It is exhausting.
Having no memory of what it is to feel rested.
Having no memory.
Having lost all hope that you ever may know the beauty of a full nights sleep again. My husband and I would sometimes see who could outlast the other before crawling out of bed to sooth the wailing babe.
In fact all of my kids had black eye’s right before a set of immunizations, I thought for sure the authorities were keeping a close eye on us as a family.
Here is what I have learned.
1. Ask for help.
It does take a village to raise a child. Find your village and ask for help. Do not think you have to be super parents. Someone is very eager to rock a baby while you have a shower so that you don’t have to smell like sour milk all day.
2. Be realistic.
You can’t be the perfect parent no matter how badly you want to be. sorry, but there it is! Do the best you can, if you don’t like how you are handling something, keep filling your tool belt of parenting skills and keep trying.
Your house will be messy, things will not get done. Your house will not look like the cover of House & Home once kids happen. That is OK! Go play peek-a-boo, sing songs and read stories.
3. Trust your instincts.
You know what you can handle as a family and what is best for your child. Stick to it if it is working and don’t feel the need to explain yourself to others.
4. Everyone has bad days.
You are not alone, find some friends you can trust and be honest with. The women who I raised my babies with know things about me no one else knows except my husband. They have seen me at my best and at my worst. They have loved me anyway and prayed for my kids and for me. They are sisters and our history is a tight bond.
5. You are not alone.
There have been times when I have been in desperate need of an appropriate consequence by the time I turned around from the kitchen sink. God always gave me something. Once I found this verse, I clung to it!! He will not leave you hanging when you need direction and guidance.
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
6. Protect your marriage.
If the little ones have gone down well and the night is looking peaceful, pull out a special drink, light some candles, change out of your drooled on clothing into something nice and be together. Don’t turn on the TV until you have had some grown up conversation, a stroll down memory lane remembering your dating years, what attracted you to each other. Reconnect. Your spouse is the one who is going to be there long after the kids are gone. Don’t forget to take care of your relationship, carve out special moments together.
7. Don’t forget your husband.
I know you are tired, you have been clung to, climbed on, spit up on, and you feel like there is nothing left of you. You wish someone would care for you. You made a promise. He needs you. He needs to feel like he still makes your heart flip flop. He needs to look forward to coming through that door at the end of his work day.
Did I do this well? No. A lot of the time I was so overwhelmed by the time he came home, I think he was scared to open the door for fear I might run for the hills for a fort night. I wish I had done this better. I wish I would have more regularly taken 10 minutes to “freshen up” meet him with an enthusiastic hug and kiss and held off on the “you wouldn’t believe what I had to deal with today”. Not every day has to be like that, but I wish I would have given him more like that. The only reason we survived those years is because he is the most selfless person I know.
8. Make plans.
It was easy to hermit but, I knew it wasn’t good for me. It is amazing what a walk will do, even if it is only for 10 minutes. Some how getting outside was a major accomplishment. It made everything so much better. Once I felt like I was on top of things a little more, getting together with friends was really important. It can be overwhelming to have people over, meet somewhere you are comfortable taking the kids.
9. Sometimes, you need to put the books down.
For a period of time I stopped reading everything that had to do with parenting and children. I felt like the magazines and books talked about every other child but mine. All the wisdom and advice they offered on certain topics worked for everyone but me. I don’t know whose kids they were talking about, but clearly, they had not met my child. So I avoided all written wisdom for a while.
10. Figure out where God fits in your day.
I needed connection with God. I wasn’t a good wife or Mom without it. You cannot continue to care and give to others if you are not filling up. There has to be something that is life-giving each day. The quality of what goes in, impacts the quality of what goes out. It might be worship music. For a month when my third child was born, it was one verse that I repeated through the day, I had it sitting by the rocking chair where I nursed him. It was all my brain could take in. For a month!
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence was the book that transformed those years of raising little ones. I read it with my first and all of a sudden getting under the table to wipe the floor was no longer a meaningless task. I learned how the routine of life could offer me quiet in the presence of my Lord. Tasks that had become draining became sought after moments, moments that poured life into my spirit and gave a deeper meaning to the repetitive daily tasks of cleaning, laundry and meal prep.
When your soul is longing for more in those mundane moments of life, it is because there is more. A lot more. God can turn this time of life, when you are struggling just to survive until those sweet faces are safely asleep each night, into an incredible time of nurturing for your soul.
That is what I have learned.
And, if you are a Mom making a break for the exit of a large populated store with a wailing child in your arms, relax. The majority of witnesses are thinking “Poor Mom, I pray her day gets better!”.