Lately, I’ve felt incredibly overwhelmed. I love my kids with all my heart and I love this season of life that we’re currently in, but with all the transitions, I’ve felt myself sometimes feeling buried under it all.
Bry just got promoted at work about a month ago and while it means he now has a work truck and the kids and I can use our family car, which seriously couldn’t have been more perfectly timed with Jax starting preschool and pregnancy moving along at warp speed, it’s been a huge transition. He’s always been up for work by 3:30am and out the door within an hour. But it used to mean he’d be home by the time the boys awoke from their naps in the late afternoon. He’d be home for dinner, for some afternoon playtime and we all looked forward to the moment daddy came home and we could tell him all about our day. But with his own truck has come a lot more responsibility. He’s working jobs solo, where before he worked with another technician, so they often take at least twice as long. Many nights he’s coming home, exhausted and covered in pipe residue, long after the boys have gone to bed. It’s been hard on all of us. He’s working insane hours, the boys miss their daddy (as do I) and sometimes solo parenting is just plain exhausting. The past two weeks he’s also been on back-up call and on call, meaning at any point in the day and night he can get a phone call and have to leave. On his first round of “on-call” he received 5 calls, 3 of which were in the middle of the night. I’m not complaining. We’re extremely lucky that he has a job he enjoys going to each day, that pays the bills and is relatively in the field he’d like to be in long-term. But the transition is difficult all around.
As I’ve felt the pull in more directions and filled more holes that Bry’s new position has created, I’ve realized that I’ve felt overwhelmed at times. Especially on the days that it’s too hot to play outside, we’re all feeling cabin fever and nothing seems to be going well. Especially on days following rough nights of a big toddler loudly rocking or a smaller toddler waking up in tears with a bad dream and desperate need to be cuddled. Especially on the days and nights that run together and I feel my sanity slip away as my energy levels nose-dive. And on those days, I’ve realized I’ve become more short tempered, less patient and more quick to raise my voice at the very people who mean the most to me. And that’s where I realized something needed to change.
So many people do this on their own. Their spouses work long hours, they’re deployed, they’re single parents, etc. And I have so much respect for every one of them. But no matter what your situation, it’s OK to admit that sometimes, we don’t have it all together. And I realized that I didn’t. I’d become the kind of mom I never wanted to be. I decided to step back, take a hard look at myself and the situation, and make a change.
Here’s what I’ve been doing and a few weeks in, I already feel so much more at ease. They’re steps that aren’t always easy or second nature but shape me into the mom I want to be for my kids, the kind of mom they deserve: fun, patient, loving and present.
- I set aside time for me every day. Even on the days I’m solo parenting. I’ll take 20 minutes and pop in “mommy’s movie” and attempt to stretch out to prenatal yoga while the kids form trains around me, sit in my lap or climb on my back and attempt to see how many crumbs and toys they can create landmines with on my yoga mat. It’s not the most relaxing, but it’s time for me to breathe, to put myself first and to release some endorphins. I also sometimes go for 1-2 mile walks with the boys in the stroller before we head to the park. It’s amazing what even 20 minutes can do to make me feel refreshed and completely change my mindset.
- If I start to feel my patience wear thin, I take a deep breath or walk away for a moment. When we’re in the car and Jackson repeatedly asks me the same exact question 23489824 times despite me having answered him the first 12 times he asked, it can feel like the effects of nails on a chalkboard. Instead of getting angry or frustrated, I’ve started to put the ball back in his court. I ask him what I said. What the answer was. And always without fail, he repeats my answer to me. He’s heard me but his repeated questioning is his way of trying to have a conversation. To connect. Lately he’s also started to get into a phase of “I can’t do it!” Instead of helping him all the time, or explaining the solution I’ve started to respond with “what do you think you need to do?” “want to try again?” And when he gets it, the look of utter excitement and pride on his face is heart melting. Sometimes it’s not that easy and if I’m having a really hard day, when I feel emotionally, mentally and physically drained, I’ll put on a show for the boys in the living room and escape for a 3 minute shower of “stress-reducing” body wash. It can often feel overwhelming to always be catering to a thousand tiny voiced demands, and while it’s the most rewarding job I could ever imagine having, it’s also never-ending. And it’s OK to walk away sometimes, take a moment or two to myself and just hit the proverbial refresh button, then begin again.
- Both my kids have started to thoroughly state their independence. It’s hard to get Andrew to really understand things, but Jackson does. And a lot of times his protests and automatic “no’s” aren’t actually a way to frustrate me, even if they might seem like it in the moment. They’re his way of learning to make his own decisions, to stand up for his independence. I don’t want to squash that but at the same time there are things that he needs to do, even if he doesn’t want to (like cleaning up the food he threw on the floor). Instead of getting to the point of yelling at him or putting him in time out, or worse, ending up doing it myself to avoid the fight, I’ve started giving him choices. “You can either go to your room and take a few moments to yourself and then clean up or you can clean up now.” Sometimes he’ll clean up and if it’s a big mess, I’ll offer to help. Other times he says he wants to go to his room, which usually means he walks to it, sits on his bed, realizes it isn’t so fun and comes back to clean up. But it’s no longer a struggle because he’s made the decision and while the change is such an easy one, the effects of it have been monumental. Bry’s even started to use it and it really works!
- Throw away expectations. I sort of mentioned this in my post about Sugarloaf Mountain, but sometimes when we plan fun days or outings with the kids, I get ideas in my head about how they should be. And often reality was far from my expectations and that disconnect would stress me out and make me ill at ease. I allowed my expectations to cloud the true fun and joy of the moments. So I’m trying to cast them aside. I’ll make plans and approach them without an end in sight. The purpose of these days with my kids aren’t to end with scaled mountains, perfect drawings or story-times that my kids sat patiently through. They’re to enjoy the chaotic, off-kilter moments that make up their childhood. Without expectations, there’s nothing to fall short of at the end of the day. There’s only good to look at, only a positive side to view. Look at all we DID do. They might not have perfect apple printed tote bags from the Whole Foods kids class, but I’ll always remember the vigor with which Andrew swiped paint covered apples to eat and how Jackson wanted to construct piles of goo with the bubble paint pens.
- Remember, this isn’t forever. And I don’t mean the tantrums or endless nights. I mean these days are fleeting. Even though they’re exhausting and can be overwhelming, I’m realizing even in those moments that I’m going to sorely miss these days. I’m going to miss being able to spend every day with my kids, watching and experiencing them growing, going on adventures together and making countless memories. Before I know it Andrew won’t be so small, so easy to run after and throw in the air, met with deep belly laughs that melt my heart. Jackson won’t run to me after class with a big smile and so much excitement that he forgets his lunchbox. He won’t always have that innocent, tiny voice telling me he loves me and he misses me too. They won’t always be small enough, or close enough to cuddle, to kiss, to love. Everything else will always be there. There will always be more laundry, more dirty dishes, more errands and chores on a never-ending to do list but none of that matters. What matters is the NOW, these tiny people who grow by leaps and bounds each time I blink my eyes, these tiny people who fill my heart with so much love, who challenge me to be a better person, a better mom, to have more patience and understanding, to just be. And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do because I never want to regret these precious moments and I never want to look back and realize I took them for granted in the name of exhaustion, busyness or anything else. They are all that matter.