Do You Need a Mummy Reset Day?

27 March 2017

Do you ever stop and wonder when was the last time you just sat and cuddled with your kids? When was the last time you gave them a really good tickle – you know, the kind that makes their little bodies hunch over in spasms of laughter?
I have moments when I feel like life has just turned into one event after another. The days start to look like this: meal time, get in the car, activity, meal time, back in the car, nap time, meal time, get in the car, activity, etc.

Instead of cultivating my relationship with my kids, my engagement with them becomes all about the hustle.

“Okay, go to the toilet. Get your shoes on. What’s that in your mouth? Come on – we’re late!”

Now, we all have busy days, but when they start to accumulate, one after the other, relationships suffer.

When I start to feel constantly frazzled by my kids, instead of delighted by them, I know it’s time for a “Mummy Reset Day”.

Read the rest of my post on the MOPS blog: http://mops.org.au/archives/7349

Ecclesiastes for Mums

The book of Ecclesiastes is so rich with meaning for this season of motherhood. Often my work can feel “meaningless” – doing the same things over and over only so they can be undone and then redone the next day.

The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.

Ecclesiastes 1:5-8

To be honest, motherhood is kind of kicking my butt at the moment. I won’t go into the details, but this is the hardest it’s ever been for me as a Mum and as a Christian.

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I’ve had a go at writing a poem about the different “times” of motherhood, inspired by Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to give birth and a time to lay our lost babies to rest,
a time to plant your vegetable seeds and a time for the toddler go and dig them all up again,
a time to kill the baddies in their imaginary forts and a time to heal the booboos with a kiss when the game gets too rough,
a time to tear down your sister’s duplo tower (because that noise she makes is sooo funny) and a time to build it up again when your brother is occupied elsewhere,
a time to weep because the toddler spilt flour all over the kitchen floor you just swept, and a time to laugh because his look of flour-dusted shock is just priceless,
a time to mourn because your husband just texted to say he’ll be home late and you really need a hug and another adult in the house, and a time to dance for joy because you just heard his bike come down the driveway and the gate close,
a time to let the toys be scattered joyfully throughout the house and a time to gather them back to their boxes in the quiet of evening, while little eyes are peacefully closed,
a time to give just one more cuddle and a time to say “no more, go to sleep”,
a time to search for that beloved bedtime toy, Sharkie, and a time to give up because “Sharkie must be on holidays”,
a time to keep that favourite, annoying toy with a million parts and a time to throw it away secretly and hope they don’t notice,
a time to wear holes in those little baby pants, from little legs learning to crawl and a time to mend the holes so you don’t have to buy new pants when the season is almost over,
a time to be silent because Mummy is settling the baby and a time to “tell me all about your day!”,
a time to love being a Mum and a time to hate how tired it makes me,
a time to make war against the sin in my heart and a time to be at peace with the fact I’ll never be perfect this side of heaven.

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Look Where You Want to Go

Last year I completed a defensive driving course. It was a combination of practical skills (emergency braking, safely getting the car out of a skid, etc.) and theoretical knowledge. At one point in the course, our instructor showed us a photo of a stretch of road, with a tree beside it where someone had crashed their car and died.

“What do you notice about this tree?” he asked us.

“I’ll tell you. It’s the only tree around on this whole stretch of road. And yet, when the car lost control, it managed to crash straight into that one tree. That’s because he was looking right at it.”

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He went on to explain an important principle of safe driving: “When you’re behind the wheel, you need to look where you want to go. Especially if you lose control of the vehicle, keep your eyes in the direction you want to go, and your steering will follow.”

And today I thought of this principle again, because I reckon there’s a bit of life-wisdom there too.

A Bad Day

This morning was shaping up to be “one of those days”.

It started with the kids getting up and thinking it was morning time at 5 am.

And by midday, I was making a mental tally of everything that had gone wrong or that was making my life that little bit more difficult.

  • My son was too sick to go to childcare.
  • My neck and shoulders were sore.
  • I was tired from not sleeping well.
  • My husband and I snapped at each other.
  • The baby decided to scream the whole way through the grocery shop, strapped to my chest.
  • When I found a place to sit down and feed him in Aldi, he screamed some more and then threw up on me.
  • The baby continued screaming even after I fed him, and then fell asleep as soon as I put him in the car.

Great, I thought to myself, what a day this is shaping up to be!

I had my mental notebook and pen poised, ready to record all the bad things that were sure to keep happening the rest of the day.

Then a thought occurred.

What would happen if I spent the rest of the day actively looking for and noting down all the things that went wrong?

Would my day miraculously turn around, giving me nothing to be upset about? Or would I continue to have a “hard day”, finding many more things to add to my list?

I’m betting it’s the second one.

Look Where You Want to Go

That’s when I thought of the driving principle: Look where you want to go.

I’m looking at the tree! I realised. And if I always look at the tree, I am going to hit it every time! I need to look at the road…

I decided that where I actually wanted to go was not “a really hard day”. But I actually wanted to have a good day.

So, I went back over my list of struggles complaints, and rewrote it in my mind:

  • My son was sick, but that meant extra time I got to spend with him, nurturing and loving him (he gets extra cuddly when he’s not feeling well).
  • My neck and shoulders were sore because I’ve been spending lots of time cuddling my precious baby.
  • I didn’t sleep well, but it is only one night in the grand scheme of things – the sun will set again tonight, and I’ll have another chance.
  • My husband and I might snap at each other sometimes – we’re not perfect – but today we celebrate 7  wonderful years of a marriage that seems to keep getting better.
  • I may have felt anxious and self-conscious about my baby crying all through Aldi, but people were actually really kind to me! A lady who was also doing her shopping held the baby for me while I got organised with the carrier (then there was the hilarious moment my son told her to “give it (the baby) back!”) and then the checkout operator packed my shopping bags for me! And no one made a single comment about the crying.
  • I actually found a place to sit down and feed him in the middle of Aldi. It might have been on a pallet in the middle of the floor, but hey – it was a place!

Suddenly, my day wasn’t looking so bad. It was actually quite good.

And suddenly I am looking for things to add to my list of “thanks”, rather than my list of grievances.

My eyes are focussed on the road ahead, not on all the trees I might crash into.

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Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

It strikes me how this is also like the Christian journey.

Sometimes it is easy to get so bogged down in our trials, in our struggles with the persistent sin in our own hearts, in all the potential pitfalls we might encounter.

But what if that is just what Satan wants us to do? What if he wants to keep us looking at everything that’s going wrong, and all the ways we have failed so that we never move forward? What if he wants to keep us distracted by all the trees that we might hit, so that we forget to look ahead to the road we are travelling?

In Hebrews 12, Paul writes:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

By fixing our eyes on Jesus – considering all He went through and where he ended up – we also can “run with perseverance”. How did Jesus endure? “For the joy set before him” – he kept his eyes on the good to come, and the good things he would achieve by his work on the cross.

We don’t need to get entangled by all our sin or keep carrying things that hinder us. We can progress in our Christian journey, not perfectly on earth, but moving onwards unto heaven when we will be made perfect.

Because, did you catch this – Jesus is not only a good example for us to copy. He is also the “pioneer and perfecter of faith”. He is the reason we can have faith and he is the one who will bring us to perfection at the end of this road.

But we need to keep our eyes fixed on him.

Look where you want to go.

 

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My Village

Our newest little one is now about 10 weeks old, and I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on life since he arrived.

I still feel absolutely run ragged most days, but I feel like we have hit our new normal. Life is moving at a fast pace, but at least it is becoming consistent and somewhat predictable (I know, that probably jinxes it).

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and honestly, I don’t know how I would have survived this last 10 weeks without my own village of caring people.

I wanted to be really intentional about resting properly in the postnatal period this time (after probably pushing it last time), and I really feel like it has paid off.

I had people here helping out a lot for the first 6-7 weeks – my husband for 4 weeks (off work), then my Mum and Dad, then my Sister and Brother-in-law.

My husband was amazing – looking after the older two kids and running the household the whole time. I pretty much got to just look after the baby and sleep, doing other bits and pieces as I could manage.

In fact, I don’t think I washed a single dish for one and a half months! That was almost as good as a holiday! 😉

Many people from church made us meals in those early weeks.

I’ve also had to learn to ask for help from friends, which is really hard for me.

But after many repetitions of my husband saying, “Call someone to come and help you!” and my friends saying “Call us if you need help!”, I guess it is sinking in.

One day, my second child was sick and I had to pick up my eldest from preschool in the middle of the day. So I called a friend to ask if she could pick her up for me, which she was happy to, and then when she brought my daughter home she also gave me a meal she had in her freezer – I was so blown away by her kindness!

The other week, I called my friend over to come and watch the kids while I washed my hair. And yeah, I did feel a little ridiculous asking her to do that, but well, it was almost two weeks since the last washing, so I was getting desperate! She totally understood, of course, being a mother of older kids herself.

One time, my husband had to work on the weekend and as the end of the day approached, he told me he had to scrap everything he’d done that day and start again. So it was clear that instead of being home within the hour (like I’d been expecting), he was actually not going to be home any time soon. At that point, I felt like locking myself in a small space and assuming the foetal position. Or calling my husband back and applying some combination of sobbing/begging/pleading him to come home. But I didn’t. I contacted two of my closest friends to have a quiet vent about it and ask them to pray for me. Then one of my (non-local) friends contacted another (local) friend, who then showed up on my doorstep unannounced with a meal to heat up for dinner, her daughter to entertain my kids for an hour, and willing hands ready to do the dishes and tidy up my house. Yep, my friends are kind of amazing!

These are just some examples, but there have been many more instances of practical help people have given me and our family.

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They’re kind of cute when they’re not killing each other…

And it’s not just practical help. There’s also been much good advice given to me. I kind of feel like I’ve got the baby thing down pat now. I don’t mean it’s easy. But I’ve got my systems and I know what to do.

But the three kids thing? I have no idea what I’m doing…

The other day I read this article: Motherhood 101:The Class We Never Got.

It’s really long, but I highly recommend reading it. Anyway, Jess Connell talks about the importance of seeking out advice from other mothers who have demonstrated success in the areas we lack in motherhood. She lays out how you do this – identify your most pressing need at this time, find someone who does it well, ask them for their advice, listen and apply what they suggest, then evaluate how it worked for you.

Well, I did this the other week. I was finding it a real challenge breastfeeding the baby with the older two around. They were either climbing all over me and the baby or fighting with each other each time, then I would get stressed, then the baby wouldn’t feed as well.

So I asked a Mum from my MOPS group how she managed it. She suggested I go to the Kmart craft section and get a bunch of stuff for the older kids to play with just when I’m feeding the baby. Well, I did that and have been applying that method for almost a week now, and most of the time it works really well! Not perfectly, but it’s way better than it was. I’m so glad I asked!

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Sometimes I feel guilty about asking for help so much (or maybe just prideful?), but it helps me to remember there are different seasons in life. I am just in a season where I happen to need to receive more help, and one day I will be in a season where I can give more help to someone else.

In a way, I feel like all these people who surround me with love and practical support are training me to be a good friend. I’ve been helped and supported in ways I never would have thought of on my own.

So, if there’s anything I could say to my fellow Mums, it’s this:

Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Don’t let fear of getting in the way stop you from giving help.

Receive help. Receive advice.

Give help. Give advice.

Embrace the village – we need each other.

What Makes a Good Mothering Community?

Here’s an article I had published on Growing Faith recently.

What makes a good mothering community?

Finding a supportive community to join you in your parenting journey.

 

Have you ever considered why it’s so common for stay-at-home Mums to talk about feeling isolated or lonely? How often do we go back to work because “I just needed some adult conversation”?

We diagnose the problem as a woman losing herself in the midst of early parenthood. And the solution presents itself as finding something – whether work or hobby – to reclaim her identity and remind her that she is someone apart from “Mum”.

However, I’m convinced our problem is often not a lack of personal identity, but a lack of community identity.

Read the rest at https://growingfaith.com.au/parenting/what-makes-a-good-mothering-community

The Good Kind of Rest

I keep sitting down to write a blog post here lately, and feel like I’m just stalling my brain’s engine. I have ideas! Lots of ideas! I just can’t seem to get past that stage.

In the meantime, I have still been managing to get “proper” writing done.

If you’re interested, pop on over and read the my latest post on the MOPS blog:

 

The Good Kind of Rest

07 March 2016

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Do you ever get to the end of the week and feel like you never really stopped to have a break? Perhaps you look around your house, which seems to be in a constant state of chaos, and wonder why it doesn’t reflect your non-stop efforts? You certainly feel like you’re working all day, so what have you got to show for it?

Well, there are many reasons this may resonate with you, but one possibility is that you have made a habit of unproductive rest. When I talk about unproductive rest I don’t mean rest should produce something tangible. Productive rest is rest that produces peace and energizes the soul.

Read the rest here: http://mops.org.au/archives/5846