On a recent Sunday in my home I had wanted to spend an afternoon tucked into a book that was already overdue and causing me fines. My littles have, in my opinion, enough activities, toys, games, and project pieces to keep themselves busy. I was so certain that they could play for a couple of hours together. I was wrong. Nearly all of the time I had set aside to read was filled with complaints of boredom, requests for snacks, and “Momma! I neeeeed youuu!”. I was sad. I was frustrated. I was annoyed at being interrupted.
Similar days and hours have unfolded more times than I can count and I’ve been feeling convicted lately. Honestly there has been a lot of conviction in my heart recently and I’ve been repeatedly humbled. When I look at all of the ways I feel that I am failing or struggling or growing it is a little overwhelming and so I tried to prioritize all of the things. It looked a little like this;
- stop yelling
- practice kindness to myself, my husband, my children…
- go outside-f**k the cold
- endure patiently the difficulties of mothering
- speak the way I want to be spoken to
- care for those (outside my home) who are in need
- focus more time on God
This is only a fraction of the list. I saw that in the making of the list I really wasn’t practicing much kindness toward myself. So I decided to start there. There …and with my children. I realized that I was seeing them as an interruption. I didn’t really like that, but I also really wanted to do things. I felt that they very deliberately stole my time and I knew that two things were happening. First I was allowing it. I was almost helping them to steal my time. I was letting them interrupt repeatedly, I was assisting them with many things that they could do themselves, I was letting them use me for things they should learn to handle on their own. That wasn’t fair to them. I was not helping them grow by doing all of their chores or always telling them where their things were or repeating my requests of them twenty times when they couldn’t remember (or weren’t listening to) my instructions for them.
Secondly I became aware that my children are not an interruption. Like, really, they aren’t. I chose them didn’t I? I chose to carry them and birth them, and stay home with them. Together with my husband, I have chosen to homeschool them and lead them toward God. I have chosen to be gentle with them because more than much else? That is what my very heart needs. Gentleness. I’ll admit, I did make a lot of these choices pretty ignorantly. I really had no idea what mothering constantly would be like, but God has placed me here and I know that is not a mistake.
Just knowing was not enough, I still felt somehow cheated. I was giving up a couple hours of sleep each day to etch out a tiny piece of myself in the world with my writing and my seeking after God. I felt like I deserved that time. It has been all but taken from me by a teeny who will not sleep, daylight savings time, and a heart that has been particularly achy and over-full the past few weeks. I felt like all of the things my kids needed or wanted from me were too much. I caught myself one day actually speaking the words; “you’re just asking too much of momma right now…” to a little child who surely had no idea why their needs were more than I could handle.
This begs the question, when all of life is too much, why do I first stop giving to those I most love? Why do I feel beholden to volunteer commitments? Why must I attend all of the classes, activities, and outings that currently cram our schedule? Why do I continue to mostly say yes to everyone else only to shout “NO!” to my dearest ones?
The fear of failure, I think.
I’m pretty sure that’s it for me anyway. If I hold it all together in my obligations the rest of the world continues to turn. No one knows that I’m falling apart inside. My kids will forgive me a few crazy-mom moments…right? How about a lot of crazy-mom moments?
All of this has been spinning around my brain along with my deep sadness the past few weeks. I reached out to a friend for help to stop the yelling and I start over every day. I know that I am getting closer to a full day of softly-spoken words. I talked to my sweet husband about things that were important to our family and about something that was important to my heart. Doing those two small things helped me lay down an immense amount of the burden I was carrying. It really came to me quite suddenly while I was surrounded by friends, barely holding myself together last week. I hadn’t washed my hair, I had barely slept, my heart felt shattered, my kids did not want to stay home. I had been able to give myself the grace I needed that morning, but just barely enough to get me into my car.
I had avoided eye-contact most of the visit, making mindless small talk or just listening as others talked. I’ll spare you the rest of the drama, and simply say that I felt the cracks forming. For no extra-horrific reason, just all of the weight that was piled on over most of my life had finally done it’s work in causing the fracture lines to form in me. I was dangerously close to breaking. I looked over at one of my children as she played wild with her friends and I knew in that instant that she was not an interruption. She was my very reason for being here and doing better each day. All of my children, why hadn’t I seen it before? That list I had written out? All of those connected back to one thing; that I have a purpose and it is a great one. I get to spend my day with these kids, leading them to be less broken adults than I ended up being. I realized in that look that I was failing at my purpose because I saw my purpose as an interruption to my day. None of the other things mattered until I could do the most important thing well.
So now I have decided to “fix” that, and that alone. All of those things I had on my list will come together, I think, if I stop seeing my purpose as a distraction. Can I still write? I think so, I might have to listen more to the opportunities as they present themselves though. Because, let face it, I’m not sleeping through the night consistently anytime soon. Can I still spend an afternoon reading? Probably not without significant bribes! I can, however, steal an hour or a chapter or two when they pick up their own books. While I haven’t yet figured out how to have a grown up conversation with my sweet husband without a million breaks in conversation to handle kid’s requests, it is important to me and so I will figure it out.
Somehow I just know that by seeing my kids as my priority (after God, my husband, and myself) I will be fulfilling my purpose. All of the other things will come together as this one thing becomes most important. Not the outside activities, not the others who press for my time and attention. I am struggling with it. In fact I am writing right now because I yelled at my kids when three of them were all pushing as hard as they could at the very same time. I lost it, I needed some time and I needed to remind myself of the goal. Now, to start over again….