Monday, May 15, 2017

Dear Mothers of Littles who Struggle to Keep Up with Housework

So, tonight I cleaned my kitchen. Maybe in your house that's an everyday thing but my big girls have been doing the dishes after dinner most nights for the last couple of years (yes, it's pretty much as wonderful as it sounds). However tonight they messed up and didn't do their chores, and since Grayson was asleep I decided I would go ahead and clean the kitchen so things wouldn't pile up.

As I wiped down the counters I found a note from a friend. I had stashed it there specifically so that a) it wouldn't get lost or destroyed and b) so that I could read it again one day when I'd needed the encouragement. So with a dish rag in one hand and a kitchen towel over my shoulder I sat down at the kitchen table and read that note again. My friend reminded me of who she sees when she looks at me - not someone who is a mess, or a disaster or boring or whatever, but someone who is a gift. And some other really nice things that helped me remember who I am.

I put the card in a more semi-permanant place where it should be safe from the fingers of my 18 month old but where I'll find it again and as I got back to wiping counters I felt the Holy Spirit remind me of the words Jesus said to Martha"she has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." 

It made me pause.

what I REALLY wore

I shared this picture on my Instagram the other day - it's one of my all time favorite pictures from when Eli was a baby because it is just so honest. This is exactly what my room looked like and pretty much what I looked like most days back then. Honestly it is still what I look like most days - except for that shirt is too small for me now so one of my big girls wears it and it looks so much better on her than it ever did on me.

I don't think it is any surprise to anyone who knows me at all but I am one of "those moms" who struggle with housework. I had a messy room as a kid (I hated it when my mom made me clean because I could never find anything!) and I struggled with a messy house for the approximately five seconds between when we got married and I got pregnant. I struggled under the mountain of laundry and the kitchen sink full of dishes and a bunch of little kids. I'd momentarily "get my act together" and luxuriate in the bliss of clean surfaces but that never lasted.

I just can't wash dishes while my baby cries and I don't care if there is laundry to be folded if my kiddo needs a cuddle, and since we are being honest here - I would way rather read a book than vacuum. I am also super lazy about dusting, I would just way rather do other things that help me calm down after an emotionally overwhelming day. Yes, this drives my neat freak very tidy husband totally nuts.

During these fifteen years of struggling with the housework I have struggled even more with feeling guilty about it. Over the years I've taken small steps away from the burden of shame and I have let go of the the jealousy of comparison. I have more or less stopped judging what is hard for me against what brings other women joy, bust still. It's a temptation to feel like I'm less of a good mom because I'm a horrific housewife.

I'm not saying that y'all all stop caring about your housework or become more like me, not even for a minute but, over the years I have chosen to snuggle babies and sit and read with little kiddos. I've sat and talked with teenagers. I've taken a nap  (because I'm just not the same person as when I've had enough sleep). I've read books and stayed up too late writing. I've chosen to go have coffee with a friend, and chosen to just go take a bath and think. Over these fifteen years I have become the result of all of those little choices and maybe not all of those choices were always the "best" ones but a lot of them were really good ones for me and I am thankful for what that has done to the inside of me.

So what I am saying is that we all keep taking another step away from the "shoulds" and the "oughts" and the lies of shame - it isn't helping anyway. You're not able to do everything all of the time. Some balls are going to drop - so take a second and make sure they are the right ones.

So Dear Mother of Littles who Struggles to Keep Up with the Housework - I'm cheering for you. On the flip side of this weakness there is a strength. Ask God to open your eyes to it. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see your days the way Jesus sees them. I bet he loves the way you listen and the way you play. The way you teach and the way you take your time when you could have rushed. He loves every minute you spent tickling that baby and every moment you spent looking at the random bug your kid is interested in because He loves to see you love so well. I don't think God looks at some Heavenly chore chart that is lacking in gold stars for the day, not even a little. He sees the hours spent rocking crying babies and He notices how gently we bathe them after the massive diaper blow-out.

This is the stuff of Heaven here on earth.



Saturday, May 13, 2017

#DearMotherofLittles

My second-oldest had her eighth-grade formal last night. I'm remembering her older sister's formal just last year and I'm feeling every shade of nostalgic today. My girls have just grown so fast this year. And so I've been thinking about that sweet young mama who was me not all that long ago, and I have been trying to think about what she needed to hear...  


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Dear Mother of Littles,
I remember what it was like as a mother of littles - in the quiet, when the day had been long and hard and I hadn't quite been the person I had hoped I would be, motherhood felt unbearably heavy. It felt a lot like drowning and a little bit like being buried alive. Sometimes I'd look around me and wonder why I struggled so much.  I felt like I should be able to do all of this (and with a smile on my face!) but the reality of most days was that I felt more like crying. I was trying so desperately to be a good mom for my kids but I felt like I must be doing something wrong for this to be so hard.

I remember feeling so lonely even though I barely got a minute alone. I remember feeling utterly exhausted emotionally and at the same time bored out of my mind.  I felt trapped at the same time as I felt like there was no place I'd rather be. I felt like I was doing both the most important and the most meaningless work. I was scared to death that my kids would grow up, turn to point an accusing finger at me, and list all of the ways I had failed them as they were growing up.

Dear Mother of Littles this season is so hard. It is just really really really really really (shall I keep going?) really really hard. It is so hard to have little people crying, screeching and whining at you all day long. Those moments when everyone is happy and things are running smoothly are just too few and far between. It is so hard to deal with the pressure of the sleep training and the potty training and the everything-else-training every waking moment (and a lot of the moments when you should be sleeping). It is so hard when sleep deprivation stretches out beyond days or weeks into years. And why on earth does it have to be so hard just to do something as simple as empty the dishwasher?! It is so very hard when it feels like no one else in our little home really understands how brutally hard theses days usually are. But sweet mama, please hear this, because it took me altogether too long to learn this for myself. It doesn't feel this hard because you are weak or because you're doing it wrong,  it feels this hard because This Is Hard. 




We all struggled through this season. Some of us coped with the struggle by writing or photography or craft projects or going places with our kids. Some of us coped by trying to keep our houses clean, some of us coped by giving up on housework completely. Some of us coped by exercising a lot, some of us gave up on exercise completely for awhile. Please don't judge your inside by somebody else's outside or your weakness against another mother's strength.

Eventually your little one is going to be able to do the most amazing things. They are going to grow up and be able to make you a sandwich and help you remember where you left your shoes. They are going to sleep all night in their own bed, every night. They will help you with that mountain of laundry you can never quite conquer. And eventually you are going to set aside those Dora the Explorer DVDs (or Paw Patrol or whatever it is the little kids are watching on Netflix these days) and the two of you are going to go see that movie that just came out that is based on the book you both read and it is going to be amazing. 

Dear Mother of Littles - you are going to be okay. You are going survive this season and head into the next one better and stronger for it. I know there are moments when you wonder if you have what it takes to get through this. You do. This is a season of intense sowing but right around the corner you'll finally start reaping the first little bit of a harvest and it is going to be so satisfying. Keep your eyes open for it. Don't miss it. He is eventually going to walk right along beside you without fighting you every step of the way, and she is going to show so much compassion for a sibling or a friend that it is going to melt your heart. You are going to watch her do something you thought was maybe too hard for her and you are going to witness his intelligence and curiosity. Eventually, she is going to sit up in the front seat and talk about the way she sees the world and it is going to blow your mind what a smart, kind person is growing up next to you. 

Right now you can only barely imagine what incredible young people these little kids are going to become. I know you might have an idea in your head - but take that, multiply it times ten and maybe you are in the same neighborhood of how awesome your kids are becoming.  They are going to be real people, with their own quirks and irritating behavior and weaknesses and struggles. They are going to drive you crazy sometimes, and sometimes the parenting issues you are going to face with them are going to knock the wind out of you for a minute. But not every day, and definitely not in the rapid-fire way that it is when you are home with little ones.

Dear Mother of Littles - what you are doing now matters. The way you hug her when she falls, the way you encourage him to try again, the way that you walk around in the world and talk to your friends. The way that you encourage, challenge, and correct your sweet littles matters. Eventually you're going to visit your child at school or bump into other older kids at the park and you're going to see what it does to a child to not have a parent who is nurturing, and you're going to realize all over again that what you are doing now matters a lot. It might not feel like it in the moments - all of these hours of nursing and bottles and diapers and walking around with spit-up on your shirt, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and legos - they usually feel like nothing in the moment. These ordinary moments seem like the spare change that falls into the couch and isn't missed, the pennies that we pass in the parking lot and don't bother to stop and pick up. Our days are full of these penny moments - but these penny moments add up to something really valuable. Eventually our kids meet the world with an ocean full of penny moments, and they are rich with compassion and curiosity; the ability to show respect and exercise self-control. 



I know that these days feel long, hard, and sometimes suffocating. I know that sometimes each season feels like an entire lifetime. I know that sometimes it is infuriating, the way that just as you were finally settling into a rhythm your baby grows and changes, and your routine has to grow with it. I remember how hard it was during those first few years after they started school and how it felt like maybe now nothing in my life was ever going to change again ever. And I know that mothers with older kids, like me, sometimes say annoying things about how much we miss the baby years or how fast these years fly by. Sometimes we complain about how hard the teen years are and try to compare our struggle to yours. Ugh, just to all of it, ugh. But when I stop to remember what it felt like for me, as a mother of littles, all I just want to say is - you are doing the thing the that matters most. Your imperfect mothering is enough and you are doing a good job. I don't think you can even know right now, from the place where you sit on the floor with your kids, what an amazing thing it is that you are doing. And I love you for that.


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Dear Mother of Not-So-Littles,

My friend Jessica recently re-posted a link to this post where she asks the moms of the not-so-littles to remember what words mamas of littles really need to hear (and what is less helpful). She is deep in the trenches of motherhood, in the struggle of the static-hold-hard of the elementary school years - the day after day after day of lunch boxes to pack, car lines to wait in, and homework - wash, rinse, repeat. She does not want to hear that the teen years are even harder. It's just not helpful.

I had another conversation recently, with my friend Bethany, that went along the same lines. She has two kids under three, her days are long and hard and she confessed that when other moms say things like like "you'll miss this one day" and "these years fly by" or "cherish every moment!" that she doesn't feel any better. It's just not helpful.

So I am starting a hashtag on Instagram where I'll be writing encouraging notes to those who are just beginning their journey of motherhood and I'm calling it #DearMotherofLittles. I'm also offering this hashtag to you - what did your younger self need to hear? Tag your note #DearMotherofLittles. Now that you have made it around the bend, would you pause for a moment to glance back and leave a love note for those who are on their way? Use the hashtag #DearMotherofLittles and feel free to join in wherever you show up on social media.