day, flop onto the bed, pull up the covers, and long for sleep to come in order to escape the weariness of the day?
This afternoon I hung a new picture up on my bedroom wall. It had been sitting on the chest of drawers for at least a couple of months waiting for me to cross it off my “get around to it” list. After I hung it up, I laid down on my bed to admire my handiwork. I could hear my sons playing together downstairs. A sudden realization settled upon me. Over the last couple of days I have accomplished quite a bit. No longer am I my sons’ soul playmate. They either enjoy the company of one another now, or head off on their own to do something to stay occupied. They are 5 and 8 and this is just now happening! Some of you are blessed with children who self-entertain well. I have not had that blessing. This is huge, people! I didn’t know if it would ever happen.
I love to teach the women I work with about seasons. Usually I am referring to seasons of plenty or want, trials or ease, growth or drought. As each year goes by I see seasons with my children as well. Some stages are much easier than others.
Honestly, I have no idea how I survived the baby stage. I’m not a baby person and had no idea what I was doing. My goal was to simply keep them alive. Then, there was the most exhausting toddler phase of not being able to take your eyes off of them for a second without the threat of major catastrophe. Of course, I thought the age of three would be better, but that is when my children decided to throw tantrums and demand their own way. Whoever coined the phrase “terrible twos” should be put in jail along with the person who came up with the phrase “morning sickness.” Both lead to woefully false hopes and expectations.
The questions like, “Why won’t he sleep? How do I get him to stop blowing raspberries when I feed him? How do I get a shower? Will I spoil him if I hold him too much? Is that kind of poop normal?” are behind me. Right now I ask questions such as “How do I get him to eat more vegetables? How can I speed up this bedtime routine? How far can I let him ride his bike alone? Is it safe to let him go to that friend’s house?” These, in many ways, are easier for me to deal with because I feel like I understand this age so much better. I know that isn’t the case for all of you. I dread the thought of some of the questions to come that will be far more difficult. As I watch my friends parent through the teenage phase I think, “Dear God, please prepare me!”
The bottom line is they are all seasons. Moments in time that will pass even when they feel like they won’t. In the midst of distress, no one wants to hear, “Enjoy this stage while it lasts. They’ll be grown up before you know it.” We all know this to be true, but such advice doesn’t help when you are cleaning up another accident while potty training.
I look back at some things that happened and laugh now. What seemed so monumental at the time is a mere wisp of a memory. Grocery shopping is so much easier now that I don’t have a toddler threatening to throw up because he wants to leave.
So how do you make it through those phases that drive you bonkers? Here are a few tips that have helped me make it to the next season.
1) Give yourself a timeout if you need it. Sometimes adults need them, too…even when they have grown children.
2) Have a physical or creative outlet that you enjoy. Don’t feel guilty for it, because it may maintain your sanity.
3) Make time for friends, even if that means a play date with kids around, but girlfriend time is valuable.
4) Meditate on a helpful scripture such as Isaiah 40:29,”He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
5) Pray for wisdom. James promises God will give it to us when we need it. (Whatever you do, don’t pray for patience. The spiritual laws dictate that you will only be further tested if you do this.)
6) Do your best to focus on the positive. Give thanks for “even this.”
Last night my husband was out of town. I usually let the boys take turns sleeping with me when he is gone, but he was only going to be gone one night. So, instead, we all camped out downstairs sleeping bags and all. As I lay there with them snuggled up against me I did my best to ignore the hard floor and appreciate these few hours of together time that are truly a gift.
There are some days I feel like if I hear, “Mom, mommy, or mama” one more time I will run screaming from the house. But, when I take time to refocus, I realize I wouldn’t have it any other way and I am richly blessed because of this roller coaster we call motherhood.
*A side note for some of my dear friends. Some of you have circumstances that make motherhood all the more challenging. As I pondered this post I thought of friends that have children with special needs, husbands in the military who are gone for long periods, husbands in dangerous jobs that work long hours, husbands that travel a great deal, single moms doing this on your own, or life-changing illness in your family. All of these may make you feel you are in a season of perpetual winter with only rare glimpses of spring. I wish I had the perfect advice to give you, but all I can say is that to every introduction there must be a conclusion. Some books have more pages than others. Stand strong!