Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

How Being Intentionally Involved Moms Invites Joy Into our Lives

Finding joy as a mother has been a long journey for me.  Yes, there was the instant joy and love during the bonding phase with each of my children as newborns.  After that, however, I really struggled with the realities of life as a mother…

Mainly, the lack of sleep.  Lots of anxiety.  The postpartum depression.  The moving (we lived in 5 different homes since my now-preK aged son was born).  Probably a lot of hormonal stuff after the first that I didn’t catch onto, but definitely after my second child to a degree we couldn’t ignore anymore.

I was surviving, fueled by love and God’s mercies, but I was hanging on by a thread.  I am honestly amazed my marriage survived the past 4 years, because it was so tough on not only me but also my husband.  Looking back, I see there were the many, many heartwarming, good times.  But the overall feeling of the last 4 years for me has often been sheer exhaustion.  I say this a little hesitantly because I don’t want people considering having kids to have fear, or to avoid it because of the possibility of struggles.  I do, however, think it’s important for those who are willing to share to be open about that sort of thing, because awareness is key to navigating issues.  I would not have realized what postpartum depression looked like (and how it can look so different for so many people) if women did not publicly share their stories, and it could have turned out much more seriously than it did, because I finally realized what was going on when my youngest was over a year old through random articles about PPD online.

I really had to fight through daily and weekly struggles, mainly my health struggles (mental/emotional, chronic fatigue, hormone/cycle related PMDD) and then my son’s sensory-processing issues (now my daughter as well), which made for intense times almost nonstop throughout the day.  One of the light spots I remember during the darkest parts of this time was that I took a ton of photos and videos of the cutest moments whenever I was able that, later on at the end of each week, I’d review late at night after the kids finally went to bed, that made me smile.

(I am so thankful for how our neurochemistry works.  That activity may be one of the key positive habits helping me make it through the darker periods of postpartum. If you like neurochemistry/psychology type stuff, check out http://www.pnas.org/content/114/9/2361.abstract .  Basically, the amygdala, or the part of the brain responsible for social behavior, motivation and emotions, of mothers produces dopamine, which creates pleasure or rewarding sensations, when they view images of their children.  Although they wore me out, my kids existence also motivated me to keep going.)

All that to say, my youngest is almost 4 now, and it’s only really been in the past year that life has been on the sunny side most of the time.  My husband and I have grown in so many ways and changed how we do things, finding healthier ways to cope with stress.  We’ve in general altered our lifestyle, especially food-wise, to promote our familial well-being.

So, to get to the main theme I was aiming at when I began typing…Finding joy in motherhood has been a long journey for me.  On the days when I did not, or occasionally still, do not have the natural energetic enthusiasm to actively engage positively with my kids, sometimes choosing to do so regardless of how I feel is the best thing to create an environment of contentment and delight.  Not just for them, either.  Intentionally involving myself in my busy little people’s worlds can be difficult when my mind is preoccupied by you-name-it…But it’s the BEST way to spark joy.  Because I was MADE for this.

(Let me clarify:  I have a ton of potential I could invest anywhere I want.  Got the degrees, got a lot of interests, talents and dreams.  I am not limited to my home.  [Hello, women’s rights movement?  All things are permissible for me…But I don’t personally find them all beneficial.]  Yet right now, I am mainly focused at home.  This is the work I want to do, building my kids’ safe haven and our family’s HQ.  I am choosing my family to invest into during this season of my life, when the foundations of my kids’ lives are being laid.  And I find I am most fulfilled and healthy when I am whole-heartedly committed to my calling.  I’ve known what I want to do since I was little, pretending to be a wife and mommy as early as I can remember, putting on my mom’s high heels, and directing the neighborhood kids in activities.  [Some may call me bossy…I like to say I just have the skills of an administrator.])

Joy shows up when I am an active, caring participant in the lives of my family members.  You know what I despise?  Frigid temperatures.  A cold nose and fingers and toes.  (Also, being hot makes me feel grumpy, but that’s a bunny trail…).  Know what else stresses me out like mad?  The fact that getting winter gear on my daughter is a long battle filled with howling in pain (at least, her senses are telling her that she’s in pain) over “bumpy stuff” in her gloves, endless pairs of socks and boots. (We turn the socks inside out and have some other coping strategies, but I’m so emotionally exhausted after each session).

But you know what my son in particular loves?  Playing in the snow.  So I had to ask, what was more important?  Me feeling comfortable, inside and warm folding laundry?  Lack of stress interacting with my daughter (who, generally speaking, is the more cuddly, happy child)?  Or my son’s heart?  Him feeling valued, too, even though his temperament is often intense, needing lots of direction and correction to keep him calm rather than reacting with eruptions of anger or other meltdowns.

So I had a choice.  I could base my success as a homemaker on my productivity–getting the laundry done (finally off the couch!).  Or I could find meaning in my calling, using my gifts of creativity and sensitivity to care for and encourage those in my life as I am strengthened by the unconditional love of my Creator. 

It’s not easy to choose what doesn’t always feel easy.  I’m thankful for snowboarding pants to keep me from turning into a popsicle, and a seriously poofy winter coat and sturdy boots to hold me over for a good 45 minutes of outdoor winter playtime.  I steeled my jaw to face the cold, hopped into the car with a couple of ladles, and we went on a mission for fun.

“Mom!  What are you doing with the soup thingies?” My three year old asked me.  I chuckled mischievously and said mysteriously, “You’ll see, babe…Wait and see.”  And in a few minutes, my kids’ eyes sparkled.  You see, intentional moms are magical creatures in the eyes of their children.  You know what really makes us magical, though?  Seeing that sparkle in their eyes and knowing we put it there.

Turns out ladles make some pretty spectacular snowball-scoopers and are just right for carving out snow-caves in snow mounds the plows made out of a parking lot of a mere 1.5″ snowfall.

#winningatmomlife #choosingjoy

 

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

When Life’s Far from Perfect and Irritations Arise

Although the unpredictable and intense postpartum mood swings have settled down for me, with lack of sleep and…well, being human…I really struggle with irritability as a mom.  When the kiddos are up, Mom has to be awake and functioning, too.  Even when my head feels like a block of concrete that wants to stay cemented to my pillow.  The Murphy’s Law of motherhood–if it can go wrong, it probably will, at the worst time–seems to catch me by surprise a lot. It’s difficult to stay calm and in control. Actually, that’s part of my problem: trying to stay in control. I just can’t make everything go exactly according to plan. As moms we often envision the ideal course of events and then beat ourselves up when things don’t go that way, whether or not we really could have done anything “better.”  We can’t control others, not even our kids.  (We can only do our best to guide them).  We can’t control our circumstances, either. Yet we say to ourselves, If only I’d done such-and-such-differently, it would have gone well.  Why couldn’t I have done it better?  If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we mean “perfectly,”  not just better.  There’s definitely the time to analyze what worked and didn’t, and learn from life.  But there’s also the time for saying, I may not have done everything right but I did SOMETHING right; I made some progress!  Because perfection isn’t something humans can attain, but progress is. My husband has been the less-emotional voice of reason encouraging me in this learning process.  The other day he even said something that seemed crazy to my type-A, achievement-oriented mind, when I was feeling frustrated with the fact that it had been several days and there was still an unfolded pile of laundry (even though each day I sat down and started folding it!  Somebody needed a diaper change; somebody else needed discipline; people needed food; we needed to leave for an appointment, etc. etc.) He said, “Maybe folded laundry should be a weekly goal instead of trying to get it done all at once then feeling bad when it’s not done in a day…or two…or…”  Ok, ok, I get your point. As an aside, just now I started to feel guilty that I was typing during a quiet moment as the baby naps because I wasn’t folding the laundry but writing instead.  I’m just a poor steward of my time, I told myself.  That’s why you never get stuff done around the house.  But that’s not the true.  A creative outlet is my way of staying (more) sane and energized.  It’s my free therapy.  So I’m saving money! haha 😉  I firmly believe that while sometimes we need to be critical of the real flaws in our lives and make changes, other times we’re being discouraged by lies about ourselves.  Truth gives us a way to be free from hindrances rather than shaming and condemning us. So today, I started to think how I was really not handling our morning well. Part of that is true.  I could feel myself getting angry and wanting to act in anger.  But otherwise, I actually did some things right.  Here’s how it played out: Breakfast over, I moved us into the playroom, coffee in hand, and sat on my favorite rocker.  A few glides forward and back, and I heard a creak-crack.  UGH!  This stupid rocker!  We shouldn’t have paid so much for it–even if we used gift cards to pay for it! I’m the one that fought to get this particular one because it reclined, too. Crummy design! I JUST fixed the other side a few weeks ago! Can’t anything be simple?! So I got out the glue and the clamps, which I’d never put away from last time fixing the rocker, and got to work.  Of course it was super interesting to littles and they both came trotting over, getting in my way.  Sissy was climbing over me, trying to play in the glue drops, which I was fuming about already.  Stupid of me not to put a drop cloth down…again.  Didn’t learn from last time, did I?! I even remember telling myself this is an evening or nap time project, when the kids aren’t around.  Too late now.  Glue’s everywhere. My voice raised a bit, I barked out, “Nobody touch the rocker!  You could get hurt by the clamps or break it worse!” Babies don’t really listen to reason, so it was silly to expect it from Sissy.  She kept climbing over me.  Then big bro could no longer resist, and starting inching closer to the rocker on its side.  It kind of looked climb-able.  “Do you want time-out?!  Do NOT. touch. the rocker.”  Then he came over to me and started goofing off with Sissy.  I now had TWO little people climbing over me.  Frustrated with the dripping glue, the cheap quality of the rocker (I mean, card-board-like particle-board pegs holding the slats of the glider together, not even real wood.  We paid enough; we should have gotten REAL wood pegs. Erg!!!), and then, lack of personal space.  GAH!  I felt the blood boiling. Last time had gone the same way.  And I blew up at them, I’m sorry to say.  I apologized, but that doesn’t erase their hurt feelings at the time.  This time, I really felt like blowing up, too.  But I knew that would be wrong.  Let your gentleness be evident to all, I recited.  God, I don’t want to be gentle.  They’re SO FRUSTRATING right now.  I took a deep breath and said, “Honey, mommy’s upset right now because the rocker’s broken and it’s hard to fix.  Please don’t touch me–or the rocker–right now.  I need to calm down.  I am going to fix this, and then we can play.” I identified the real issue–anger about the rocker–and let my son know how he could help, by giving me space.  He gave me some advice, too, “Yes.  Talm down, Mommy.  No upset!”  Hahaa.  I know, kid.  I know.  It’s just a chair.  It doesn’t really matter in the long run.  What does matter is that I didn’t blow up at my kids even though I felt like it.  I’m learning how to better be in control of my actions, the one thing I can control in life, when nerves are raw.  Progress.