Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sometimes, Always

I've been busy just doing life lately. The big, the small, the in-between. Thinking about the stages of family life we're leaving behind, and the stages we're headed for. Enjoying where we are (most of the time, anyway). 

I always want to choose Love-

sometimes with a toilet brush,

sometimes with cake, 

sometimes with a cuddle.

Sometimes it's hard,

sometimes it's easy.

Sometimes in the drive-thru,

sometimes in an emergency department,

sometimes in time-out.

Sometimes it sounds like Macarena,

sometimes it sounds like stepping into a pack of hysterical seagulls,

sometimes it sounds like silence.

sometimes it sounds like a desperate plea for patience and wisdom and just another hour of mamability to get us over the bedtime finish line.

Sometimes it looks like a cold plate of food because mama we want another story,

sometimes it looks like a beach's worth of sand in my car,

sometimes it looks like a walking circus. 

Sometimes it smells sweet like snapdragons, clean laundry, and baby shampoo,

sometimes it smells like other, less pleasant aromas.

My life is all of those things, and none of them. Sometimes simultaneously.


And it always stretches my heart which feels miraculous, wonderful, awful, amazing, and terrible. All at the same time. 



Sunday, May 12, 2013

I'm A Good Mother

Go figure, I call my blog Something To Say and then don't say a word for 5 months. Meh. 

So I've been busy, but my brain has been busier - struggling to put the bits and pieces into words that make a tiny bit of sense. 

Lately, I've been going through the motions of motherhood. Doing what needs to be done, but I'm not really there. Smiling feels forced, like something I do because it's seems like an appropriate response. Zero joy in anything. I love my children, but really don't like motherhood. I've been struggling with this in my head, afraid to say it out loud, because I know that some people won't understand that, and I can't deal with the guilt of being thought ungrateful on top of the general internal feeling of *ugh* that I feel just about every single day. 

I've been doing a lot of introspection, and man, it's messy in my head. There's the low self-esteem, covered in mother-guilt, wrapped up in broken sleep, and an overwhelming sense of responsibility to make everyone around me happy, 24 hours a day, because I can't handle it when people are upset. 

Being a peacemaker is a good thing, but I think I take it to a whole new level. I hadn't realised just how much I take on this role until recently. In the name of peacekeeping, I intervene constantly, and I don't need to. I've shown them how to be kind, how to be loving, how to respect each other. I remind them. And then? It's up to them. They have to choose to be kind, loving, and respectful. I can remind them, yes. But I cannot force them to do it. Not to mention, they are only small children and not adults. Let's face it, there are adults who struggle with these concepts. 

Being empathetic is a good thing too, but when you not only feel other's pain, and carry it around with you, adding it to your own stockpile of emotions, it's no longer a gift but a burden. When it paralyses you, and stops you from living because it's just too hard - then it's a problem. 

Being perfectionist isn't necessarily a bad thing either, because there's nothing wrong with wanting to do your best. Except being perfect isn't about doing your best - it's about wanting to be perfect, which is unattainable at best, and at its worst, is something that will guarantee failure every single time. If you can't do something because you won't be perfect at it, it's a problem. 

Comparison is from the devil, I'm sure. You're either comparing yourself with someone and thinking you're better than they are, or the opposite. You look at everyone around you and think you're completely worthless. 

I'm absolutely guilty of each of those things, and when you wrap it up in two and a half years of broken sleep, I was in a very dark place. A place where clean laundry waiting to be folded felt too scary and hard.

But here's the road to the happy ending. Because I've "done" depression before, I knew that the thoughts in my head were a bit too dark to blow off. I knew I needed help. So I marched into the baby clinic, and told the maternal/child health nurse that I needed help. I think the fact that I couldn't say it out loud without tears was a pretty good indicator of just how fragile I was. She organised a referral to a special clinic that helps parents with toddlers who won't sleep (among other things), and also organised a counsellor. Just having the opportunity to talk to someone and be real, and stop giving the caffeinated, robotic "I'm great" responses, without hesitation was so liberating. I have great friends, but honestly, I feel like such an Eeyore sometimes. I want to tell myself to snap out of it already, and just get over it. 

The good news is, the counsellor I saw was so encouraging. She said that all the things I'm feeling are quite common and normal. Not in the sense that this will never get any better, but in the sense that I'm not a failure because I do not think waking up five times in one night is joyous, and that I am not a failure because I sometimes wish I could quit. She said it IS hard. It is NOT always joyful. She also commented that I need to set some boundaries with my children, because I do not have to be instantly available for every single second of every single day of each of their adorable little lives. It is totally okay to say "No, I'm not available (except for medical emergency) right now. Please go play. 

To that end, I have drafted the following rules: 

1. If I am in the toilet, I am temporarily unavailable. 

2. If I am in the shower, I am also temporarily unavailable. 

3. Breakfast is at 7:00. If you wake up before that, you can entertain yourself in your room. Except in case of fire. 

4. After 7:30pm is grown-up time. You're not missing anything, and unless you want to see Crazy Mommy make an appearance, you'd better stay in your room. You don't have to sleep, but you should be laying down. 

5. I love you all to insanity, but I will not sort out every single thing that causes you to be less than overjoyed. I can't keep four children happy all the time, and I've nearly gone insane trying. 

I've also talked to my husband about all of this, and he's been supremely helpful in working out opportunities for me to have regular time away from the house. I'm starting with a goal of two nights a week, going for a walk in the evenings. In addition, he's agreed to take the 'night shift' with our insomniac toddler once a week, to give me a break. I've also asked him to help me be firm about the aforementioned boundaries, and to verbally kick me out of the house if it looks as though I'm wavering. 

The counsellor also recommended doing one nice thing for myself each day, and three good things. My nice thing is a cup of tea, in the sunshine. My three good things are : exercise, regular meals, and showering. It might sound elementary, but those are the first three things to get thrown under the bus. 

I'm a good mother. I'm not perfect, and no one is. But I love my kids enough to show them the importance of boundaries, the importance of self-care, and the importance of being kind to themselves as they are kind to others. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy New Year to Me!

I'm not saying I've got it all figured out, because I don't. My oldest girl sasses me at every turn (we're working on it!), and the sibling rivalry around these parts is intense. 

I suppose what I am saying is that as we approach the new school year, with its routines, schedules and processes, is that I feel very positive. Last year was a steep learning curve for this mama. First year of kindergarten, first year of preschool, one failure to thrive which resulted in approximately 567 appointments - give or take, and one child who wore socks on her hands most of the year and slept all night maybe once. That means that in the last year, I have slept all night three times. Whatever, I make tired look awesome, and I'm okay with that. 

This year, I have learned that taking care of myself is perhaps the most important thing I can do as a wife and mother. This has been a huge discovery for me. Having to reflect on what it is that I require to have a healthy mind, a healthy body, and a healthy soul is something I haven't done for ages. To really ask myself some hard questions. 

At Inspired to Action, Kat Lee talks about having a mission statement. In creating one, I asked myself the following three questions. 

1. Who Am I?

Follower of Jesus. Wife. Mother.

2. What do I want those to look like?

As a Follower of Jesus, I want my every breath to be an act of worship to my Creator.
As a Wife, I want my every word, every action to be a choice to love, unconditionally and permanently.
As a Mother, I want my every word, every action to say to my children, "I love you, now and always."

3. How do I do that?

As a Follower of Jesus, by seeking God's wisdom and guidance in every single matter, and seeking it first.
As a Wife, by seeing that my husband's needs are met (mostly) without his having to ask. By being respectful of him, regardless of whether or not I'm angry. 
As a Mother, it means often biting my tongue. It means being willing to stop what I am doing (when possible) and give my children my full attention.

Armed with this information, I wrote this:

I want to honour God by loving and serving those closest to me, in whatever way He chooses.

I'm not saying I'll get it right all the time, but that is my heart's desire. 

To that end, I've instituted a few practices this year. 

Getting up before my family, to have a bit of time to drink my coffee in peace, and read my Bible. 

Regular exercise. 

Healthier, more mindful eating. 

Finding better ways of coping with stress. 

Managing my time more wisely.

Maintaining a constant, conversational prayer life.

Doing less, by delegating tasks to my children (age appropriately).

As much as is possible, with four children who are still learning to clean up after themselves, keep a tidy home.

Bedtime is 10pm. Very few exceptions. 

And there you have it. My new plan to have a more efficient, thoughtful, and healthier year. Hopefully, I'll be able to incorporate more regular writing, but it's a busy life raising all these people - so we'll see. 

Love, Sarah