We live where most people would refer to as “out.” In other words, getting here is not usually an accident and one would need a fairly good reason to drive out this way. We have a church, two gas stations, a caution light, and a brand new Dollar General (we are actually quite proud to have it). Other than that, the typical conveniences such as shopping trips and doctor visits are always planned ahead of time. So imagine how surprising it has been since the pandemic that my house seems to be a gathering place for young people.
Any day of the week during the summer, holidays, or weekends, the side entrance of our house is littered with an assortment of tennis shoes, slides, and flips flops… all belonging to teenage and college students. It is a respectful albeit unsuccessful attempt on their part at keeping the floors clean in the house. I have begun to recognize some of these shoes. There are always my daughter’s Birkenstock’s, my older son’s tennis shoes, and a vast array of sizes and styles from various friends. It is a sign of normalcy that was not present just one short year ago. Basically, the more vehicles in the driveway there are, the more shoes will be at our door.
Tonight as I was walking in the house, tiny grains of sand kept sticking to my feet… sand that had been on my kids’ feet, their friends’ feet, and just from our comings and goings in general. And I was grateful. Grateful for family. Grateful for friends. Grateful for normalcy. And I am grateful for the cars in the driveway, the sound of laughter in our house, and even the sand that is on the floor.
My youngest son has a habit of telling me he loves me multiple times within just several minutes. At first, I thought maybe he did not think I heard him. But after several more weeks of this happening, I came to realize that he needs reassurance. Little guy is my shadow. He is energetic, intelligent, fun…did I say energetic?🤣 And just like other children his age, sometimes he does not listen well. It comes with the territory, I suppose, but we are trying to “train him up” in the way he should go. And in his sensitive little heart, discipline does not necessarily feel like love.
“Mommy?” he asks. “Do you love me all the time?” “Yes, precious. All the time.” “How about when I don’t listen? “I still love you.” “Will you love me when I grow up?” “I will love you forever.” “But you love me when you’re not at home?” “I love and miss you when I’m not at home.” “Mama?” “Yes?” “I just love you sooo much!” “I love you, too.”
Sometimes love is hard, though, and I started thinking today about how fallible I am as a parent. Impatient. Selfish at times. Tired. But God loves me anyway. He loves me when I do not listen to His voice. He loves me when I do not spend time with him in prayer… and He misses me. He loves me so much that He sent His son to be the perfect example of love on the cross. And when I feel the heaviness of trying to be an example of love for my children (and coming short at times), he STILL loves me. He loves me. Forever.
I could not make this up if I tried. And I literally dried off as soon as I could to write this. I was putting on pajama pants over half/dried legs and shaking my head while trying not to cry…. from laughing. I don’t know. Maybe I am angry. Maybe I just feel inspired. MAYBE I am in shock. One of my favorite days is Mother’s Day. I selfishly like it because no one asks me what we are having for supper. However, all other days are a free for all. I could have the flu and two broken legs on my birthday and someone will ask for supper. Why can’t moms get other days off, too?
We all know the jokes and memes about children following their mothers to the bathroom all the time. A few days ago, my husband and teenage daughter were home and I was “trying” (no pun intended) to use the bathroom, Little Guy needed something and came to me TWICE instead of my husband and daughter because we all know a 48 year old former athlete and high school cheerleader cannot open a fruit snack… only mommies sitting on the potty can do that.
Why was I shocked then when my Little Guy opened the bathroom door faster than I could turn on the shower? Here is why:
“Why are you in here?” I asked .
“What you doing, mommy?”
“You know I’m taking a shower. Go in the den with Daddy.”
He left at this point… then, BAM!
He walked back in the bathroom again with his daddy (my husband, but I say “his daddy” when I’m irritated). My husband needed to know where my cell phone was, what my passcode was to get into the phone, and where my email app was in the phone. I begrudgingly supplied the aforementioned information. Well, Mr. Former Athlete Honor Student could not for the life of him figure this out and preceded to HAND ME THE PHONE. What’s that? Yes, I was still in the shower.
I helped find what my husband was looking for and my expression told him that I was less than happy. He quickly whisked away our little guy into the den. It was equal parts irritating and funny! And even though Mother’s Day is over, I think every day should be Mother’s Day. At the very least, let us moms take a shower uninterrupted. Oh, and pick up dinner, too. Thanks!
Several years ago, a nice lady told me I seem to have it all together….. but no one lately has said this to me. I am fine with that. If I had it all together then I would be under pressure to keep it together and the cycle never ends, does it? How many times have you scrolled social media or just observed another woman at work or in the store and thought to yourself “She does it all, manages it all… has it all…her house is probably clean, her marriage is perfect, and her emotions stay in check (I am an emotional person, so I always think this).”
You would be mistaken.
See, you are only aware of your own Goliath. I can absolutely assure you she has one, too… and maybe several.
But she hides hers behind a glossy social media page.
She smiles and pretends her Goliath doesn’t exist. She lives in denial.
She cries out at night for God to fight her Goliath for her.
And maybe her army is bigger.
Maybe her Goliath is not as big as yours.
I faced my own Goliath last week. One has lots of conversations with God while sitting alone waiting on the radiologist to walk in. Admittedly, I have medical anxiety for personal reasons, but I think any woman would be hard-pressed not to be anxious in this situation. I do not make deals with God. However, I sat and prayed (and cried) that He would be with me whatever the case may be.
Everything turned out okay, but I realized that I seem to take two steps forward and three steps back anytime I am forced to face my anxiety. And this applies to everything in my life… whether it is working up the courage to write or just try to make conversation with a group of other women. My Goliath seems to follow me everywhere.
My Goliath. Anxiety.
Yours? Come on. You have one. And although you think “she” does not, you would be wrong.
Her Goliath might be a failing marriage that looks good on the outside….
The friends that turned their backs on her.
The devastating diagnosis.
Her empty arms in want of a child.
A wayward child.
Prayers that seem to stop at the ceiling.
And this is all the more reason to be kind. One never knows what battles are fought in private or how many tears break the quiet of night. Your Goliath is not unique. She has one, too. Maybe it is the same as yours. And even though she seems to have it together, looks can be deceiving. She may think you have it together, too.
This is good sleeping weather. Slightly windy and balmy, the weather is showing signs of rain. The sky in the front of the house is fairly clear, but gets progressively darker in the back yard leading down to the river. Today was fun. We had a preschool Easter hat parade, egg hunt, and party. I have had coffee, but my eyes still feel heavy. Dinner time is approaching.
As I make a peanut butter sandwich in the kitchen, my husband is warming up some type of frozen burrito meal. My younger two children have had the leftovers from a cheese pizza that we ate at school today. The only lights on are the den lamps and the television. Pete The Cat is on and my son tells me he wants magic glasses like Pete. The glasses evidently change the weather. I like the weather like it is….reminds me a little of summer nights when thunderstorms roll through (even though it is still cool right now).
This time last year, I was a “working stay at home mom”… or whatever that is called. But now I am in my classroom and more tired than usual. My family is very understanding and so sometimes dinner is simply leftovers or something easy. As I am making my sandwich, I ask my husband if he has ever eaten the peanut butter and jelly that is swirled in a jar; the conversation turns to childhood foods our mommas made and I suddenly miss my momma’s salmon croquet patties. I hope my children always have good memories of me.
We eat our smorgasbord of dinner selections and I am grateful for the simple things… family, home, quiet, and the sandwich is not half bad, either.
As I am sitting on the sofa, my little guy is watching his Kindle. Yes… we allow some daily screen time. He and I have played Candy Land, made brownies, and watered the ferns outside on the porch. The sun is out and I can hear boats going by occasionally on the river. It is a good day to reflect on the last couple of weeks. I am also washing the obligatory ten loads of laundry that seem to be my Achilles heel. So far this morning, I have heard a little (and sometimes loud) voice call my name many times. Par for the course as my husband is at work so I am the One In Charge, so to speak.
The morning did not start out so idyllic. I had every intention of going to church. Unfortunately, a pinched nerve led to a migraine. Little guy got up before the sun and immediately went into action mode. My house was a mess. We had navigated through two birthday parties, a scholarship program, and a ball in two weeks’ time. I knew that my “cup” was empty and, honestly, my patience, too. As I looked around at the laundry and the messy house, a realization hit me.
“I am not irritated at my son for needing me when I have so much to do. I am irritated at the distractions of housework and schoolwork for taking me away from my son.” All this time I assumed that the constant barrage of “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” had begun to wear on me when, actually, the pressure of being everything to everyone was the real distraction. So when the laundry is clean but unfolded, the closets still need to be organized, or lesson plans have to wait until he goes to bed, it will be okay. Distractions can wait. He is my priority.
I have all but turned my purse inside out. I have lost a credit card. Yes, I understand that we can have a hold put on it. I cried, though… BECAUSE I AM DONE. She is done and she is me. It is before seven on a Friday night. I am in my pajamas. There was not a full moon the last two days, but it missed a good chance. Crazy town. Literally. My calendar looks like it threw up. I over scheduled my life because I love my family and want to be everything to everyone. Yikes. There are more deadlines than days available. Mayday. Mayday.
How is it possible for moms to handle all the appointments, shopping, parties, and errands for everyone else and lose something that should be so easy to keep up with? I am a creature of habit. Although my house gets out of hand at times, I actually have a method to the madness. I can proudly say that I know the locations of birth certificates, social security cards, and, yes, credit cards. But as fate (or just a crazy week) would have it, I lost a credit card. The crying for part is just a symptom of something else.
I am imperfect and my life, and probably yours, does not allow for that, does it? Perfect wife. Mother. Friend. Family member. Employee. What about human? Humans are not perfect. Where am I allowed to mess up? It seems as if there is no room for error in the roles we play as women. So when something happens as common as losing a credit card… and my first response is to cry, then it is time to reset.
You are not perfect. Neither am I. We are women. We are nurturing, strong, selfless, loving, giving…
Last week I fed my child hot dogs three nights in a row. Granted, I did include fresh fruit with the less than stellar meal, but I still felt guilty. Without sounding like I am making excuses, it had been one thing after another for several weeks. I got a stomach bug Christmas night and then caught a cold after school started back in January (a cold… not the other dreaded thing). My husband works shifts so sometimes I am the lone parent at home for a week or so. May I also add “Mom of the Year” status because I allowed too much television time as well.
Lately I have just been feeling as if I am not enough. Too tired. Too stressed. Too scheduled. But at the same time… Not patient enough. Not young enough. Not good enough.
And I say this, not complaining or trying to get anyone to feel badly for me, but I see this all the time on other women’s social media. Maybe not in so many words or all at the same time… but enough to know that I’m rowing this boat along with MANY other mothers. Whether it is a funny meme about having kids and never being able to sleep late again, to posts I read about another mom who looked for her phone while holding it (guilty) and searching for sunglasses perched on top of her head (guilty)… I understand.
A couple of months ago, I started using the phrase, “hide the candy.” One day I actually bought myself some candy and hid it, only eating it after everyone was in bed. Women do not regularly receive encouragement to take care of themselves… especially women with families. Think about it. When I was in high school and college, I regularly slept in, shopped for myself, actually completed a Bible study or book…and now taking care of myself is a five minute shower or a rendezvous with a Reese’s cup while hiding it from my kids. Yes. I know it comes with the territory. What’s that? Yes… I am having a hard time. I deleted this blog once and it “magically” was still here so maybe someone will relate or be helped in some odd way. You are not alone. The title of Mother is the greatest blessing ever bestowed on me and so maybe times the weight of my title is sometimes too much to bear. I have never been the most confident of women.
I am a 47 year old woman with a college student, high school student, and preschooler. I am trying to juggle making it to my son’s college baseball game at least once, helping with all the high school activities that come with the territory for my daughter, and making sure I read/play with my youngest. I can easily feel stretched to the limit. Sprinkle in a full-time job and making/keeping appointments for at least three of us, and the mental load gets heavy very quickly. I also struggle with anxiety. But that is for another time.
Do you ever feel as if you go through phases in your mom life? I can keep a decent-looking house and car, but then I go through a phase where nothing seems to get done. Many times it is due to crammed schedules, but for me the more common reasons are the need for perfection causing me not to start a new task because it will not be up to my standards (cleaning out closets) or anxiety that I cannot “keep up” what I have just accomplished (the clean car). And how do I balance keeping up with letting go and resting?
There is not a perfect answer just like there is not a perfect life or even a perfect mom. And for someone who carries their own weight in guilt about her own failures…. imperfect is hard to accept. Luke 12:7 says, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear. You are more valuable than many sparrows.” And I have to believe that He knows my name, my fears, my insecurities… my struggles. I will never be enough, do enough, love enough… but I am not expected to be everything. You are not either.
Sparrows by Cory Asbury is my jam right now.🤣 “You take good care of me… you know what I need…” If you are struggling, this song is a good reminder of God’s provision. And I am sure this includes the wisdoms and resources we need as mothers.
This is not a New Year’s resolution blog… or a blog to talk about how bad 2020 was. We all had our struggles…some more than others. I personally know friends who lost loved ones to Covid and any other number of illnesses. The two young men missing on the Mississippi River are now presumed dead. I lost a college friend the same way. He left behind a wife and grieving parents. I am forever grateful that my family is healthy. Things could be different. There is nothing magical about the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and resolutions tend to be temporary promises we make to ourselves. Have I lost you yet? Understand that these are not negative observations, but just my personal opinions.
From the time our current situation started in March, moms have stepped up to the challenge (dads are awesome, but I am writing from the female experience.) I remember crying in Greer’s parking lot in Grand Bay, Alabama, because the kindly grocery boy was sincerely apologetic that they did not have the basics I needed. Just like most of you, I could not find bread, milk, or toilet paper when this all started. Moms added many titles to their already prolific resumes. Many stayed in the outside workforce as “essential” while others worked from home and also helped children with virtual school. I taught from home for awhile. Fortunately, my older two are almost grown and my preschooler was fairly flexible to work around.
In normal circumstances, moms tend to put their families first. In extenuating circumstances, this is even more obvious. Whether making sure their families have masks, sanitizer, and/or the basic needs, moms continue to come through. I am sure many of us spent hours (probably online) finding the perfect Christmas presents and making sure to order on time! My time at home last spring was what I could describe as “blessed.” Really. There were nature walks with my little one and time to hang out with my older two. I would not change that for the world. One realization I have had this year, however, is that I have neglected one family member. I have neglected myself.
I am sure many of you have done the same. Most women are nurturing by nature or at least learn to be that way by necessity. Often, I am perplexed as to the unrealistic expectations set upon us… or those expectations we unrealistically set upon ourselves. There are various reasons for this and may include upbringing, personality, family situations, and even guilt at times. Any time my family inquires about what we are having for dinner, I feel guilty when I know I have no intention of cooking. Guilt. Yes, that is the buzzword for everything I feel, it seems. When I get short, cannot afford the vacation, do not cook the dinner and so on, I always feel guilty. Taking time to take care of myself is obviously not at the top of my list of things to do.
For the sake of time, I will not elaborate on the Proverbs 31 woman. There are a plethora of blogs and Bible studies devoted to this. She is awesome… and she’s probably tired. Tired. Another buzzword. Physically tired. Mentally tired. Emotionally tired. Get the picture? My favorite meme this year is the one about the frontal lobe. Ladies, we have to do better for ourselves. This does not mean ignoring your family or responsibilities. It is called setting boundaries. And this is where I intend to start Hiding the Candy (I capitalized to make it look official 🤣).
Stay with me. A couple of grocery orders ago, I put some of my favorite candy in the on-line cart. I told NO ONE. When I unloaded the groceries, I hid the candy. One night during the weekend, I turned on a show I wanted to watch and ate the candy. A week later, I did it AGAIN. It cost about one dollar and made me feel like I was some kind of undercover mom spy being sneaky and selfish… it was great!
So how can moms take care of themselves without feeling as if they are sacrificing their family’s needs? Take small steps. If you are the mom that has regular pedicures, massages, or girls-only weekends, this may not appeal to you (no offense!). I am talking to the mom who has not pottied alone in two years, has not gone on a proper date for months, and cannot remember how to apply nail polish. You must. You must do this for you and for your family.
Leave the mess alone. I am not condoning having a messy house all the time. But sometimes we are tired. We may not feel well. The mess can wait. Better yet, delegate. I am SO bad at this because I can “do it better.” Seriously, though. Give your family responsibilities. They are as capable as you!
Lock the bathroom door. My husband knows that I MUST have some time to myself in the bathroom to shower. My little one loves me and I love him, but he’s a momma’s boy and follows me everywhere! I need that time to decompress, pray, think… sometimes I take a bubble bath. I highly recommend this.
Primp. Shave your legs. Give yourself the at-home mask. Paint your toenails. Wash your hair. Use the essential oils or perfume that cost so much. Before children, we had more time to look our best. You absolutely still deserve to take the time to feel pretty.
Simplify dinner. Frozen lasagna never hurt anyone. Drive through if you must. Take advantage of leftovers. Family does not like leftovers? Fine. There is always cereal.
Be honest about your needs. I am guilty about walking around and ignoring my feelings or waiting until I cannot hold them in and “snipping” at my family. Women are usually not adept at stating what we need from others. We put ourselves last. Telling your significant other that you are overwhelmed or need time away (a date or a Target trip without kids) is perfectly acceptable.
Give yourself grace. This is probably the hardest of all for me. I can replay a conversation or a time I got upset at my family with the best. My middle name should be “Sorry” as much as I say it. If you are doing your best and love your family, be kind to yourself. God is so quick to forgive us, yet we have a hard time forgiving ourselves.
When all else fails… reach out. Call a friend. Go to therapy. Join a support group. But do not neglect yourself. Your family needs you. You are valuable. Take care of yourself. Take time for yourself. Buy your favorite candy. And hide it.
I broke two ornaments today. That would not be the first time. Every year, I usually break a couple. It always bothers me in an inconvenient type of sense, but today was different. The two ornaments were special to me. Irreplaceable. They were not expensive, but they were sentimental. I had been especially careful decorating our tree because most of our ornaments are made by our children or gifts to me from friends and family. When the first one broke, I was slightly sad. However, when the second one broke… well, I was taken aback and honestly wanted to cry. Once they were broken, there was no “fixing” them. That was that and I swept up the pieces and threw away what was left.
Earlier in the day, I was trying to decide on putting more ornaments on the tree (or not). My husband assured me that the tree looked finished to him…but I was not convinced. This particular tree is a Balsam Fir. Although beautiful, the branches are not as sturdy and ornaments tend to fall off or bend the branches if not wired securely in place. I decided to add the additional ornaments and some extra ribbon, and that is when the two ornaments fell off the tree. There was no time to catch them, and I helplessly watched as they fell and shattered.
I started thinking about the ornaments and the way it felt to watch them fall out of my control. Yes, I am aware that they are JUST ornaments, but they happened to be special to me. There is not a price for which I could replace them. And I believe that many of us are going through the same struggles in our own lives. We try to maintain a sense of control. “If I plan enough, pray enough, worry, enough… maybe nothing bad will happen,” we tell ourselves. But then it does. We are broken. There is no going back. The hurt, damage, circumstances are irreversible. We are left to sweep up the pieces of our lives, so to speak. I personally know people going through divorce, financial loss, sudden death of a family member, anxiety, depression… there is a never-ending list of struggles that do not discriminate.
And I am writing this thinking how trite I must sound. What advice or solution do I have to offer? It is humbling in the least because I do not have all the answers. But as I look at my Christmas tree, I see that it is beautiful in my eyes. There are two precious ornaments missing… but it does not affect the overall picture of the tree. There is still something beautiful in brokenness. You are still beautiful in your own brokenness. Your life has worth even though there may be parts and pieces missing. We all have broken pieces that have to be “cleaned up” and dealt with. Yours and mine may be different, but we are still the same. We all hurt at times and we all can still have beautiful lives in the overall scheme of things.
…and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6