When what you need isn’t a break

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When what you need isn't a break

I was done. It had been a harrowing week as the mother of two small children and I needed a break.

A guest was coming over for lunch on Saturday and we needed to have an uninterrupted, adult conversation so the kids were going to my parents for a few hours. But on Friday I asked my mom if they could stay the night. She said ‘Of course!’

It was bliss. The house was perfectly clean and I got as much done in four hours as I normally do in one week, maybe two. That evening Ryan and I ate ice cream and watched ‘Sherlock’. The next morning we got up, got ready for church without screaming children and we didn’t once sound like drill sergeants.

It was wonderful. I thought I was good-to-go for a while.

Then the kids came home and I had to change a diaper . . .

A week later Ryan and I went to Portland (90 miles from our small town) for the wedding of a very good friend. I was having brunch with the bride and the maid of honor so we had to leave pretty early. Because the wedding was in the evening my parents were keeping the kids all day with the understanding that we might stay the night.

Basically, it was going to be at least a whole day in downtown Portland (one of our favorite places in the world) with no kids. And oh man, did I need it! Even though it had only been a week since I had a break I desperately needed some time away. We had fun seeing friends, shopping and hanging out with family. As the evening wore on a winter storm hit and the route home became treacherous. So we stayed the night, expecting to go home the next afternoon. We slept in, relaxed, Ryan got homework done and we spent more time with family. The weather got worse so we stayed another night. I read half of Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenrider and Ryan and I sat in a coffee shop together and we didn’t even resemble parents.

For 60 hours my life was not dominated by whining, endless demands, sibling spats, convincing someone to eat vegetables or mental exhaustion.

It was wonderful. I thought I was good-to-go for a while.

Then we came home I had to change a diaper . . .

I’ve been a parent for over three years so maybe I need more than 60 hours off—a week would be nice. But I don’t think what I need is a break. I need a change of heart, a change of perspective. 

Parenting is a marathon and I’m at mile 2.1. I’ve got a lot ahead of me and I can’t give up now. The only option is to finish. 

I wish I could tell you what I have already done to make being a mother easier so you could take some tidbit and apply it to your life. I would rather this post be titled, ‘How to thrive as a mom of young children’. But that’s not where I’m at right now. There are things you can do to make life with little ones easier but I think, at times, the best way to find joy in the midst of meltdowns, spills and never-ending questions is to accept that this is life; for now. It’s messy, it’s frustrating, it’s constant but it’s not never-ending. This is a time to give to your children, to put yourself aside and make yourself wholly available to a being who is utterly dependent on you. And it’s hard. But the only way it’s going to get easier is for them to get older. You just have to get through.

I’m sitting in Starbucks as I write this and there’s a mom and her 9 or 10 year old daughter sitting together. The girl has a huge book on the table and they’re discussing it. They both have their hands on their drinks and their fingers are almost touching. They’re engaged in conversation and they are enjoying it. I look at the girl and I get excited for when Eleanor is that age and we can have a coffee date that doesn’t include her spilling her (or my) drink. One day we will discuss literature in a coffee shop. But that day can’t come unless I dig deep for joy as I read Dr. Seuss and wipe hot chocolate from her face today.

Carry on, dear mama, carry on.

If you’re a parent, how do or did you find joy with small children? If you’re not a parent, how do you deal with challenging situations you can’t avoid?

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12 thoughts on “When what you need isn’t a break

  1. I so needed this today Erin!! Thank you for sharing!! One thing that I have recently done (when my children are incredibly frustrating) is to just pray that God would give me the love and joy that He has toward them. And though I can’t claim to love anyone as much as He does, He is faithful to increase mine. Thanks again!!

    • I’m so glad this was encouraging to you, Holly! When I’m losing it with the kiddos I do the same thing, just pray through the fruits of the spirit (there will be a blog post about this soon!) Prayer really does make a difference, doesn’t it?

  2. An excellent post, and a harder question to answer than I anticipated! I do my very best to acknowledge that there are various seasons of life, and that certain seasons may not be easy or preferable or even nice at all, but they are just seasons, and thus will eventually end.

    Some of the time, however, I think I avoid a fair bit, and tuck things I feel I don’t have the mental space to deal with away in a little box for a bit. Silly challenging situations being (ugh) challenging. I’m going to treasure this post if I have babies of my own someday!

  3. I am a mom to two wonderful 7 month old boy/girl twins. At first I thought I might go mad, I had no idea how I was going to handle it. Then they were born at 34 weeks and had to stay in the NICU I was worried and scared and so ashamed that I had ever worried about how I would handle it when I should have been praying every day that they would both be healthy (not that I didn’t but I thought maybe if I prayed harder and worried less it would have been better).

    They both got to come home within a month though, and then the craziness began neither could eat without spitting up half their meal and you had to make sure they stayed upright for at least thirty minutes after they ate. They couldn’t breast feed, I didn’t have time to pump, formula made them so sick and constipated so I started having to make homemade formula every day twice a day (I still do). I was stressed out and depressed and angry that I was depressed because I should be happy they were safe and healthy. I don’t think I smiled of laughed for at least a month.

    Then one day all I hear is my husband and mother in law screaming my name from the living room. I came running, heart in my throat thinking something had happened to one of my babies. There on the couch was my darling daughter laying in a giant puddle of poop. I just started laughing hysterically, tears were rolling down my face, and I could not breathe. It was just so funny to see them freaking out and that sweet little girl staring up at me from her smelly pile of poo.

    From then on that is how I handle most of the situations, I just laugh. It is so much easier now to see the humor in the situation rather than get depressed or frustrated. Like today when my son kicked his bowl of carrots and got them all over himself and me, I just laughed because he was so darn cute looking up at me, all covered in carrots, with a grin on his face. Or when my daughter projectile puked, I laughed because I could not believe how far it went and that she managed to get absolutely nothing on herself.

    Sometimes I still get frustrated or upset but those times are now the minority. I have been blessed with such an amazing gift and even though it may be hard to always laugh it feels much better in the end. I know this time with is short and I try and enjoy every moment that I can.

    • What a great testimony to the power of choosing joy! I absolutely cannot imagine having twins and how challenging it would be! It is so easy as a new parent to feel guilty about not thoroughly enjoying the beautiful baby (or babies!) you worked so hard to bring into the world. Laughter is such a great way to deal with otherwise stressful situations. Especially with very little ones, it’s almost always the best reaction. Getting upset only makes things worse! I’m so glad you’re able to choose joy.
      Thanks for the comment!

  4. I loved reading this today bc I remember those exact emotions-you’re not alone 🙂 (Although you are in the trenches). I too would project ahead and, in fact, from my scrapbooking days, even made a page that you have now caused me to get out. It is entitled “Maybe One Day” ……..

    Maybe one day you will wear a size 8 1/2 shoe and we can share.
    Maybe one day you will like plain lattes as much as I do and we can order two – one for me and one for you.
    Maybe one day you will get in the car and sit next to me and we will sing grown up songs instead of Disney from the back seat.
    Maybe one day you will do my hair, and I will be still for you.

    I so get where you are at right now! But my baby girl is now 21 years old and I am reaping the blessings of the time and energy invested 😀

  5. You know, sometimes I read your posts and think to myselfI really really need to come back and read these again when I have children of my own. Your wisdom is insightful, but really every now and then you DO need a little break, if only to get some quality time in with husband or friends.
    In terms of how I deal with difficult situations– I cry. Sometimes I yell. I get depressed. Sometimes I ignore the issue all together (all while being completely consumed by it in the deep corners of my mind), but at this point in my life even the biggest struggles have been overcome. There has been nothing TOO big, although there have been some things that are quite overwhelming.
    Thanks for sharing your joy 🙂

  6. I needed to be reminded of this today. Living so far away from family and not having a way out for a break has made having a newborn and 20 month old extremely difficult. There are days when I find myself praying for grace and praying that my girl doesn’t remember how frustrated I get when she wakes up her brother or kicks me because she thinks it is fun. I try to find joy in the smiles I get from W or the new words that E says. I collapse into bed at night thankful for a husband who comes home from work and plays with the kids and I am more excited about the weekend than ever – when I get an extra pair of hands to help out.

    • We do need to look for the joy in the little things and that what has to carry us through the little years. I too want my children to remember me as being joyful and enjoying them, and to not see me as a frustrated, distracted mom. It’s hard! So God bless those husbands who come home ready to give us a break!

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