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Monday, August 27, 2012

The stuff we don't talk about

Liz wrote and asked,

How do you refresh yourself when you get in to a parenting slump?   I am kind of in one now where I feel weary and beaten down a little and I don’t get a break.   I always wonder how other moms refresh themselves. 

Keeping it real, my knee jerk reaction to Liz's question is... You mean we can refresh ourselves?  Who would've thunk?  Sign me up!  I want me some of that!  Just tell me where they're selling it, 'cause I'm gonna buy bucket loads!  

I am the epitome of weary and beaten down these days. 
A break?   
What's that all about?  

Currently I am definitely feeling weary.
And tired.
Beaten down.
With no break in sight.

Which of course leads to...
Feeling cranky.  
And snarky.  
Overly sensitive.
Guilt ridden.
And generally not real fun to be around.  
I am totally aware that I wouldn't even want to be in the same house as me right now.  
But somebody has to do the important stuff like make the PB&Js and clean the pee off the seat so here I still am.  

Settling back into reality and our busy lives after our summer stint at Little Cabin in the Woods, is always a tough transition for me.  For various reasons, I'm not getting much sleep these days.  Jude spilled $16 worth of trail mix on the floor.  Sunny locked her keys in her car.  One of the dogs jumped up on the counter and ate lunch.  Patch started throwing up this morning... only after I thought he was trying to pull a fast one.  Papa is out of town on business.  The dust bunnies are taking over, not to mention the fingerprints.   Miscellaneous other children who shall remain nameless are about to drive me over the edge.  It has been no less than 251 degrees outside for months now, and my dishwasher hasn't worked in over 2 years!  
But as much as I'd love to blame it on something, I'm the only one to blame.  
Because I'm the only one who has the power to change my state of mind.  

You know I'm writing this stuff down more for myself as anything else, right? 

Long story short... I find myself tired, weary, and beaten down more often than I'd like to admit.  

I used to think that perfect mamas didn't feel this way.  And maybe I still do I mean.  We're not suppose to admit how hard it is and that being a mama has the better of us.  Mamas are suppose to be happy and loving all the time... right?  We're suppose to love our job and so totally satatisifed that we don't have a moment of regret or sorrow.  Right?
But I'm old enough to realize that perfect mamas doesn't exist, and we all find ourselves in a bad frame of mind occasionally.  
But here's my light bulb moment that I've known all along, but only come to recently appreciate---It's all about what I do with our reaction to being tired and weary that matters.  
After all, that's the stuff that I want to role model to my kids anyway.  I've been preaching to my children for years now.  We can't control our world, just our reaction to it.  
So why shouldn't I take my own advice?

Truth be told, I don't think there is a quick fix for mama burn out.  At least I've never found one.  A weekend away or a massage is great, but I find that the thing that contributed to my burn out, which is almost always me anyway, is still right there when I get back.  I think it's more a matter of how we mamas live our days and how we deal with those inherent stresses of being a mom.  But Liz, I'm a linear kind of gal that loves me some practical suggestions!  So rather than look for a quick fix that will likely lead me right back to where I started, it works better for me to have strategies in place all the time to help deal with the stresses of being a mama 24/7.  

So, Liz, I know this isn't quite what you meant.  Being a mom is tough work, and if there was a magic refresher pill, I'd be an addict by now.  But this really is what I try to do and take into consideration when I'm feeling "weary and beaten down a little and I don’t get a break." 

1)  Pray.  No matter how bad it gets, I know I'm not in this alone.  God, who loves me more than I can imagine and has my back, is always my confidant, biggest cheerleader, and best advice giver.  And He has already given me absolutely every single thing that I need to be the best mama, better than any other woman, to my children.  If I can put my faith in this, (and that's easier said than done) the rest is gravy.  

2)  Do what you love.  I love photography.   Photography has the power to whisk me away to another world.  When things are getting stressful, (and by stressful I mean that Boo is terrorizing the screeching younger children) I often pull out my camera simply because it makes me happy.  Even better if I can include my children in what makes me happy.  Sometimes we go on a "photo safari," or I use the occasion to take early (or late) birthday pics of one of the kiddos.  Perhaps you love reading, knitting, writing, painting, craft projects, or geo-cashing.  Do something you love when parenting is getting the best of you, and if you can get the children involved in it, then it's a win-win solution for all!

3)  It's ok to hide.  Sometimes I know when my mood is turning.  But sometimes it's Papa that's the first to notice my beaten-down demeanor.  Isn't it funny how often we moms don't even know how weary we're getting?  When Papa notices this, he might suggest that I go get a pedicure, take a little nap, enjoy a bath, or just go away somewhere alone.  No matter who notices it, 20-30 minutes alone with just my thoughts is an amazing refresher that can restore my perspective.  

4)  Change the scenery.  Go grocery shopping.  Run to the bank.  Drop off those hand-me-downs.   If you're anything like me, there's a list a mile long of errands that need to be run anyway.  And while you're at it, put on the comedy station in the minivan to release those endorphin and change your mindset.  A change of scenery can can kill two birds with one stone!  There was a particularity difficult season in my life many years ago, when I would plead to run all errands anytime of day, just so I could get away in the car and listen to comedy radio.   It didn't solve any problems, but during that season, it helped keep me sane.  

5)  Keep your marriage strong.  Keeping a marriage healthy is work.  In the 21 years Papa and I have been married it has definitely gone through different seasons with trials, smooth sailing, and everything in between.  But all the while we work on it.  We try to have "date night" at least once a week, even if it's just to the grocery store.  We have become big fans of Applebee's (only a few minutes from our house) 2 for $20 on a weeknight after the younger children have gone to bed.  A weekend away alone at least once per year is a priority.  We have rules for fighting fair.   And a strong marriage is pretty much a necessity for co-parenting.  

6)  Seek out your closest girlfriends.  I have 3 women in my life I trust completely.  They know my secrets.  We have similar ideals and values, although age doesn't seem to matter.  They know my faults and even my children's faults and still love all of us unconditionally.  I work at these 3 relationships much like I work at keeping my marriage healthy.  And when we get together, which we make sure happens regularly, we discuss the tough stuff as well as the celebrations.  I can call any one of them up any time with any issue and often do.  And they do the same with me.  A sounding board that loves you and has your back, does a world of wonders.

7)  Say your sorry, and keep your big "but" out of it.  No matter what, there are those moments when I mess up big time.  I yell.  I say the wrong thing.  I lose my temper.  And countless other sins.  You know the ones, the times you regret and can never take back.  My children deserve to hear sorry.  So I suck it up and apologize, and be sure to do it without a big "but."  None of "I'm sorry I yelled, but you know that you need to clean you room."  'Cause a real apology doesn't have a but in it.  

8)  Get some sleep.  One thing I know about myself is that if I'm not getting enough sleep, (which let's be honest, happens quite frequently with young children in the house!) I can be a bear.  So a power nap (30 minutes max, or I just can't seem to wake up afterwards) when Mimi is napping helps so so much.  I've long gotten over feeling guilty about sleeping midday.  I try to go to bed early when I didn't sleep well the night before.  A happy, well-rested mama is worth more than a load of folded laundry or clean dishes any day! 

9)  We've now come to the TMI portion of the blog... consider what time of the month it is.  I know there are a few days each month that find me particularity... what's the technical word for it... whackadoodle emotionally sensitive.  I know it's not this way for all women, but for me it definitely happens.  During these days, I try to keep my head down.  I try not to confront the big stuff.  If there are any issues that need to be addressed, I differ the discussion a few days.  There's nothing here that says to dismiss my feelings, but hormones can play a real role in a woman's state of mind so I might as well acknowledge and deal with it.  

So there you have it, Liz.

Does it always work?  Nope.
Do I always remember to do this?  Not even close.
Do I still get tired and weary?  Totally. 
Do I make mistakes?  Oh yea.  
Is it easy?  No way!
But do I try to do better?  Absolutely. 
Does it help to have a plan?  For sure!
Am I still learning from my mistakes?  Yep.
'Cause there really isn't a better alternative for my family and me.  
I've told myself this mantra countless times, Do the best you can do with what you have at the time.  And give the rest rest to God.  
'Cause in the end, that's all we really have anyway.


  1. LOVE and Oh SO TRUE!! Thank you for being SO REAL!! Praying for you sweet sister and all us "burnt out momma's!" Hugs!

  2. Girlfriend YOU can write! Love this and so very true, thank you!

    1. Thank you, Paige.
      (you're $20 will be in the mail shortly.)

  3. Beautifully written, very thoughtful. Here's to a happy week. Make it happen!

  4. Oh girl, I SO needed this post today. We had a terrible weekend with Harper & at the end of the day, guilt is what took over. My patience was tested & I caved. My reaction wasn't anything to be proud of.
    Thank you for sharing your honest & raw outlook on life. I sure needed it today & appreciate it much! It's nice to know I'm not alone....

    1. Anne--I'm right there with you! Thankfully Papa returned home from his business trip and I think I finally have caught up on my sleep. But the dust bunnies and fingerprints are still all over. And I still need to hide occasionally. We just do the best we can. I swear by that comedy station thing! It's like a drug!

  5. Nancy,
    I love it. Thank you for sharing. I need to get one of those lists and place it in visible places around the house.
    It is really only about me (us mommies) and my ability to change my mood/day. Does not happen much, but we have to keep trying, right?


  6. Teary Eyed Thanks so much! This was meant for me!

  7. Nancy,
    I really cannot find enough words to describe how I feel after reading this but a few come to mind..AMEN SiSSTA, amazing, wonderful, truthful are a few. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being so honest and open. Your blog and words are good for the soul. Love tons!!! Melissa.
    PS Now I have to go wake up a sleeping 4 1/2 year old to go to school. I hate this part because she always asks if it is a "home day" and she gets so disappointed when I say "no, it is a school day." Oh, well three more days until "home day."

  8. Nancy,
    I LOVE your blog and this post is so heartfelt and honest and beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing and keeping it real!


  9. Wonderful and perfect advice. I haven't had young kids at home for a VERY long time, but you hit the nail on the head.

  10. I wrote a post similar to this yesterday. For me, it's all in my perspective. If I take a nanosecond before I get grumpy and lose it, I can usually remember that the things stressing me out are seriously no big deal. I tend to focus on tasks and getting my to do list done. And at the end of the day, that doesn't matter if I've been overly harsh with my kids.

    Love your blog so, so much.

  11. Hi Nancy! I'm taking the photography class with you right now! I just had to say thank you for this post. It is amazing and exactly what I needed to hear.

  12. Nancy,

    Thank you so much for answering my question with such honesty, warmth and articulation. Reading everybody's comments makes me feel better. Perhaps it is normal to feel tired and worn out some days and I don't have to feel so guilty about it.

    Warmest Regards,


    1. Liz-While it was my pleasure to do so, it is very very humbling that anyone would actually care to listen to what I say. I am honored you'd ask, Liz!

  13. Thank you in a big way for this!!! Honesty and everyday wisdom! I'm beginning to feel human and even get to read blogs occasionally when I'm hiding for that 30 minute break. For the first 3-7 months home as a family of seven I was totally doubting if I would shower alone again. And no my husband wasn't the one in there with me))): there were little people everywhere. I was looking for errands lol... Thank you

  14. Wonderful honesty and advice. We all have hard days and hard periods in our lives. I especially find it helpful to do something that will LAST (such as your photography example) because so many things we do as moms are not visable and we just seem to do the same thing over (only to have them pile up again--ie dishes). I also find it helpful to do something I DON'T want to do when I'm in a funk--set the timer for 30 minutes and work on whatever is driving me nuts around the house (ie laundry, floors, making appts--whatever is on the procrastination list) because once I do it I feel ever so much better! Stay well dear friend!

    1. FABULOUS suggestion, Ann! When I'm really mad, I clean. Everyone knows to look out 'cause I'll likely make everyone else clean too! Thank you for the suggestion!

  15. I really like #7. thanks for this. And sorry I suck at commenting these days. I haven't forgotten about you. I still love reading. :)


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