Do you have all your ducks in a row?
I have one of those artistic mother-in-laws who considers the invention of digital photography an utter God-send, enabling her to snap away at every scene that intrigues her (like the geese above), without having to worry about the costs of developing the film! I love looking through her pictures, and learning from her how to see all the beauty there is in the world. She cherishes those moments of beauty, and longs to make them permanent the best way she can, through a picture.
If you’re a mother of several young kiddos at home, like I am, you probably have days like me when it’s hard to see the beauty all around us. We see the pile of dishes in the sink and the paint spilled on the floor and the hamper overflowing instead. And when we see the kids in their moments of beauty and joy, we long to preserve those moments forever (which we can’t, this side of heaven.) Those moments slip away, and again we look around to just see toys spread all over the floor, another light bulb that needs replaced, and those books shoved horizontally into the book shelves. Our perspective can get skewed.
We all have bad days and good days; when the bad days predominate, we’re likely heading for (or in the throes of) a case of burn-out. Every book and chat-group related to homeschooling has a corner for discussing burn-out, because it’s almost inevitable. So many of us are living every hour of every day surrounded by children, with husbands out slaying dragons most of the time, and yes the kids are miracles and gifts and blessings, but they are also unrelenting. And we just keep on giving and giving and giving.
Sanity savers are what you need to keep your health (physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual.) Sanity savers are going to be as unique as individuals. I went through a winter where 10-minutes in a tanning bed could change me from depressed to leaping for joy. Some of us need to be completely alone for a couple hours to regain our center; others need a girl’s-night-out filled with incessant talk and laughter and wine in order to feel “full” again. Maybe we need to go for a run, or spend an hour in adoration, or go for a swim in the ocean.
It’s not that you want to stop being a mom, or stop homeschooling even. Sometime you just need a few minutes to think a couple coherent thoughts. What’s important is to find a way to make it happen, as often as needed, to stay on top of your game.
There are going to be months and years that it will be tough, especially if you have a nursing baby and you live far away from relatives. Be creative. Enlist the help of your spouse or friends or family. I’m pretty sure God never intended children to be raised by just one person, all the time. I’m even more sure that God wants you to have joy.
There are little sanity-savers, and then there are big ones. About once a year (like today) I manage to ship my kiddos off to grandma and grandpa’s house for a couple days, and these are the days when everything comes back into focus in my life. I watch the van drive off, with all of my heart inside it, and then go back into the house now full of suffocating silence. I feel things now I can’t feel when the kids are here. I remember my years of living on my own before marriage; I think about the years ahead when my kids will be grown and gone. What will I do, then?
I miss the kids as soon as they are gone. I think and pray mightily for mothers who have said goodbye to dying children, and for mothers who are sick and hurting and hitting bottom. And I clean out closets and make school plans and go to the dentist and get a massage and a hair-cut. I write. I play my guitar and sing as loud as I want, and I make a great dinner for my hard-working husband. I go for walks, and I go to the Adoration Chapel and breathe in God’s presence and grace in solitude, without having to wonder what my kids are doing. I will find my clarity again and try to see anew all the beauty around me, knowing that every drop of it is gift, and I will remember Ann Voskamp’s insights into the necessity of gratitude. This is My Style.