Disclaimer: These posts are dedicated to following along with the book "Deliberate Motherhood: 12 Key Powers of Peace, Purpose, Order & Joy," a compilation of essays on motherhood written by authors who contribute to the Power of Moms website. Each month has a different "power" to focus on with the purpose of finding peace, purpose, order and joy in the role of motherhood. I will be writing various posts each month based on that theme. You don't have to have the book to follow along though! January's theme is "Acceptance."
There was a blurry film over my eyes when my lids lifted to the faraway sounds of Noah's moaning cry. Uggggghhh. I glanced over at the clock and noted the 5:32 am time. I shut my eyes again but his cry became pretty insistent so I threw my feet out of the bed with a sigh. He just needs his little morning bottle; maybe I'll get lucky and he'll get back to sleep when he's finished? I glanced at Chris' sleeping frame knowing his alarm would be going off in a few minutes anyway. I stumbled down the hall with unsteady feet knowing full well that I hadn't slept enough. Noah had woken up at 12:30 moaning and crying for who-knows-what; then again at 2:30 and 3:15. Of course, after the 3:15 debacle, I got back into my cozy bed-about to fall asleep-only to hear 3 year old Paige yelling for me (her feet were out of the covers and she needed my help for some reason).
Now in the rocking chair, Noah greedily gulped down the bottle I'd made while I rocked him in the dark. I kept my eyes shut and let my mind wander to the dreams I was having not more than 2 minutes ago. He finished with a flourish and didn't nestle into my neck like he usually did to go back to sleep. He began babbling and bouncing around on my lap. So much for the extra shut-eye I'd been coveting! I changed his heavy diaper and the day began with a sleepy shudder.
This was the way life had been for some time…me making hopeful plans about what would happen next (can I go back to a peaceful sleep THIS time?) while the kids went about their OWN plans. Obviously, MY way always goes to the highway. When I was single and childless my life was full of time for ME. Lingering over a big breakfast, reading any magazine from cover-to-cover at random times, taking a nap when I felt tired, sleeping late in the mornings because I could, Showering every day and having lots of time to do my hair and makeup…little pleasures you take for granted until they are gone.
Once I had my children I had to learn quickly that my time wasn't MINE anymore. I made that choice, and I'd do it again (I've traded it for a whole host of other blessings and treasures).
But it doesn't mean it's been an easy transition.
My biggest challenge as a mother so far has been learning to accept that motherhood isn't predictable. It's an inevitable and sure FACT that as soon as I make a plan for what I want to accomplish during the day SOMETHING will come along and blow that plan to the sky. As soon as I say "I'll just shower during Noah's morning nap" I've pretty much guaranteed that he won't be able to nap for some unknown reason and I'll go yet another day looking like a greaseball. For every plan, I can expect 5 other things to suddenly jump in its path. This can become so frustrating and stressful and leaving me feeling completely out of control (and grouchy).
But, somehow, when I finally came to terms with the unpredictability, all the challenges became no big deal.
There were many days I threw my hands up in frustration with some fresh tears to boot. I'm a planner! I'm Type-A! I like to know what is coming next or I feel constant anxiety and stress. The tasks and responsibilities in Stay-At-Home Motherhood are ALL unpredictable. It's the nature of the gig. It's the biggest thing to accept (for ME anyway).
Now, I've been learning to just sigh and say "oh well, I can try again tomorrow." I've found ways to adapt, overcome, move on and smile.
The day I learned that acceptance is the key to joy in motherhood is the day I found so much peace and enjoyment in the little things.
Here's a list of things I might accept in one morning:
1. I'm up way too early and didn't get enough sleep
2. Paige is going to dilly-dally in getting ready for school (she's only 3)
3. Noah won't stop fussing until I hold him while I make breakfast.
4. The kids aren't neat and tidy eaters. The kitchen floor and table is already a mess.
5. I can't eat my food until both kids are done theirs because I'm constantly getting up to wipe spills, get tissues, fetch drinks, you name it.
6. I eat while standing at the sink…If I have to sit down and then get right back up again I might scream.
7. Noah's morning nap only lasted 45 minutes instead of the hour and a half I'd become accustomed to. I only read and answered emails and did the dishes in that time.
8. No time for a shower now, sigh.
9. Noah cries until I play with him and all his toys for a chunk of the morning.
10. Maren the Wonder-Dog gets sick all over the living room rug: No time to sneak in those calls to the doctor, the heating place, and my friend…I guess I'll wait until the next nap.
See, this is just the morning and there's already a list of things I've had to reconcile…they are small and simple and add up through the day.
It can be quite a shock going from endless amounts of smooth sailing to sudden choppy waters and squalls that set us off-course.
Out of necessity, I've learned to use my time more wisely. If there is something I MUST do during the day, then that is the thing that gets my attention first when I get a pocket of time. I want to shower today? I do it as soon as Noah is asleep for his nap (no checking emails beforehand!). That way, I've ensured it to happen. This is just a small example of knowing what my priorities are and then setting my sights on them through the day. It takes deliberate thought, planning, and flexibility to know what I want to accomplish today and how it might best happen. Doing this has reduced a lot of frustration and resentment on my end. Kids come with chaos and mess. They don't tantrum on a schedule. They don't have a plan to get sick. They don't pencil in insomnia. And they certainly won't check with YOU on any of it beforehand.
When you accept the unpredictability the life of motherhood brings, you free yourself to just live in the moment. You decide to let the day bring you along for the ride. You allow yourself to enjoy your time with your kids and not be preoccupied with a long to-do list in the back of your mind. You allow yourself to see the beautiful moments in every day life and participate in them. What a joy! You start to enjoy the opportunities in the so-called interruptions, road blocks and obstacles…those are the moments that make up the marrow of our lives. These are the moments we need to find the fun and silliness. I now try to wipe the spills (and poo!) with a smile and a tickle, get out of bed with a grateful grin for another beautiful day, get in and out of my breakfast chair 50 times during one meal because I'm lucky enough to have little mouths to feed…so I do a little dance across the kitchen…you get the picture. Maybe things didn't happen as I'd PLANNED, but they happened as they should in the way God intended and what matters is how I handled them. Did I handle challenges with grace, patience and clarity? (sometimes!) Did I breathe in with love? (yes!) Did I keep my temper in check? (maybe not today, but tomorrow is another day!) At the end of the day I want to be proud of myself and feel the catharsis of a job well done. Accepting the somewhat anxious unpredictability of it all has been the first step.
What are some things you plan for but often have to put aside while you tend to the kids and then you feel grumpy because your plans were thwarted again?
Some of mine are:
1. A hot meal
2. A shower
3. Going back to bed, or taking a nap
4. Going to bed early
5. Sleeping in (see? lots of them involve sleep)
6. Browsing the shops in a leisurely manner
7. Eating out at a restaurant in a slow fashion
8. That one magazine article (or book chapter) I've been trying to read.
9. Crafty projects that take way longer to complete than ever before
What are some wonderful or rewarding things you traded those aforementioned planned things for? Here are some of mine:
1. The chance to help my daughter learn a new skill
2. To watch my daughter or son smile when they learn aforementioned skill
3. To do a task out of love for my child/ express my love through action
4. I get to hear my daughter tell me something funny or important to her
5. I get a chance to share a laugh with those I love most.
6. I prove to my kids that they mean everything to me while they remind me that they DO mean everything to me.
7. I get to share the sunrise and yummy breakfast with happy little voices
8. I get to soothe the tears away from chubby little cheeks and be the voice of comfort and peace.