The Struggle is Real
Mama, I feel you. Some days are so hard, it’s like nailing jello to a tree. All day long, you run on fumes, feeling overwhelmed and overstressed. There are so many people depending on you. You have children, perhaps a husband, maybe a job or business, or all the groups you volunteer for or serve in, who need you. There are literally more tasks that you need to accomplish in this day, than hours before tomorrow’s alarm clock sounds.
And there is more than just the work load. There may be crushing stresses on every side. Strained or broken relationships, financial burdens, health concerns, loss, and grief. You are tired. You are drained. As you take care of, feed, provide for, comfort, teach, and serve, the thought crosses your mind, or maybe even weighs on you like a ton of bricks, “I take care of everyone, except me.”
Over and over, I hear the same heart cry from moms like you. You cannot ignore this soul-sucking-energy-draining-burnout for very long before it takes a serious toll on both you and your family. I’ve been through seasons of motherhood where I felt like I did little else except keep the kids alive, but I did survive and came out smiling on the other end! Let’s talk about some of the good stuff I’ve learned.
Know Your Power and Your Purpose
Motherhood is hard, mama! It’s also awesome! It is simultaneously the most rewarding and difficult thing you may ever do. But forget hard or rewarding, its desperately important! There is no one else in the world who has the impact or influence on your children that you have. There is nobody else who loves them in exactly the same way you do. No one else can fill your shoes.
“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”Abraham Lincoln
I wonder if Abe’s mom had any idea how important her life’s work, though seemingly invisible, would come to be… Who knows what destiny, of God’s design, awaits your children! Your job is far more than endless laundry and diapers. In 1865, a guy named William Ross Wallace wrote a poem with a refrain you’ve probably heard,
“The hand that rocks the cradle, is the hand that rules the world.”
Mama, you have mountains to conquer and battles to win! Arm yourself accordingly! Motherhood done well is a job that requires selflessness and sacrifice, but NOT in a state of burnout. Victorious motherhood requires that mom shows up fueled- emotionally, spiritually, and physically! You would not expect your car to take you anywhere when there is no gas in the tank. And you cannot expect your own body, mind, and soul to operate effectively on an empty tank either.
When Mama is Suffering, Everybody Suffers
When a mom does not make self-care a priority, everyone around her will be affected. The very people that she neglects herself in the service of, will pay the price. For example:
- Mom doesn’t get enough sleep, so she is grouchy and irritable with kids and hubby. She can’t keep her thoughts on track, because she’s too tired and important things are forgotten.
- She doesn’t take care of her appearance and consequently does not feel confident or desirable, in addition to having no energy. Her marriage suffers, and ultimately her children will suffer because of it.
- If she doesn’t take time for her health, and she may fall victim to preventable illnesses, and then be even less able to care for those depending on her.
- When she doesn’t fellowship with other moms, she often feels alone in the struggle, adding insult to injury.
You Can’t Do Everything
Sounds like I might be telling you to add something else to your “to do” list, right? I know what you’re thinking… “But I can’t get everything done as it is!” Darn right. You can’t. There are too many things on your to do list to fit in a 24 hour day. Years ago, I was determined to get a grip on our crazy house. The “experts” all said I could do better if I just got organized. I made a list of all the tasks I wanted to accomplish on a daily basis and how much time each one took, approximately. The total amount of time came to 25 hours… So… yeah… Even if I didn’t need sleep, (which I do, this Cinderella turns into a pumpkin before 10 p.m.) and I worked around the clock, there would still not be enough time to “get it all done” to Martha Stewart standard.
What do ya do with information like that? The fact is, God has given us 24 hours in each day. So that’s enough. Period. Whatever He wants me to accomplish today can be accomplished in that amount of time. Including sleep, and fueling my mind, body, and spirit. That means I may need to let go of some things. I need to be willing to say no to things that distract me from the mission, or don’t accomplish the long term God-given goal. And I definitely need to prioritize.
Everyday, I have to choose what is most important today. I also have to be flexible enough to know that if the socks don’t get folded today the universe will not implode. (I have found ways by trial and error over the years to “get a grip” with all the housekeeping/logistical stuff, read How to Plan Menus and Shop for a Big Family and Taming the Laundry Beast and I’m Drowning in a Mess and I Don’t Know Where to Start!) Furthermore, as I take better care of myself, every other area of my life will be more productive!
During some seasons, you may do little else but keep everyone fed and loved. For instance, the first three months of colic with a newborn. That’s okay. This too shall pass. Every day that you survive, is one day closer to the end of this difficult season. Enjoy it as much as you can, and don’t stress over things that are out of your control. This will soon be over, like it or not.
Eight practical ways that you can take better care of yourself.
- Fill your Spiritual Fuel tank. Spend a little time alone in the morning before everyone else awakes and the chaos begins. Pray. Meditate on God’s Word. Even 15 minutes spent feeding your soul can change the whole rhythm of the day. When you take the time to commit this day to the Lord and refocus on His promises, the whole day is more productive. Keep chatting with Him, ( or crying out to Him!) throughout your busy day. Spend a little time with the Lord again in the evening. Place your anxieties in His hands and leave them there before you go to sleep.
- Rest. Get enough sleep at night. (Yeah…sigh…) As often as you possibly can! When you are living in sleep-deprived zombie mode, you aren’t accomplishing much at that point anyway. When necessary, rest during the day when your littles nap, with zero guilt! If you get grouchy like me, I’m sure your kiddos will gladly tuck you into bed. (There is more to the concept of living a restful life than just getting physical sleep, but start here.) If a baby who won’t sleep is a problem, read Baby, Your Mama Needs Sleep for help!
- Be intentional about choosing joy. In every season of life, there is both struggle and reason to be thankful. Be free to acknowledge pain and loss, but also look for the beauty, look for the happiness! Even during seasons of deep grief, there is always something to be thankful for. (For instance, just the other day my three year old gave herself and two sisters haircuts. I’m thankful that its hair and not fingers. I’m thankful hair grows back. I’m thankful it was scissors and not clippers, or they might look like Mr. Clean triplets. Read Choosing Joy in the Chaos of Life.)
- Enlist Help. One of the best things you can do to prevent burnout is to train your children in obedience and helpfulness. You will start reaping the benefits right away, and for years to come. Read Raising Kids Who Know how to Work and The Buddy System! for more on the benefits to both you and your children! If you are still in the boot camp phase of motherhood, (meaning that all your children are little,) get help from your husband, your mom, your sister, your friend… whoever you trust and can be real with. I pray you have someone in your life who can help!
- Physical Health. Attend to your own health! Eat at least a moderately balanced diet. It makes me crazy to hear moms say “I haven’t eaten anything except two bites of donut and half a cheese cracker all day! I was just too busy!” Don’t wear busyness and self-neglect like a badge of honor. What kind of example does that set for your kids? And how can you expect to conquer mountains like that? Eat! Protein above all else, empty carbs will make you feel worse when the sugar high quickly fades. Take your vitamins, get some exercise, diffuse your oils…whatever it is that you know you need.
- Physical Appearance. Get dressed everyday. Take your style and grooming up a notch. Or two. “So are you seriously saying that I should fix up to change diapers and cook and drop my kids off at practice?” Yep. Especially if you are struggling with depression. When you feel better about how you look, you feel better. Period. When you feel more confident and put together, you will be emboldened to take life head on! If that feels self-serving or vain to you, make the connection to your family. Tell yourself that your husband and kids deserve to be proud of how great mom looks! (Hey, the FedEx delivery guy might even appreciate the effort.) I’m not talkin’ boob jobs and spending thousands on a wardrobe here…I’m talking a little effort to present the best you that you already are! Because you are wonderfully made!
- Date night. One of the most important things you can do for yourself (and the rest of your family) is to invest in your marriage. Your well being is directly linked to the state of your relationship, which you know. If you are married, keep regular date nights! Take some time to be a couple, enjoying who you were before kids and who you will still be after the kids have left the nest. Let the kids see that your relationship is a priority. It’s really good for them! And it’s even better for you. There is nothing like taking a break from those crazy little boogers to make you ready to charge back into the fray! Once a week is great, but if you can’t swing that, try once a month.
- Fellowship with friends. Women crave connection with other women! Find other moms at church, in your homeschool group, or where ever you may take your kids, that are also in this season of life. Encourage each other, bear each other’s burdens, build one another up, cry when necessary, and LAUGH! Older women who have already survived this stuff can be very valuable friends to have in your posse as well. It is so important to have someone you can really talk to. Someone you can be real with. Do be aware, you need friends who will “straighten your crown,” not knock it off. While you’re at it, make sure you are a crown straightening kind of friend too!
Planting Seeds for Tomorrow
When it comes to self-care, make sure the care you implement is real care. Things that will make your life better. You don’t need a bandaid on a knife wound, you need real help! Sometimes the best self-care is the hard stuff. The stuff that isn’t fun now, but will make all the difference for the future. Sometimes that future is later today. Sometimes it’s tomorrow. Sometimes it’s in the years to come. Think of this as seed planting. Sow seeds now that you will reap later on. For example: exercise may be miserable now, but you will be stronger tomorrow. You will have more energy tomorrow. You will feel better about yourself and be healthier tomorrow because of the exercise you do now. The benefits far outweigh eating a candy bar for temporary distraction and calling it self-care.
The bottom line is this: Your family doesn’t really need the cleanest home in town, or perfectly organized sock drawers, or fancy organic tofu meals they won’t eat anyway. (Amen?!?) But they do need You to be spiritually filled, rested and well. Take care of you, so you can take care of them. I’d love to hear your comments below! Hugs mama!