Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Motherhood in the Trenches

I am way too easily overwhelmed!

And I didn't realize that I could overcome it 'till Rachel Jankovic gave me a good kick in the pants
shared some wisdom in her book 
"Loving the little years" (I mentioned her chicken story earlier). 
She writes: 
For a few months in the middle of the wet, gray, rainy part of winter, I had two nursing infants and two toddlers- three out of four in diapers. It was physically, as well as emotionally, intense. I can remember around this time taking the garbage out and just standing outside the door taking some deep breaths, getting ready to go back in. (When taking the garbage out becomes a "destination," you know you are really in the trenches!) It was somewhere around this time that I realized I had better strike the word overwhelmed from my vocabulary. God gave me this to do. I may not be overwhelmed about it. I can try as hard as I can, and maybe fail sometimes. I can try as hard as I can and fall asleep at the dinner table. I can try as hard as I can and be completely burned out at the end of the day. But I may not be overwhelmed. Actually, I may very well be overwhelmed, but I may not say that I am overwhelmed! The words have a very real power over us. If you say it, you allow it for yourself. You give yourself that little bit of room to say "But I can't!" When God gives us children, it is work that He is giving. Work that comes with huge attendant blessings and bonuses, but work nonetheless.
So imagine yourself delegating a task to someone (your children come to mind!). Imagine you are asking them to clean up a room. You can see the work that you are giving them. You know that they need to pick up the dress-ups, the plastic food, and the books. You also know that what you are asking is well within their abilities. Now imagine one child looks at it, takes a deep breath, and dives in. But the other picks up one piece of food and then lies down to cry a bit about all the rest of them. You know as a parent that lying down and whimpering about the tasks does not get it done. It makes it harder, slower, and more difficult in every way. The child who is really working faithfully will see progress, will see that the task is do-able. The child who is feeling sorry for himself will never get past that emotional low without some intervention. 
Do you see yourself in this? When you get up in the morning and the house is a mess, and the kids are being a little edgy, and you didn't get to the grocery store, do you like to drape yourself across the work that God gave you and whimper? Or do you just dive in? Do you like to dwell on the discouragement? ...But God loves a cheerful worker. I am still frequently in over my head. Actually, most of the time! But deciding to not wallow in that fact has removed one of the biggest obstacles to my work- my own calculations of how hard the job is.
I am sure that I still say "overwhelmed" from time to time but it is no longer that little crutch for droopiness that it once was to me. In that same early and intense phase with the twins, I developed the 20 minute rule. If things started seeming really out of control, I would look at the clock and note the time. Then I would tell myself that in twenty minutes this would be over. If I just kept my head down and did the work, twenty minutes was all I needed. And actually, it was true. Twenty minutes is enough time (if you are moving quickly and not moping) to change three diapers and one complete outfit, discipline one disobeyer, tuck two people into naps, and sit down to nurse the other two. The storm would have passed in twenty minutes if I was cheerfully getting things done. But that moment when you first discovered the blowout (and all the rest)... well, that moment. What was it? A moment. It passes. But when it passes, you will be very glad if all you did was work right through it. The super intensity will almost always be over in twenty minutes!

Well, I hope that was as helpful to you as it was to me!

 Now I'm going to go clean up the plastic food :)


  1. So funny you posted this! At this very moment, my girls are (supposedly) picking up plastic food in their room. I'm (laying) on the steps ignoring reality by looking at google reader on the phone... I mean, gathering energy to make it up the last two steps and do the bedtime routine. The hubby is almost always home for this circus, but he's out tonight and tomorrow. I'm not overwhelmed, just a little whiny.
    But after reading about twin infants and two toddlers, I think I will hush up and put my kids to bed without the mope.
    Ps: The new blog layout is lovely!

  2. Also, we have that pink ice cream cone in the last photo. =)

  3. I loved reading this! My hubby is also gone tonight and I kept thinking back to it as I went through the last few hours of the day. Thanks so much for giving me a new perspective! :)

  4. Great post.
    However, I think it is important for mom's to know that they can ask to take a break when needed by asking for support from friends and family or having scheduled me time where a sitter comes. I believe in the idea that it takes a village and feel like the pressure for moms to be superheros who do everything (And do it all perfectly) is a set up for failure. A war that neither the mom nor the kids will survive without scars.
    That said - I do think parents should dive in. As a therapist who works with kids and teens, nothing frustrates me more than having a parent show up who expects me to "fix the problem" because "(They're) done." And to parents who are working on behaviorally issues and emotional issues that their kids are showing at a young age - who are tired and busy and don't want to make the time for the exercises I am requiring they complete... my answer is simple. You can put in the time now. Or you can ignore it - and see how it develops and deal with it when it is bigger and worse and they are teens. And then you can put in the time plus some. Either way - this is a parent's job. And you signed up for it for life.

  5. Thanks for the comments, y'all!
    Phoenix Peacock, you are absolutely right... Moms do need help! My husband is my hero who comes home every night and rescues me from the chaos. And I admire that he never panics or melts down- he makes a plan and accomplishes it. I want to be like that!

  6. So I guess it's safe to say you are enjoying that book?? I've been thinking about picking it up from the book table at church, but wasn't sure what I'd think! Sounds good from the excerpt though : )

  7. Oh, Amanda, it IS good! Some parts are more applicable than others, but I've been convicted and encouraged :)