“Think of how great my life would be if I didn’t have kids,” she sighed with a starry-eyed look. I could empathize with her as I watched her sprint around the park as if she were cross training. Sweat dripped from her brow and a piece of a squashed peanut butter sandwich stuck to her rear. (But, I didn’t have the heart to tell her.) I remembered the days!
Mothers are overworked, underpaid, and under appreciated. When you’re in the trenches mothering young kids, it’s hard to look ahead and imagine what your life will be like in just a few short years. Heck, it’s hard to remember what you life WAS like just a few short years ago. Looking for a way to reduce stress during those early years? Look to the future.
Stress Reducer #1:
Looking to the future when parenting young kids is a great way to reduce stress. Looking ahead provides hope.
As a mother of young children, sometimes I couldn’t even recall my pre-mom existence. What did I like to do? Did I enjoy reading books with more than seven words on a page? Can I still read a book with more than seven words on a page?
I originally wrote this post seven years ago (when I first considered blogging, but didn’t).
At that time, I felt like everyday was a walk through quicksand. It was hard.
But, as I looked at this post this week (trying to decide whether or not to delete it), it occurred to me that this post might be encouraging to moms who are in the throes of mothering young children right now.
Stress Reducer #2
Get in your time machine and fast forward a few years.
The time machine is in your mind. (I’d be great to have a real one some days, right?) You can look forward by clinging God promises to faithful moms. He tells us to train our children in the way they should go and they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Looking at my life and kids today, I see God’s faithfulness and I know all those long days and the seeming monotony of motherhood were NOT all for naught.
Right now, you might not be able to see light at the end of the tunnel, but keep going.
It’s there. Rewind with me seven years …
0’dark thirty Husband leaves for work. He digs under the covers searching for my head to kiss me good-bye. I mumble a farewell, trying to contain my morning breath within the blankets.
6:25 a.m. Alarm goes off. I hit snooze and roll over.
6:35 a.m. Alarm goes off. I hit snooze and roll over.
6:45 a.m. My 14 year-old daughter (now a communication major at a Colorado university) creeps into my room looking for my hairbrush. The alarm goes off again. I debate hitting snooze again but decide to set a good example and get up. I head to the bathroom, Bible in tow. Brush teeth, change into workout clothes, turn on space heater, sit on floor, and begin reading my Bible.
First, I study. Next, I pray. A lot. I pray for patience, strength, patience, self-control, patience, and patience. When I emerge from the bathroom, my 4-year-old is snuggled up under the covers in my bed. I offer him 25 cents to make my bed. He jumps at it.
7:15 a.m. My 13-year-old son comes in and kisses me on the cheek. He and I have instituted a morning and evening kiss-on-the-cheek-and snuggle ritual. It’s helping us remain friends during his teenage years, promotes bonding and stuff. Rouse the rest of my kids (who should be out of bed but are not), then get on treadmill.
8:00 a.m. Kids start popping in one by one for various reasons, each one commenting on the aroma stench in the room. I roll my eyes thinking, ”Wait until you’re over 40. This is the smell of life.”
8:30 a.m. Get off treadmill; grab a towel. Head to kitchen to make sure kids have had breakfast and started their schoolwork.
Most mornings I break up a fight between my 13 and 11-year-old boys over who gets to use the computer first and settle the dispute over whether algebra or Spanish is more important. Make a note to post a schedule to spare myself the grief and cut down on the debate.
9:00 a.m. Head upstairs, smooth out bed, give 4 year-old a quarter, shower.
9:20 a.m. Check email, head downstairs and begin helping my 2nd grader with math.This is painful. She truly doesn’t get it.
I force a smile and tell her she will get it if she keeps trying. I truly believe she will, even if it kills me.
I remind her of all the things she’s really good at like reading and adding sunshine to our lives. We go over borrowing and carrying or regrouping as they call it nowadays until I can’t take it anymore before she runs off to play with her four-year old brother.
10:15 a.m. Check 11-year-old’s math. Take inventory of his work for the rest of the day. He’s excited about starting a history report on Shakespeare and begins reciting lines from Hamlet very, very loudly with a heavy British accent.
11:00 a.m. Help 14-year-old download a documentary on animal cruelty for her research paper. Eleven year old takes his Hamlet and leaves the room, saying the last time he watched the documentary it made him cry. It is sad, but I am a carnivore so I sit quietly beside my daughter as she grieves the senseless loss of animal life.
Half way through the documentary, 14-year-old declares she’s becoming a vegetarian. I point out that she can’t eat hamburgers, bacon, or pepperoni pizza. After brief reconsideration, she decides it’s okay to kill animals to eat them but not for making fur coats. (Says she’s still thinking about the vegetarian thing.)
12:00 p.m. Fourteen year old passes on lunch, saying she’s lost her appetite after watching the documentary, and goes to her room, still grieving, to finish her math. The rest of us pull out turkey and start making sandwiches.
12:30 p.m. The older boys listen to Adventurers in Odyssey on the computer while they clean the kitchen after lunch. I play some dinosaur game with 4-year-old and 2nd grader. Husband calls. Going to be late. Has study session for a class he’s taking at the local university.
1:00 p.m. Help 13-year-old with his government paper. I ask him about his thesis, and he looks at me like a deer in headlights. I briefly explain a thesis statement for the 900th time and send him on his way. (He is currently a Plebe at West Point.)
1:30 p.m. Fourteen year old, still working through the stages of grief, comes downstairs and makes herself a PB&J. I take care of a few (very few) housekeeping duties. Can’t believe it’s only 1:30!
3:00 p.m. I spend the afternoon teaching and supervising schoolwork, breaking up disputes between older boys, and running errands–bookstore, Target, grocery store.
7:30 p.m. Kids clean kitchen after dinner, and I look over 13-year-old’s government paper, which needs major reconstruction. After marking it up, I try to think of a way to diplomatically tell him his paper needs a re-write. Quite frankly, I’m exhausted so I just tell him to do it over. Not a popular suggestion. He takes the paper and glares at 4-year-old, who’s giggling because he senses 13-year-old is NOT happy.
8:00 p.m. I go to my room but am soon joined by all five kids, all talking at once. I begin reciting “Children are a blessing from the Lord. Children are a blessing from the Lord,” under my breath. From what I can make out, 13-year-old (remember, he’s now the Plebe) knocked over 11-year-old’s prized Lego creation, but swears it was an accident. Fourteen year old (the current communication major) intervened and eloquently called 13-year-old a bully. Second grader and 4-year-old are present as spectators, filling in minor details. I silence the noise with my best mom glare. I tell 13-year-old to apologize to 11-year-old, and tell 14-year-old to apologize to 13-year-old. I thank 4-year-old and 2nd grader for their service. I say prayers with the kids then dismiss everyone to their rooms.
8:20 p.m. Thirteen year old comes to kiss me good night. He’s worried because during his shower, he’s discovered that his right big toe is bigger than his left big toe and asks me what I would do if I won $4 million dollars. I kiss him and say good night.
9:30 p.m. Husband comes home. We chat about the day. Well, he chats. I listen in an almost catatonic state. He doesn’t seem to notice and goes to check on the kids. I check email, look over papers, and quickly calculate the number of hours of sleep I can get if I’m in bed by 10.
11:00 p.m. Prayers. I try not to think about the hour of sleep I just lost by staying up until 11. Lights out.
Stress Reducer #3
Look Up and Catch Your Breath
Motherhood is tough, especially when you have young children. When you’ve got your head down and you’re going full speed ahead, sometimes it’s helpful to imagine what life will be like in the future.
I never would have thought to look ahead on my own; I was too absorbed in the the day-to-day-grind of life. But it is worth the time.
So, I hope this serves as a gentle nudge. Focusing on where you are going instead of where you are can be a great way to reduce stress and provide vision. I loved playing house as a kid. I didn’t play so I could get bummed out about the stress of marriage and motherhood. I played to relax and anticipate what my life would be like in the future. But, don’t get so focused on the future that you forget to enjoy the moment.
My oldest daughter is now in her third year as a communication major at a university in Colorado. She is also a gifted artist. She aspires to write children’s books. She did not become a vegetarian and is carnivorous as I am today.
My oldest son is in the second semester of his Plebe year at West Point, where he is on the fencing team. He plans to study International Affairs.
My then 11-year-old is now 6’4″ and stands five inches taller his older brother. He is active in drama and Toastmasters. He is on schedule to graduate next year. He and his older brother are best friends.
My then 2nd grader is taking a pre-Algebra course and has gotten better at math. She still reads well and adds sunshine to our lives.
My then 4-year-old will no longer make beds for 25 cents.
My husband finished his MBA at the U of M, got promoted, and has moved our family twice since this was originally written.
And, me? My days have gotten shorter as my kids have gotten older. Believe it or not, I miss the days when they were little. Children truly are a blessing from the Lord. They belong to Him but He entrusts us with them for a while. God tell us to ‘Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) God is faithful and He will keep his promises. He will give you what you need daily to raise your children up in His image.
Motherhood is the best job on the planet. So, when days are tough and you get that starry look in your eyes and wonder what your life would be like without children, remind yourself that this is only for a season. Your kids will grow up, and you will lament the days when they were young.