Definition: All the things
1. every single thing or every particular of an aggregate or total; all said in a satisfyingly more dramatic way.
2. something extremely important articulated in a theatrical fashion to add emphasis.
“All the things” is my new favorite phrase because it seems to express that busyness is made up of lots of little things instead of a few big things. The word “everything” is too broad of a stroke for the endless tasks that make up a mother’s day.
Because life is super busy right now, I am trying to be a little more reflective in my day to day life. A typical day for us is waking up in the 6 o’clock hour, feeding the kids several times through out the hour ( they like a staggered breakfast of a cup of milk, followed by a banana, a bowl of dry cereal, then maybe some yogurt), then we play outside, we come in so I can feed the baby and the kids play in their room, we read together, maybe we sit at the table and do some “school”, then its lunch, then naps, then dinner prep, dinner, play with dad, clean up, get ready for bed, bedtime, every. single. day. Life is full and most everything in our day is something that I have to initiate or produce. I have this problem that when there is a job in front of me (aka four precious children who are experts at making lots of messes, lots of dirty laundry, lots of tears, and need lots of one on one time) I basically put my head down, turn my mind off, and work. I work hard and constantly but I spend little time thinking on how to better myself and my strategy for getting to all the things. I may be really good at sweeping, but if I never open my eyes to look for the dirt, then will my floor ever be clean? If you are sleep deprived like I am, I will give you the answer. The answer is no, the floor will never be clean if I don’t look for the dirt. Basically, I want to clear my mind so I can look for the things in my own life that are out of place and need tidying. There are things that I could do better and more strategically so that I have more time to relax with my family and less stress filled events in my day. But sitting and thinking about what those things could be ends up being another task on my plate that I probably won’t get to.
Gosh, there is so much to do and to think on and to worry about. Just getting through a day seems like an awesome cardio workout. I only thought P90X was hard back when I had time for it. I could do that in my sleep now AND nurse the baby at the same time! Taking care of a family’s physical needs is one thing. But attempting to take care of everyone’s emotional needs is just so much more. We know that our kids won’t remember every time we fail them. But if they don’t get the crucial one on one times, the mercy instead of discipline times, or the tough love lessons at other times, will they have a bigger mountain to climb later in life?
Then there, of course, is the terrifying advice that says, “Don’t neglect your marriage during these years. You don’t want your children to leave your house and you realize that you no longer know your husband.” It is as true as the advice that says, “Cherish every moment of your kids being young because tomorrow they will be grown”. And then there is everyone else I care about that do not live within my home that I want to spend time with and show that I care for them. But how can I do all the things?
It’s all so much.
I want to give and give and give so the precious ones in my life will have every opportunity to be their best selves. So that they never ever feel like no one in the world cares about them. Because I definitely care. I care so much that I will give and give and give more than I did yesterday. But it never seems enough. And then there comes the moment that I can’t give anymore, so I snap at someone. It doesn’t matter if it is one of the precious little ones or my sweet husband, it hurts to see them hurt by me.
So what is the answer? I think the answer is trust, and, as impossible as it sounds, rest. Trust in God that only He can really take care of all the things my hands can’t do and trust that He will give me the strength to continue working on the things I can. And as far as rest goes, I need to find a space to truly get away where no one needs me.
My husband has encouraged me to have an evening to myself (actually he is making me, no ands, ifs, or buts about it). Really it is just an hour where I leave the house, alone, and be by myself. Its super weird and feels completely foreign. I want to go see a friend or something so I can laugh and joke and feel like I did before I was employed by Mommies-R-Us: Opened 24/7. And though I think it is important to have these times with other adults, I have realized I can’t ever be what I was before because I can never turn off “the mom” in me. But I do have to find a place in my head where I can rest from my job of being a mother. So I am trying to be more reflective and introspective. And it is hard.
The only goals I want to accomplish during this time alone are 1) truly learning how to be alone without feeling panicky like someone needs me or guilty for getting a moment to myself and 2) think of a practical solution to one situation that brings stress to my everyday. My first goal will take a while to accomplish, I think. I don’t want to sound too dramatic like I never get to relax or that my husband doesn’t help me. I have times of rest in the evenings at home but I am always on call if anyone should need another tuck in, a drink of water, a twisted sock that needs fixing. All the things that kids think of in the first 10 minutes to 2 hours of bedtime. I end up staying up later than I should because its MY time to do MY things. But I start the next day over tired because I fed a baby around 2 am, and had to help a newly potty trained kid to the bathroom around 4 am, and my other two decided to get up at 6 am on the dot.
Last Wednesday was my first attempt to go be alone. I got in the car, having no idea where to go. I went to three places that were closed. I live in a small town and never leave the house after 5 o’clock so I had no idea that things shut down in the evenings. I finally ended up at Starbucks with 49 minutes until I was due back home. I got a drink and sat down outside on the patio and wrote in my journal. I wrote the words “This is torture but I am thankful for a husband who knows whats best for me”. So that was progress. Being alone for one hour helped me to remember how incredibly blessed I am to have a partner in life who is so amazing. He isn’t perfect but he is constantly thinking of ways to bring out the best in all of us.
As for goal #2, the one problem that I wanted to address in my first night away was ending my work day feeling settled. Usually, I leave dirty dishes on the table or stacked messily near the sink. Flour or other ingredients that went into making the dinner remain on my counter and a few random toys or various kid cups or spoons can be found lying on the floor. I am not proud of this and it makes for a stressful morning. I have made attempts to fix it and have made some progress over the last year but I need a real plan. So after the kids go to bed at 8pm or even before if they are occupied, my plan is to put everything away, dirty dishes into the sink with a rinse if not into the dishwasher, table and counters get a wipe down, floor is swept, and to declare the end to my work day, I light a candle to sit on the counter top until my husband and I decide to turn in for the night. For some reason, I crave the ritual of lighting that candle in the evening and it has propelled me to finish my work so I can have that little reward. It is an orange essential oil candle I found at Walmart (I have a lavender one as well!). Its the perfect end to a full day.
I get the whole idea that I need to put the oxygen mask on before I put it on my kids if ever in a desperate situation on a plane. The idea is you can’t help the ones you love if you don’t take care of yourself first. It goes against a mother’s nature to put herself first. But it still makes sense. If I can have an hour to be bored by myself so I can actually think maybe I will be able to stop feeling like I am playing catch up all day. I am hoping to truly learn that my family can do without me for a little bit so I can be better for them when I return from rest. So I will keep going out once a week to learn new things and to remember things I already know but have been too busy to articulate.