Dean’s and my trip to Montreal was pleasant and uneventful. (Things were a little more exciting with the kids here at home, but that’s another story. Thank you, grandparents, for taking such good care of them!) Dean and I can be the type to try to see and do as much as we can, but I was determined to let myself take it easy this time, and I quite succeeded. And when he wasn’t at his conference, we were still able to see some nice sights, eat some good food, and enjoy each others’ company.
Coming back to real life has been HARD. Mother’s Day was a nice buffer, and I also think I sometimes resist admitting how hard it is, maybe because I’m afraid that admitting it will make things seem all the more daunting. How can life be hard when my kids are so sweet, and this spring is so beautiful? But with a teenager and a toddler and a tween and a preschooler and a first-grader, I’m definitely in the thick of things. And I live where I work, surrounded by all my unfinished tasks, so it’s very hard for me to transition from work to relaxation and back again. Also, since my last quite-a-few years have been a cycle of illness/treatment/pregnancy/nursing/illness etc., now as I’m at least for the moment neither pregnant nor (as far as I know) in any flare-up of health problems, I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle trying to catch up 10 years’ worth of tasks. (At least that’s only a tenth of Van Winkle’s lost time, but then again I don’t think he had to catch up on laundry and ironing when he woke up.) (It makes me a little sad that I have to add “as far as I know” when I say my health is good. Being sick so often has taught me not to trust my body. Also, it seems like whenever I go for a check-up I find out there actually is something wrong.)
But! I didn’t actually set out to complain–I came here to give myself coping advice. That complaining paragraph was just to give an idea of how badly I need reassuring. I need reminding of ways to re-frame how I think about things, to help myself be patient with this demanding stage of life, and to tone down my worrying, anxious, personality, and enjoy life in the midst of the mess and chaos.
So, here’s all the advice I can come up with:
It’s okay for it to be hard. It’s meant to be hard. Hard is good. Hard lets me grow and makes life worth living.
It’s not a race. Nobody’s standing next to me with a stopwatch.
Some of the things I never get around to will just go away if they’re left long enough, which means that they would be nice to do but are not essential to life or happiness.
Don’t focus on the things I’m not currently mastering; focus on what I AM doing well–things which might be taking energy from mastering other things. Everything that really needs doing will get its turn, but I don’t have to do it all at once.
I’ll be happier if I focus on just working on things, rather than on finishing things, because I can control whether I work on something (usually), but I can’t control how long it will take to complete something.
Every little bit counts; every little tiny task I accomplish will make me stronger and be a gift to my family.
Allow myself to be happy, to enjoy myself and enjoy my kids, even while I’m currently failing at one thing or another. I don’t have to be a completed project to be a happy person.
Make the work pleasant and make it count. Use time in the car with the kids to talk with them about things that matter, use time working with them to show them love and to teach them, use time while I’m working alone to think and ponder and improve my skills. Instead of focusing on getting things done so I can be happy later, let myself enjoy (or at least take satisfaction in) what I’m doing, while I’m doing it.
Plan to have relaxing down time and do things to feed my mind and spirit every day, so I always have something to look forward to.
If there’s more that needs doing than I can wrap my mind around, just don’t think about all of it. Give myself the gift of healthy denial (as long as I’m not letting truly important things slide away).
What’s truly important? Loving and serving God and His children.
Do you have any other good advice for busy moms (or busy anyone) to stay sane and happy? Any specific strategies that help you keep going and keep your chin up? Do please share!