Wednesday, August 29, 2018

on structure

I'm not a structured person. Is anyone by nature? But I have learned to thrive under it, especially as a mother of young children. Establishing a good morning and evening routine has really helped my day.

I eat breakfast right when I wake up, then I do yoga. I make the toddler his breakfast after that and nurse the baby while doing my morning devotions. By this point it is (usually) around 8:30, so I attempt to get dressed and shuffle everyone out of the house until lunch.

Lunch. I try to get Rebekah to nap, with some success, but often not (wah). So I make everyone food and baby-wear if I can't get her down (because cranky baby). We all eat and then I play with my toddler for an hour. After this I am confined to a chair nursing the baby for an unspecified amount of time. Cue lots of book reading either by myself if Reuben is content in his room, or with him if he wants to be with me. (Right now I am reading Rose in Bloom by L. Alcott) I also attempt to fit in some chores here if the baby is awake and having "floor time". Dishes. Laundry. And/or using my mom voice to tell Reuben to get off his sister/the table/my knitting. Sigh.

By 4:30 I try to start dinner, by 5 I try to eat it (and save some for my husband). We go on a walk at 6 after I clean the kitchen and dining room. I come home and everyone gets a bath or shower and then I sit down to nurse the baby (again) to sleep while Reuben watches television. My husband has been working really long hours, so he arrives home around this time to a refrigerated supper while Reuben is on his second show (or after he's fallen asleep on the couch). I miss him coming home on time! He either puts Reuben in his bed or lays down with him until he falls asleep--eats his supper--and we try to talk---and go to bed ourselves.

Two things I've been struggling with--

  1. Becky only likes to sleep on me, making me sit down or baby wear a lot during her naps. I would be able to get a lot more done if I could lay her down in the evenings! 
  2. Feeling inadequacy as a mom. I have this tension behind my heart that I am failing and not good enough. It's so hard.
But God is still good. 

Having structure and sticking to it really helps balance everything, too. I know what I am doing or what I am going to do next and don't have to think about it. I don't have to worry about what comes after such-and-such task or what we are doing this evening, because for the most part I have a plan. I try and prep as much food on the weekends as I can so we all have easy snacks and quick meals. I eat a salad almost every day for lunch, and Reuben has either a sandwich or chicken nuggets from Aldi's. We have the same breakfast as well every week. This week for me was two eggs and a bagel. For Reuben it's either toast with fruit or oatmeal with fruit. Simple.

I'm learning and growing as a person as well. I make little moments to knit here and there if I can, and am remembering to brush my teeth every night! I've even showered the past three days!! Consecutively

In short, feel like I'm in a good place, even if I am on my toes and exhausted.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

half of being a mom

Half of being a mom is functioning while you're exhausted. The other half of you runs on coffee and the occasional six hours of sleep you get (consecutively) once a week. If you are lucky.

I feel often I don't know who I am. Mother? Knitter? Creative enthusiast? Lover? Friend? Cleaner and cook? How can I be all this at once and survive? I try to quiet all the interests in my heart and balance it with my to-do list but usually I end up a tangled mess who forgets to hug her husband hello when he returns in the evening. Hello husband. Would you like a sticky hug? Oh, and please hold this baby while I poop. Thank you.

Half of being a mom is living divided, torn in two. One part of you thanks God for the tiny hugs and wiggly, rambunctious toddler-hearts and the other part of you desperately wants to escape and not smell like day-old milk and dirty laundry. Just for one day. Or even an hour.

Motherhood is part worry and part fatigue. Part irritation and part pride. Part please-eat-your-vegetables and here-just-eat-this-donut-for-goodness-sake. Just eat something. Preferably green. And not playdough.

One part of you worries that something bad could happen at any moment and the other part just wants to get away so you can breathe. Because toddlers suck all the air out of the house with their never ending energy. Tragically, moms need air. Toddlers, I believe, thrive on trucks and dolls and Franklin the turtle movies.

Sometimes I feel fragmented in to a million pieces and not even sure how to feel. Because I am sensing/experiencing too much at once. And there is so much to be done and not enough time to do it in.

There are so many things to wipe, so many things to wash, so many emotions to feel and people to please and mess to organize and engagements to remember and friends to be friendly with; that I many times altogether lose sense of myself. Am I human? Do I breathe? I barely have time to remember who I am under the weight of being a mom.

Half of being a mom is being all mom, one hundred percent of the time. Holding anything back is impossible. They demand it all. God demands it all. And sometimes you might get to shower alone but often you don't and you just try to be glad you showered.

I've learned what the phrase "daily taking up your cross" means. I've learned to juggle. I've learned to try and at least understand my own feelings so they don't spill out of my mouth at the end of the day in anger. I try not to bury myself. Under rocks, you say? No, buried under the word Mother. Heaped up in regret and mental stress the weight is emotional and it makes all mothers weary with toil. We function on less sleep then convicts and criminals and are expected to complete all our assignments without error or complaint oh, and raise the next generation of humans.

You know, just the small stuff.

And that's only half of being a mother.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Motherhood is full of pain

I'm not a natural mother. Perhaps the phenomenon of a “natural mother” does not exist but culturally the idea thrives and makes mothers all around the world feel guilty.

I thought I would love motherhood. Not every second, of course. No one loves everything all the time. But I had the general idea that while the road would be rocky at times, most of the parenting process would be straightforward and rewarding. I thought I would just “know what to do” when my child threw tantrum or peed on the floor. I thought that after birth, when I brought my beautiful child into the world, things would just fall into place and the cogs would turn as they do in well-oiled machinery. In short, I didn't plan.

Instead what I found of motherhood (so far, in my three years) is a lot of work and very little reward. My cogs are broken, if I am supposed to have them.The edges are all worn off and they don't fit together anymore. What God has given me is a puzzle without all the pieces. I don't know what I am doing half the time and I exist in a perpetual state of desperate prayer and half-guesses. I feel always behind and shortchanged. I look about for rest, and find none. I look about for my compensation for the hours of work—and find, usually, a hungry husband awaiting his supper at the table. The rewards of motherhood seem scant, at least the kind of rewards I can hold in my hand and tangibly see.

I am tired. I work from dawn to dusk. There are always tasks unfinished. There are always small moments missed where I should have pointed my child to Jesus but didn't. There are the failures I count over in my head as I am nursing the baby to sleep, if I have any thoughts left to spare in my exhaustion. There is the guilt. I didn't do well enough. I lost my temper. I cried. We watched too much TV. I didn't take him to the park. I didn't reach out to my friends.

Motherhood to me seems like a lot of lonely moments and missed opportunities measured against my guilty shortcomings. Who in their right mind would chose this life? It's hard. And as I said above, motherhood does not come naturally to me: it's a lot of hard work. It's not fulfilling, it's not rewarding: at least not in worldly rewards like money.

That is because the rewards of motherhood are not of this world. God didn't write “raise up your children and you will feel fulfilled and be richly blessed”. Because motherhood does not fulfill me on any sort of human, worldly level.

The rewards of motherhood are all spiritual. I am learning about God while raising my children. God is pruning my branches as I traverse toddler-hood. The heavenly father is teaching me patience, gentleness, kindness and humility. And I must submit to his will and to his teaching: not fight him for what I think I should have or how I think motherhood should look.

While on Earth motherhood is a lot of grief as you watch your child go through trials of all kinds and generally fail at making good God-honoring decisions. Our children, like their parents before them, live in a fallen world. They are subject to the whims of their own sin nature.

Thus we mothers sit here in perpetual prayer for the safekeeping of our offspring, daily beseeching God to keep them safe. Safe from themselves. Safe from vices, cancers, drunk drivers, abusive relationships...the list goes on and on and nothing is more broken than a mother's heart when we see our children hurt, be it physically or emotionally. Yet we must bear it.

While motherhood is mostly a world of heartache here at our temporary home on Earth: the abounding spiritual gifts of motherhood overflow! So do not despair, dear lonely mother. The joy of the Lord is everlasting, even in the midst of sorrow of hardship. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Despair of Motherhood

Sometimes I wake up and I'm so tired I can't move. I lay there next to Rebekah (usually the one who woke me up) and try to figure out how to get myself out of bed and start my day. My mind starts to run through my to-do list. Presently my toddler wakes up, crawls on top of me, asks if it's daytime and demands to go downstairs. With me, of course. Because going downstairs by yourself when you are three is impossible.

Yesterday Reuben, the aforementioned three-year-old, threw a thirty minute no-holds-bar tantrum about sharing his toys with his sister. I tried to patiently explain to him that sharing is fun, and that he only had to share one of his balls (he has a ball pit with hundreds of balls in it) but he wasn't having it. I told him if he didn't want to share he could take his toys to his room and play there. He didn't want to play there--he wanted the impossible; for the baby to not want to touch "his toys" even though she is six months old and into anything that is in front of her.

Today he threw a tantrum about toast. I'm talking screaming, crying, throwing himself on the floor hysterics. He didn't want the toast he had asked for earlier (when I gave him a choice between toast or oatmeal). I explained to him he asked for toast, and thus I had made toast. So he had to eat toast. This was apparently an unreasonable expectation.

When my toddler has these extreme outbursts of emotions I am always caught off guard. I mean, it isn't rational (to me at least) to cry and scream over toast, or sharing. Lets not even talk about the crying in public.

That reminds me of something else that happened. Last week I forgot my baby carrier for Becky so I put her in the stroller. I didn't realize that Reuben thought of the stroller as his. He screamed for about 10 minutes about it. People stared. But I couldn't hold a baby and buy whole chickens and eggs and things, so it had to be done. I think Reuben is still upset.

Sometimes when everyone is crying and I am exhausted, I despair. I wonder if this season of small babies is ever going to end and I am ever going to sleep through the night. I wish people would stop touching me and demanding my time--I dream of getting a moment to myself to breathe, but even in the shower I am accosted by my husband who can't find clothes, diapers, or kitchen utensils like a grown adult.

I wonder if Jesus feels the same way about my prayers.

Motherhood is harder than I ever imagined. It is like being refined by fire. Many times I feel like I  can't go on. Many times I fall on my face before Jesus and try, by his strength alone, to keep pushing forward. Navigating my marriage, interpersonal relationships, cooking, teaching my children, cleaning my house and chores--and attempting to care for my own hygiene and interests is a complicated juggling act that requires me to be the best person I can be at all times.

Even at my lowest I feel the tender love of Jesus calming the choppy waters with his everlasting peace. He reminds me that raising children for his glory is my purpose, and that caring for my husband is the way I worship God, and that he is ever pruning me as I traverse these toddler years. I cling to that when I want to throw in the towel.

God is good. Even when my life is falling apart and my anxiety is sky high, God is still good. My despair is human, but I have a heavenly father to lean on and I don't have to do this alone, even when I feel alone.