Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Hard Season

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be taken as a rant or a pity party post. This is just meant for brutal, raw, real life honesty. Some of the things I’ve written below I’ve heard from other mommies of young families and some of them are from my own hectic last few weeks of being a mommy to three 3 and under. This was written very quickly while all my littles were down for a nap. So I apologize in advance for the fragmented style and any typos or grammatical errors you find ;)
“It goes by so fast, don’t wish it away.”
“They are only little for a little while, one day you’ll miss this!”
“It’s just a season, they will be grown before you know it.”
“Enjoy every minute!”
“He won’t put more on us than we can bear.”

There are times when hearing these phrases make me want to scream. And slam doors. And throw things—most of the time at the person who just said any of the things above. They are meant as encouragement, but more often than not, they feel like a rebuke.

  These are things you hear from mothers who have grown children, or children who are largely self-sufficient and don’t need Mommy’s constant supervision. I hear them say these things and I honestly wonder and want to ask them “DO YOU EVEN REMEMBER WHAT IT’S LIKE TO HAVE BABIES AND TODDLERS AND YOUNG CHILDREN?!” Do they really not remember what its like to be sleep deprived, dealing with an emotional, indecisive three year old, a teething eighteen month old with diarrhea who pulls things out and makes messes faster than they can be cleaned up, a newborn that you feel like you are missing out on so much of their first sweet days and weeks because you are too busy chasing the other children and you only hold when you stop long enough to nurse them, trying to keep the house some semblance of clean, think of something for supper… they really not remember? Throw in postpartum and breastfeeding hormones and you have a recipe for an emotional train wreck.
 These well-meaning people are offering us advice from another perspective—one that is looking back. We can benefit from this, it can help us keep things in perspective and it’s meant to give us hope. But for a new mommy who feels like she is drowning, those things meant to be a lifeline can actually be a weight to pull her further down.

What a lot of mommies of littles hear when these things are said are:
 “Stop complaining and being ungrateful.”
“ Just get up earlier. Organize your day better.” (If the mommy were to get up any earlier, she might as well never go to sleep.)
 “Stop being so weak. You need to be more spiritual.”
“You are being selfish, stop focusing on you so much.” (To the mommy who can’t remember when she washed her hair last.)
 “In the grand scheme of things, this time is very short, so you need to get over yourself and get a grip. There’s more important things going on.” (To the mommy who feels like she is about to lose her mind—literally—and almost can’t remember who she was before babies.)

 Hearing these things (even if they are only imagined!) can be crushing to a mommy who is exhausted mentally and physically. Taking care of everything for everyone around you, trying your hardest to meet every need for little people who can be ungrateful little heathens and push you to your wits’ end, being on call 24/7, rarely being alone for the most basic of personal needs (hello, bathroom break?), feeling like a failure because the house is never clean, no matter what you do it gets undone, having to wrestle with the decision to either rest or take a shower or clean while the littles are napping…these things can push you to the edge and make you feel like a shadow of the person you were before children. Not to mention the guilt of feeling like you are constantly putting your husband—your BEST FRIEND and the love of your life—on the back burner and wondering how he can still even like or love this crazy woman that has replaced his wife.

 In the middle of all this craziness, doubts and guilt start creeping in. “Am I really meeting my children’s needs?” “Do I tell them I love them enough? Do they even know I love them?” “Do I play with them enough?” “All I ever do is say no and fuss at them.”

 I’ll be very honest right now. My sweet newborn was only a week old, my sister was still staying with me and I’d had so much help that first week. We’d had meals brought to us, things should have been fine. But they weren’t. My husband found me hiding in the garage after I started a load of laundry bawling my eyes out. I had reached my limit with the kids and the thought of being alone with them and trying to take care of everything by myself when all my help left was more than I could handle. I was completely freaking out. (He quickly called his mom to come over and watch the all of the kids with my sister and got me out of the house and took me out for supper and that helped tremendously. Just getting an hour away and having someone focus just on me for a little bit was amazing and exactly what I needed.) Talk about feeling like a failure and a complete joke of a mom.

 Yes, this is only a short season, but it is a hard season. There are people who have the benefit of time and experience to see and know that it is only a season, but to the person in the middle of it who does not have that perspective, it feels never-ending.

 How do we meet in the middle of these two perspectives? The exhausted mommy who feels like she’s caught in cruel joke and vicious cycle and the mother who seems to have forgotten how hard those early years can be?

The mommy of littles—I’ve found that taking just a little bit of time everyday for ME helps. Even if it is just 5-10 minutes doing something I want to while the babies are down for a nap, it helps me remember that I am a person, not just a maid and babysitter. Do something that makes you feel pretty, even if no one but your babies see you all day. Do something that makes you feel sane. If you aren’t taking care of you, you won’t be able to take care of your babies.
 I know it is difficult at times, but don’t be angry at the things well-meaning people say. Even if they don’t seem to remember all the bumps and rocky spots, they have walked this road before us and are further down it than we are.

Older Mom—give advice if asked. Offer to pick up watch some (or all) of the little people for a couple of hours one day. This would be more encouraging than anything you could say. This will let the young mommy get something done, or just rest and enjoy her littlest one that she may feel she’s missing out on. Or offer to watch them so she can have a date with her husband and have an uninterrupted meal and conversation with her sweetheart.
If you must say the things I mentioned above, be honest and add something more to it. For example: “This season goes by so fast, but I know it may not seem like it right now. I remember when mine were this age, I felt like______________” Fill in the blank and be honest with her about how you felt. Let her know that it’s ok for her to feel this way and it’s normal. Knowing that she’s not a crazy person will help her to deal with it and not despair.

 It can be so easy to get wrapped up in our everyday lives and forget to look at life from other people's eyes--no matter what stage we are in. Hopefully we can become more aware and intentional with those around us. <3