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Dear exhausted, burned out mom:
I know how you feel as you teeter on the edge of your limits, just wanting everyone to leave you alone. Yet, at the same time your heart screams to cherish every single moment because your kids are growing up quickly. How is it possible to be so torn between needing a break and snatching up opportunities for cherished memories?
I understand how emotionally exhausted you are at the end of a long day. How you fall into bed at night wondering how you’ll scrape together anything to offer your family tomorrow. I, too, have experienced that terrible cloud of loneliness that descends after you pour your heart out to your husband, explaining how if someone asks you for just one more thing you think you might lose it…only to realize he wasn’t listening because he’s now asking a you to help him with a project at work.
I’ve read those parenting articles…the ones that list off all the things that you’ve already been thinking you should incorporate into your life. The discouragement isn’t exclusive to you.
And those fights over homework! They happen in my house too. I’ve sat and looked at my child and wondered why they can’t seem to understand that assignments don’t do themselves, and completed work actually has to make it from their backpack to their teacher’s in order to count.
I’ve stared into the mirror and wondered where the “old me” has gone. You know the one I’m talking about. The “me” who actually spent time on her appearance, regularly showered and applied make-up before venturing out in public. The one used to start a movie at 9 o’clock at night and actually stayed awake to watch it.
My house? Towers of laundry and stacks of dishes, toothpaste in the sinks and mystery smells in the boy’s room? Yup, again, you’re not the only one.
As I type this, I’m filled with the knowledge that life is short, time is precious and sometimes the details just don’t matter. Like really, in the whole scheme of things, does it matter if your bed wasn’t made this morning? Those adorable heart-shaped sandwiches that never make it into your kids lunch pail, are they the one thing that will prove to your child how much you love them?
If you haven’t guessed already, I’m feeling a tad bit burned out. Overwhelmed. Trying to pour from an empty cup. In desperate need of a mug of coffee to magically rejuvenate me.
Being a parent isn’t for the faint of heart, and today feels extra challenging. So, I decided to sit down and gain some perspective. After praying, I feel I’ve recognized some “perspective givers” that I would like to share because, just maybe, one of you will benefit from them too.
- Choose your goals wisely. There are so many different personalities, life circumstances, love languages and preferences; it would be a crime for us to hold ourselves to any standard created by another parent. The only standards we should be reaching for are God’s. This concept is true for every parent out there. And today, I find it especially true for me as I navigate the world of step-parenting. We aren’t called to be like someone else’s mother; instead, we’re called to be like Jesus. If we seek to create an environment where Jesus is the center of all we do, then it really won’t matter if we are a structured, organized mom or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of mom. God’s standard, and His standard alone is what matters. In times of feeling like you are not the mom you should be, ask yourself this one question: am I pleasing God with the way I parent? Listen to what God is telling you, and then find your groove and love your kids in your own unique way.
- Self-care isn’t selfish. This one is so important let me say it again; self-care isn’t selfish. Carving out the time for physical exercise, getting a haircut, grabbing coffee with a friend or going on a date with hubby…these are all vital for our health and emotional wellbeing. There will always be something you “should” be doing with your time, but the fact remains that you only get one body, and one mind. If you don’t care for your health and your emotions, it will have a negative effect on your family, not just you.
- Revisit the “good times.” Not all of us have beautiful scrap books filled with Kodak moments, but we all have memories. Whether you are having issues with your spouse or your children, a few minutes spent reminiscing on your favorite memories with that person can go a long way in altering your mood.
- Reach out. When feeling the pressures of motherhood, it’s easy to just put our heads down and keep pushing through, trying to tough it out while we wait for better days. However, one of the most refreshing things we can do is to pick up the phone and call our mom, grandma, friend or mentor. Telling another woman about our problems and asking for prayer can really help. And, chances are, they’ve been exactly where you are and can offer words of wisdom, empathy and encouragement.
- Get creative. There are many arguments for, and against, having a hobby. Some will tell you it’s too time consuming, while others will tell you how skipping hobbies will lead to a boring life. As for me, well, I’ve realized I need a creative outlet. Taking time to read a great book [or write one!] has the power to transform my day. Even if it’s just for ten minutes, it still has an impact. What do you enjoy? Whatever it is, be sure to give yourself permission to pursue it.
In summary, this wonderfully challenging thing called motherhood is far more complex than just finding a “to do” list and following it. It’s about embracing the ups and downs, rejoicing in the fifteen minutes of having all the laundry caught up, and cherishing the tiny, almost always sticky, hands that are placed in ours. It’s about grace, and second chances. Pats on the back and celebrating the “wins.” And most importantly, it’s about leading these small, growing people to God.