It is 5:00 pm and I am pulling in the driveway after being away from home for 9 hours. Before I even have my van door open I see three tiny humans running out of the front door and are now banging on my window; yelling at me through the glass to make sure I hear them. As I gather my coffee cups, there is always at least four empty ones in my car, throw my purse on my shoulder and turn off my van I take a quick, deep breath and realize I am about to clock-in for my next 12 hour shift; at home. I open the door and the muffled screams are now more audible. Three tenacious children, all under 8 years old, are trying to speak over one another because they have been holding on to their requests all day. One after another I hear various dinner requests, what got broken in the house today and whose fault that is, that someone cannot find a uniform for practice tonight (insert the tears now because she is the ONLY one who will not practice with a RED racerback tank). Over the competition for center stage, I realize they did not close the front door and here come the baby twins; two years old, barefoot and in only diapers charging for their turn in the mama-line. I continue listening but attempt to navigate through the crowd and begin responding one at a time. The walk from my van to the front door usually looks more like the Green Mile versus the yellow brick road.
Still responding to the endless requests, the ducklings follow me. All five. I make it to the kitchen and with my free elbow slide over the pile of mail. Mail. That is just a gentle term for bills. I free my hands and arms of what I gathered from the van. My mind is thinking of what to cook for dinner, considering we have to leave in thirty minutes for cheer practice and I did not lay anything out in the morning to cook for dinner. I start siphoning through the dinner requests being made by the children to see if they have suggested any reasonable options. Nope. Not a one. I cannot handle cookies, “holiday ham”, cinnamon rolls, or ‘a restaurant meal’ as an option. I am sure if Cooper (one of the baby twins) could cast a vote he would say toothpaste because he has ate at least THREE entire tubes of toddler toothpaste this week in the middle of the night. Still no, toothpaste is not an option. I look out the sunroom door and see our two Saint Bernard’s are outside, and have tossed their bowls into the middle of the yard. They do this because the bowls will end up in front of the kitchen window so I will see that they are empty. I asked the big kids if they had fed and watered the dogs today and their response is, “Um no, Rebecca (the nanny) did not tell us to.” That’s right guys I almost forgot, what you are expected to do every single day still has to be verbalized to you; forgive me. I slide off my heels and kick on my ol faithful Adidas slides and head for the backyard. I get the dogs tended to, and give a quick stroke to their backs and I am back in the house. Twenty minutes- I now have twenty minutes.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches used to be my go to but that was three kids ago. Nowadays only two kids like it with jelly, one has sensory issues and does not like any jelly with real fruit in it (the only kind we have on hand), one only eats grape, one strawberry and the baby twins have to be given tiny sandwich squares. That is a much more manageable mess to tackle than the large sandwiches. Something about the large sandwiches calls those two tiny tyrants to pull the bread apart and make ‘hats’ for the big kids to laugh at. They then like to drag the bread down their faces (peanut butter side down of course) before taking bites. It’s just gross. PS peanut butter in the hair is NO JOKE. Avoiding any and all of this, I pull out every box of cereal we have and make to-go bags for each of the kids and explain we will be eating in the car. Shredded Wheat, Cheerios, and Chex for the win. If General Mills were a person, I would just kiss their feet for the number of meals they have saved me from.
I get the text message that my husband is running late because of the demands at work. I now realize it will be a rough start to my 12-hour shift since my coworker called in late. That is okay; we have rode this kind of crazy before. Hop on the crazy train kids, we have to be at cheerleading in ten minutes. As I respond with an artificial, “It’s okay! No big deal! I love you,” I shove my phone in my pocket.
Because it hit me, I am tired. I am tired- understatement of the month.
This is a typical introduction to most of my evenings Monday thru Friday. The first forty-five minutes of my homecoming is dedicated to coordinating the chaos of the day. This is exponentially more evident with it being summer, and the children being home or at day camps that make a routine or daily structure nearly impossible. It is a breeding ground for crazy and it can be terribly frustrating.
Dare are I say sometimes I just do not want to clock-in to that job. The “I just got home from a full day of work to come home and work harder.” Yes, I said it and I do not take it back.
There is an author Katrina Alcorn who wrote in her recent book, Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, “We are expected to work like we don’t have children, and raise children like we do not have jobs.” I do not know if I had read a line quite like that one in all of my mom-life. The balance of working full-time and mom-ing full time is quite the challenge. Please hear me say, I am aware that stay-at-home mommas, part-time working mommas, entrepreneurial mommas, mommas of multiples, and first time mommas ALL have a tough gig. I have filled each of these roles to personally testify to that truth. Not any single one more difficult than the other. Just different. The one commonality between all of us is some days us mommas are a little less like the 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 example of love (which I feel has been annoyingly popularized to the point the sanctity of it is so often missed) and more like Moses; 120 years old and just tired. But, shhhhhh! We are not supposed to say that! And don’t you DARE think about posting it!
Says who, you ask? How often have you heard, “enjoy them while they are little, before you know it they will be grown and gone just like mine” or “the days are long but the years are so short.” My personal favorite is, “you don’t know how lucky you are.” There are about a million responses for these comments that I have accumulated over the years, and frankly some of them are just ugly. However, let me just start with I do not feel I am ‘lucky’, but believe I am blessed. I acknowledge the blessing of being a mother; I do! From the bottom of my heart I give thanks to our God for lending me these five humans to love, nurture and raise. Every single day for the past 6 years, I have watched the list of women I pray for grow in length as so many fight infertility. So many who long to be mothers, deep in their souls, and do not know if they will ever be called to that mission field. I have wept with and for women who have lost children. Who only have memories of their babies to hold on to, versus their little ones’ hands. I acknowledge these painful truths. However, I do not think that verbalizing the fact that I am tired, frustrated, overstretched and tired (wait did I say that one already?) equates to me being unthankful or undeserving. I believe it reveals my humanness, and screams the truth that I need just as much mercy and grace as the next person. #gimmeJesus
In America, I feel we have entered into, what I call the ‘business of busyness’.
Our culture celebrates things like packed calendars, pristine DIY homes, breastfeeding while on the laptop working and responding to texts with the intermittently other free hand. We live where overstretched and overworked is expected. I will speak truth to the fact that this is even MORE popularized if you have a large family. My stance: just because we have a large family, does not mean that we have to live in such a way that we starve ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially to meet demands and expectations that were imposed on us. That’s right, we did not even adopt these things as core values for our family yet here we are in the rat race! All the while, we are expected to do these things with smiles on our faces and #hashtagsofhappiness.
If you can relate to any of the above, I urge you to STOP. Listen to my words. This is NOT the way things have to go, this is not the way you have been called to live. When you were born, you were born with a specific birthright. One that entitles you to a life of more than “getting by” or “just making it”. The barometer of success for you is not how many balls you can keep in the air; and it is certainly not expected to be free of trials. Jesus actually promises us there will be times of trial. Times of pain. Times of growth. Times of hard work. Yet He balances that scale with granting us a “peace that surpasses all understanding.” He makes it very clear that this is not able to be achieved in our own strength. Rather, this can only be accomplished when we abide in Him. Momma’s you are tired- that is okay. Momma’s you fed your kids cereal for dinner, AGAIN! That is okay. Momma’s your kiddos play on a recreational baseball team versus a traveling competitive league- that is okay. Actually, it is more than okay. YOU are more than okay.
So for your own sake, and the sake of motherhood in general let’s all stop ‘shoulding’ on ourselves and turn to Jesus’s model. Instead of talking to yourself about the things you ‘should’ do or that you ‘should’ve’ done, look to see what Jesus actually DID and move in that direction. Guess what Jesus did when He was tired? HE SLEPT. Guess what Jesus did in a crowd of people while He was on a journey somewhere specific? LEFT AND WENT TO A QUIET PLACE. Guess what Jesus’ response was when people were begging for answers? He would answer in a question, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
I invite you to ask yourself, momma, what is it that you want?
I do not have it all together, and believe me I could write a novel about that… but if there is one thing I am certain of is that I have found when I name reality I am closer to Jesus. When I do not worry about the worlds expectations of me in any way shape or form, I am positioned in MY lane most securely. When I can have honest conversations about motherhood without feeling judged, afraid or condemned there is a freedom for others to do the same. For others to experience the same freedom found in genuineness and authenticity. The only place Jesus operates from; complete truth.
So to all of my momma friends (those now and yet to be), I am encouraging you. Encouraging you to step into the light of grace. Grace for yourself, for your family, and for others. I urge you to forfeit the false teachings of this world, and pursue those established from an eternal perspective. I invite you to admit your feelings of not-enoughness, of annoyed, of tired or of guilt and lay them at the foot of the cross. If you take them to Jesus before taking them to another human being, I can assure you you will reach a place of resolution more quickly. Be mindful of your schedule, sometimes our lives are so overwhelmed with to-do’s, we do not even create margin for our under-served spirits to be tended to. I also invite you to watch His ways. If you are hungry, eat. If you are tired, sleep. If you are frustrated ask someone for a hand. I can assure you there are far more people than you know ready to help. Before we can be honest with others, we must be honest with ourselves. Jesus already knows your heart, but it sure helps to obediently repent (simply agree with God). It is okay if you are holding your household together un-showered and with a cold cup of coffee, or if you are doing it in stiletto’s at your 9-5. Because wherever you are, and however you are doing it that is just it- you are doing it! Celebrate the truth in that. All the while let your kids sleep in their clothes, you take that nap, let Minecraft babysit for 30 minutes while you kick your feet up, let them eat the cereal for dinner. Our kids are best served, when we serve ourselves best. Serving yourself, yes, it is okay.