Today’s guest post is from Michele Cushatt. Michele is an author and popular Hearts at Home speaker. Michele, her husband Troy, their three teenage boys, and three 5-year-olds they currently have guardianship of, make their home in Colorado. For more information about Michele, visit her website, www.michelecushatt.com.
My husband hadn’t been in the door but a few seconds. After setting his computer bag on the floor by the front door, he slipped off both shoes and looked up.
Then I burst into tears.
I held off for the bag and shoes. After all, I’m polite. But the dam couldn’t hold the flood a moment longer. It’d been one of those days. You know the type.
Marker on the walls, a haircut delivered by a 4-year-old, one too many bathroom accidents, all accompanied by a litany of “He pushed me!”, “I didn’t do it!” and don’t forget the timeless “It was an accident.” It seemed only fair that I add to the cacophony with a solo of my own:
“I can’t do this!”
“This” being motherhood. And “can’t” being a frightening cocktail of exhaustion, frustration and hormonal shifts.
To my husband’s great credit, he didn’t say anything. Didn’t remind me how many times in 15 years I’d wailed those very same words. Didn’t remind me that just several days before I’d whispered with glistening eyes how much I loved being a mom. He merely wrapped two arms around me and held me like a child. And I thanked him by smothering his shirt with tears and snot.
Sometimes being a mother is more than commercials make it out to be. It’s more work than rest, more responsibility than glory, more tears than laughter. And more than “sometimes.” When one of those days comes around, we can move from Hallmark happy to horror-movie frightening in the length of a single difficult morning.
When you find yourself exhausted and overwhelmed, wailing “I can’t do this” to the shocked face of your spouse, you can find new strength for the next adventure by grabbing these lifelines:
Take a Break. Time outs might be the greatest parenting invention of all time. Not just for the kids—for me. That’s right, when mommy sprouts two heads and horns, I put myself in timeout.
Sometimes it’s a quick soak in the bathtub during naptime. Other times it’s a few seconds in the dark recesses of my bedroom closet. The location doesn’t matter as much as the act. Acknowledge when you need a break, and—for Pete’s sake—take it.
Ask for help. “It takes a village to raise a family” may be an ancient African proverb, but I’m convinced a stressed out mom first expressed it. Parenting requires a joint effort. Whether recruiting your family to help clean the house, setting up a carpool to help with transportation, or asking a friend to work out a babysitting exchange, find ways to enlist the help of others. You don’t have to do it alone. But you do have to let someone know you need help.
Learn to Let Go. You have limits. And so do I. Sooner or later, you’re going to discover you can’t do it all. Currently, I’m raising three (yes, THREE) 5 year olds. But I also have the benefit of hindsight, having already raised three boys. As I parent for the second time, I’m doing a few things differently.
Namely, I’m not trying to do it all. I identify the essentials, and forego the rest. I no longer let myself feel guilty for failing to complete an impossible to-do list. My girls don’t have the cutest up-do’s in the classroom. I don’t set out to win an art award with Valentine’s boxes.
I happily let other moms take on the room parent responsibilities. And, after much deliberation, I’ve determined Hamburger Helper to be a satisfactory dinner when gourmet isn’t in the cards. I’m letting go. And, in the process, I’m hanging on to my sanity.
What about you? What lifelines help you weather the difficult mothering days?