A rant and a pep talk

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!

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15 Responses to A rant and a pep talk

  1. Mrs. Organic says:

    For me it is doing one thing for me every day. Every single day. Do something that keeps your soul nourished-read, meditate, dance, sew, run, yoga, listen to beautiful music, an occasional piece of high quality dark chocolate and some almond butter… They don’t have to be big things, those little things add up.

    And they keep you going.

    I’m glad you were able to travel with Dean and have a good time. Re-entry is always tricky.

    • zstitches says:

      That’s a good one.

      Re-entry is tricky even when you’re expecting it to be tricky. It’s such a strange combination of emotions to miss my kids like crazy and also feel ready to give up the motherhood gig.

  2. Hannah says:

    Ask for help. After the twins were born and my mom left, I had a babysitter come over a few times a week to play with my boys and do some light cleaning. At first I felt bad that the boys had more fun with the babysitter than me. But then I remembered that she only had two jobs and a few hours with them. My boys were having active playtime while I got a little rest AND that is something to feel good about.

    • zstitches says:

      That’s another great suggestion. The other day my mom was saying how her dad’s mother, on the farm in Midway, Utah, *always* had neighborhood girls who came in and helped.

  3. Lili says:

    When I’m where you are in life, I’m coming to you for reassurance and advice!

  4. Jason says:

    It would be presumptuous in the extreme for me to give you any advice, Zina. (My first impulse is of course to follow up with some corny advice.) You’re a pro; the spirit of your home must be wonderful. Thanks for being a great example.

  5. Trina says:

    No advice, really. This just sounds a lot like the self-talk I’ve been doing lately, especially the part about doing and not worrying so much about finishing. Probably not much help, but know that you have my sympathy, if not my wisdom.

  6. Lili says:

    By the way, I really like that photo of you and Dean. It’s very sweet.

  7. Erin says:

    When things are super crazy around here I try to imagine my life as a sitcom and imagine that someday I will look back and laugh at the craziness of my life. But usually what works best is each child in a separate room for several minutes while I regroup. There are a million things left undone around the house and I just have to be okay with it.

  8. Jen says:

    Here are some of my battery rechargers and blues busters:

    Vitamin B, on top of my religiously taken pre-natal vitamin. I know I am lucky that my blues are generally fleeting, but sometimes it’s embarrassing what that stupid little yellow-orange pill does for my disposition.

    Exercise, which, if nothing else, gets me out of the house. I like classes at a gym better than videos or anything alone. I also like walking with the whole family, although it doesn’t seem to reset my problems as well as a sweaty gym workout. I have also enjoyed yoga in the past, because ameliorates my neck/shoulder headache problems, but I know it’s not for everyone.

    Good books. They are annoying, though, because the escape is brief, and it is frequently interrupted, and when the book is over it has its own sadness. Also, a problem is that they keep me up later at night if I need to finish them, and when I am tired I am grumpy, which also leads to depression.

    I also liked Fly Lady’s idea of five minute projects. Just clean that one shelf, or work on X for five (or ten or 15 minutes) because then you have completed something. Even if it is just completing the five or ten minute allotment of that job. I can’t always finish the whole kitchen, but I can spend five minutes with the bread box corner. I need to remember these mental games again, so I am glad of this post. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jason says:

      A very thoughtful and intelligent response Jen.

    • zstitches says:

      How funny–just yesterday I remembered that Fly Lady idea of setting a timer and was thinking that breaking tasks into tiny increments would help me. I like your other ideas, too. Thanks! I think I’ll be referring back to this post often.

  9. Virginia Wood says:

    Set small goals that are realistic and easily achieved. Try for just one week to accomplish ONE thing each day that will not be UNDONE the same day or the next day. It might be one square of a quilt, one clean window, one clean wall (well in your household that might not be something that won’t be undone right away), one clean drawer, etc. Then move on to two weeks, three weeks, and so on.

    Make it a rule that kids can’t watch TV unless they have something in their hands that needs sorting, folding, straightening, mending, or something like unto that. Make it a rule for yourself–clean the utensil drawer, fold the laundry, iron, or otherwise keep your hands busy. I keep my iron near my TV and if I spend an hour or two watching a movie or watching TV, I get my ironing done.

    Strangely, I got more quilting and handwork done when my kids were young and all still in the house. I think I used it to stay sane. Now I have more me time, I seem to fritter it away without accomplishing much.

    Mostly, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are doing a great job! Your kids will grow up to think you were the greatest Mom on earth!

    Aunt Ginger

    • zstitches says:

      I’m a little afraid I’ll be very good at the frittering thing when I have more free time. I know in Montreal I was very good at doing nothing. But I do look forward to a less busy schedule.

      Thanks for the kind words and good suggestions. I often have handwork while I watch TV but hadn’t thought to give tasks to my kids.

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