Tag Archives: overwhelming

Embracing normal

I was chatting with my darling neighbor who has 3 tiny kiddos, is pregnant with her 4th, and in the middle of tearing up and remodeling her home. She’s feeling a wee bit stressed.

Soon tears were flowing and she said, “But I shouldn’t complain. You’ve got twice as much going on as me and you are always so pulled together.”

Ha! Me? Pulled together?

I told her: “I sincerely and honestly apologize if I’ve ever given you that impression. I would never want anyone to think that about me.”

As the mother of five wild boys and one crazy little princess, I am not trying to create any illusion of perfection. 10 days out of 10 I have moments where I simply CAN’T HANDLE life. And I also have really great happy moments 10 days out of 10. I choose to believe that’s a normal part of motherhood.

My friend Missy told me a story of hiking with her dad when she was 8 years old. The hike was easy and fun for the first few miles, but as the elevation increased and Missy’s energy wore down she struggled for breath and fought to keep up with her father. Convinced that something was truly wrong with her body she called to her dad, “I can’t do it. You go on. I’ll wait here.”

Her father stopped, sat her down and gently explained, “You’re OK. We’re higher on the mountain now and the air is thinner. You have to take deep breaths and I need to slow down and walk slowly with you. You’re going to make it. You’re going to be fine. This is normal.”

For Missy, those words made all the difference—there wasn’t anything wrong with her; it’s normal to struggle when you are not getting enough oxygen.

And I guess that’s my message to all my fellow mothers. None of us are getting enough oxygen. Every mother I know, whether she has 10 kids or 1, is pouring every bit of her energy into the bottomless pit of motherhood. It’s meant to be hard. This is normal.

I don’t ever anticipate being the pulled-together super-mom. I don’t want to be. Forgetting a birthday party or serving cereal for dinner is fine with me. If I ever get too organized I may not have time to sit and hold my Gabriel while he tells me about last night’s dream or I may not be willing to leave the beds unmade and go on a walk with a friend. Inadequate, imperfect, scatterbrained, messy—it all makes me a better mother.

I should stop here but I won’t. My cute neighbor said she tried to explain her stress to her mother but her mother’s reply was, “You have no idea how lucky you are. There are so many people in the world with bigger problems than yours.”

I beg to differ. My friend is a nurse in a child abuse unit; she served an 18-month service mission in Guatemala. She is acutely aware of the problems in the world and often expresses her profound gratitude for her husband, home, and children. Just talking about her blessings throws her into guilty worries that she isn’t grateful enough.

But taking care of 3 small people, growing a new one in your belly and picking out tile for the kitchen are exhausting, oxygen-depleting tasks. Not life threatening, but exhausting. It’s OK to be frustrated, it’s OK to be overwhelmed. This is normal.

Michelle Lehnardt never folds laundry and her car is a mess. She runs through the streets of Salt Lake City, UT, takes lots of photos, plays Uno with her 5 fabulous boys and buys way too many dresses for the little princess. Her husband is the most romantic man in the world because he does all the Costco shopping AND hauls it into the house (sorry to make you jealous girls). She writes at Scenes from the Wild.

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Letter to Myself

Dear Allysha in 2002,

On the 23rd of this month you will have your first baby, a girl. You will love her and adore her. You will be in awe of this little person who is completely dependent on you. You will be so tired. It’s okay. You’ll do fine. You’ll survive the sleepless nights with a few good movies that you watch in 10 minute segments while your baby eats. (I suggest the A&E Pride and Prejudice.)

In six years you will have not just one, but four little kids. “Yeah. Right,” you say. But it’s true; you have three who run around crazy and free and a baby just learning to crawl. All of them have the capacity to be very loud. Occasionally you’ll find yourself looking in the mirror at your reflection and saying “I have four kids.” Don’t be surprised if sometimes your reflection laughs and says “yeah, right.” (You will have figured out how to nurse your baby in bed while you doze, so that’s something!)

There are days when you will feel overwhelmed and be absolutely exhausted. Little children are demanding and require a lot of hands-on, in-your-face work and attention. But if you let them, your kids will teach you to be more selfless, patient and loving than you could otherwise become. Let them teach you. It’s okay. Pray a lot. You’ll do fine.

Your children desperately love you, but not enough to learn how to do the laundry right now—except for coating it with their yogurt from lunch. Just take the shirt off and throw it into the hamper. If it’s just too much—and sometimes smeared yogurt is—grab a pillow, go into the bathroom and shut the door, and scream into said pillow. Then make a face at yourself in the mirror as you go out and hopefully, chuckle ruefully.

Being a parent is about seeing both the forest and the trees. You have to pick your battles keeping the future, as well as the present, in mind. It’s not easy. Chocolate milk may not be the evil you think it is. Just limit the chocolate to milk ratio.

Avoid the ‘me vs. them’ tug-o-war. If your priority for the day is your children, you’ll all be happier. Let them help you with your work, they love it. The oldest kids, ages almost 6 and 4, can help with a lot of things (cleaning the bathroom is a favorite). Not only are you teaching them how to work, but you are spending some good time together. Multi-tasking. It’s a beautiful thing.

Get a hobby that you can do on the side (I suggest blogging). Just don’t get lost in it. Bedtime stories are important. It’s okay if you have to skip them every once in awhile for the sake of your sanity. Be flexible. Be gentle, with yourself and with your kids.

The amazing and witty Erma Bombeck was once asked what kind of mother she was. “Who knows?” she wrote. “I showed up for it. I worked a lot of overtime.” This is an intense time of your life. Show up for it. Work a lot of overtime. Love it, love them. Get a nap in every once in a while. You’ll do just fine.

Yours truly,

Allysha in 2008

034_2006sep22.jpgAllysha recently moved across country from New York to Utah with her four children and her husband, Ben. She makes various kinds of oatmeal cookies and blogs at bellsontheirtoes.blogspot.com.