Thursday, April 28, 2016

How to Survive the Seasons of Motherhood: Redefining Your Normal

When my firstborn was about 6 weeks old, I sat at my kitchen table and sobbed.  I was on the phone with a friend who had two older kids.  She had just told me I wouldn't ever sleep again.  I was ToTheBoneTired, and maybe without thinking I had asked "but how much longer before I get some sleep?".  I was really glad she was so honest with me though because it helped me realize something.

I had to stop trying to reclaim my past life and instead I needed to redefine my normal. 

I thought I had hit my groove a few years ago. With each child I had adapted and been able to keep up well enough.  I was mothering three little-ish ones, was able to make dinner most nights, founded/ran a pretty decent mothers group at our parish (read more here). I was in a neighborhood bunko group, had a cool book club, went to MOPS, and managed to work in a date night as frequently as we could find a babysitter. I didn't know it at the time, but I had it really good. I was able to duck away about one night a week for 'me time', get to the gym regularly during the day for a little break and shower, and even have a regular lunch with friends (and our kids) on occasion. 

I mistakenly assumed that this was what motherhood was going to be like forever.  The advent of our little Anna changed everything, but honestly it would have changed even if I hadn't had her.  I had just turned over leadership of my mom's ministry and helped create a new ministry for women at our parish. My new baby showed me I really could only have 'one baby' so I backed out leadership there too.  My bunco group conflicted with the boys sports, my book club just wasn't worth all the hassle.  Lunches out became too much of a struggle with a gaggle of kiddos and the expense of feeding two growing boys made it extravagant even when they were well behaved. 

The Awesome Nellie from WhoaNellie Photography took this photo. 
So I have to redefine normal again. Normal is no longer taking care of the family and filling the spare time with stuff that I love doing.  It is no longer taking a shower every day or grabbing lunch with a friend.  

It is school projects and soccer/dance/gymnastics/piano, homework and groceries. And laundry laundry laundry. I have become a TwoCart Costco shopper and nothing that is easy before seems easy anymore.  

It is as if my 24 hour day has been slowly shorted.  Just a few minutes each day.  Like my LifeClock is fast and I always think I have more time, but each day I have just a little less.

So I sleep less, I wash my hair less, I shop less (unless it is for food or done online), I make more lists, I exercise when I can (usually with children or dog in tow), and it takes me forever to finish a book. I find ways to volunteer that are short-term, low risk, and low stress, and most importantly done as a team with people I love. I write when I can and try not to stress about the weeks that have gone by since my last blog post. 

The Awesome Nellie from WhoaNellie Photography took this photo. 

My challenge at this stage is recognize that this too is a stage, and find the beauty in the chaos. My time of having one child in Jr.High, one in Preschool, and two in between will be short.  Even though we aren't able to have more kids (more about that here), I recognize that I will need to stay open and maybe even embrace the changes that come with family life. Six years from now (God willing) I will only have 3 kids to tuck in at night.  It is a scary thought but at the same time comforting, because I know that there is no way I can maintain this pace for more than a few years. But I don't have too, because it is just a season. 

Whatever your season in Motherhood, embrace it sister. Don't stress about it. Realize it is the normal for this time, today and tomorrow, but your normal will evolve into something new.  Embrace the challenge and know that you will grow into the newness. The newness brings opportunity to grow, to grow in Faith, to grow in virtue, ultimately to grow in Motherhood. 

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