The past year has been a hard season for many moms I know, myself included. The global pandemic has added stress to our already full plates and caused most of us to have to deal with worries we never dreamed we’d be dealing with. Illness, financial burdens, juggling childcare/virtual schooling/work. It can feel more than we can handle at times, pouring from an empty cup.
A Peek Through OUr window
Look back with me at a recent Friday afternoon. I had spent the morning with my 16-year-old son at an appointment with his dermatologist. The two of us then went by the drug store to pick up the doctor’s recommended face wash. We stopped by the dry-cleaner to grab my husband’s shirts and the grocery store to get a bag of shredded cheese that I had forgotten on my last grocery run. We drove a few minutes down the road to make some Amazon returns at the local Kohls. It was a nice morning. Parker and I laughed along with our favorite podcast and he gave me a hard time for dragging him around on all my errands. But we both were glad to have the quiet, uninterrupted time together.
We returned home around 10:45am to find the house in chaos. My awesome 18-year-old daughter had been holding down the fort while I was gone, but everyone appeared to be in grumpy moods. The two-year-old met me at the door in tears; begging “hold you, Mama”. It would soon be time to make lunch, clean up the toys, put the youngest two in their beds for “rest time”, and start our homeschooling day. Can I be totally honest with you? An internal switch flipped in that moment and I hit a wall. Something came over me akin to complete exhaustion and I suddenly realized that I didn’t have the energy to do any of the things on my list for that afternoon. Keep reading until the end to find out what happened next.
Making peace when others don’t have “that” to give
Years ago, I heard the great psychologist Dr. Phil speak on television to a woman who was heartbroken about a disappointing relationship in her life. The woman’s expectations were not being met, even on a basic level, by someone she loved and she was struggling to figure out what to do next. I’ll never forget the advise Dr. Phil gave her. He explained that she was wanting something that this person did not have to give. For example, she could ask Dr. Phil to reach into his pocket and give her $20. Dr. Phil may WANT to give her $20, but he didn’t have any money in his pocket so he would never be able to fulfill that expectation for her. He just didn’t have $20 to give.
This advice has been a game changer for me. I am guilty of expecting others to see the world the way I do. I want the people close to me to be willing to sacrifice for me in the way I would be willing to sacrifice for them. But guess what? That’s not life! There are dozens of reasons others may not be able to live up to the expectations we have for them. Some are temporary (a bad day, a hard season). Some are longer term (mental illness, substance abuse, a life of selfishness). Our ability to remind ourselves that others just may not have the “$20” we need can change our perspectives, our expectations, and the number of times our feeling are crushed because of wanting the comfort, support, and sacrifice others may not have the bandwidth to give us.
Finding your tribe
As a side note, I have also experienced the opposite of this. I have people in my life who have BLOWN ME AWAY with their love and support. People who have loved me big and understood me when I didn’t even understand myself. People who have supported me in ways I haven’t had the bandwidth to support them. These people saw my struggles, reached into their pockets, and gave me every last dollar they found before I even thought to ask. They make me want to be a better person. They are the Aarons to my Moses and are some of God’s very best gifts to me.
grace for myself when I don’t have “that” to give
I have been trying to put that concept into practice with other people in my life for years. “She/He doesn’t have my $20” is a silent mantra that grounds me and gifts me grace to give to others.
HOWEVER, I have never once thought to apply that concept to my own life until that recent Friday. Maybe you’re like me. Your expectations for yourself are beyond what you would ever be able to measure up to. Maybe your inner dialog is harsh and cruel, leaving very little room for mistakes/basic humanity. I am about to give us both a huge gift.
Moms don’t always have “that” to give – and it’s ok. Some days/weeks/seasons we just don’t have as much of ourselves to pour out on others as we have other times. And there are so many reasons for this.
reasons for “off” days/weeks/seasons
- Sickness (whether you yourself are sick or one of your kids is sick…sickness takes a toll on the body and the spirit)
- Birth or Adoption of a new child (both of these blessings come with extreme learning curves and require grace upon grace upon grace)
- Aging Parents (the issues that come up with the “Sandwich Generation” are real and complicated)
- PMS (don’t laugh…we ALL know that the struggle is real)
- Mental Health Struggles (postpartum/post-adoption depression, anxiety, depression, etc. require time, therapy, and possibly medication)
- A General Bad Day
grace for Moms on hard days
Ok, repeat after me…”I don’t have that to give today.” Some days are just hard. Maybe because of a reason listed above. Or may for a whole other reason. Your joys are unique to you and your family, so it makes perfect sense that your hard is unique as well. Whatever the struggle, the principle remains the same. You are human. I am human. And we all have human struggles. We can not be at our peak of energy every moment of every day. So, what does that look like on a random Tuesday when life has taken the wind from our sails?
ideas for moms on a hard day
- If you are homeschooling your children, it’s ok to take a random day off. I PROMISE you will all be better for it.
- Let’s face it, kids have to eat. OFTEN. But, it is perfectly ok to not have a complicated dinner to give on an off day. Cereal and a banana are a perfectly acceptable dinner every once in a while.
- It is ok to let the laundry/dishes/mess pile up for the day if laundry/dishes/clean-up add to your stress. OR, if a messy house is what is contributing to your depletion, it’s also ok to round up your adorable offspring and assign them chores until the laundry/dishes/clean-up is (somewhat) done. That’s called compromise!
- Move your body. Take a walk. Do some yoga stretches. Take deep breaths.
- Put your earbuds in and listen to your favorite song. Or that true crime podcast that blows your mind (I hope I’m not the only person that escapes into a good who-dun-it murder mystery!).
- Put the kids to bed early and take a bath with all the salts/bubbles/decadent scrubs. OR, if the thought of a long bath turns you off (this is crazy to me, but I know you’re out there), do your version of what a long bath does for me.
- Pray. He made you. He knows you. And He wants you to come to Him with your hard.
grace for Moms in hard seasons
Ok, repeat after me…”I don’t have that to give in this season.” Maybe you’ve gotten a scary health diagnosis. Or your parents’ health is failing and you are sandwiched between your young children and caring for the ones who have always cared for you. Maybe, like me, you have a child with a complicated health history or ongoing health needs and the appointments are crowding everything life-giving off of your calendar. Maybe you are going through a messy divorce and are trying to figure out your next steps as a single mother. In those seasons it is IMPERITIVE that you know when to say, “I don’t have that to give.”
Ideas for moms in a hard season
- Take your schedule down to the bare minimum. But be sure to keep in some fun.
- If you homeschool, find another homeschooling family and see if they can help teach your kids for a season. And then be sure to return the favor when your life settles down.
- Spend time accessing your homeschool curriculum and schedule. During hard/complicated/intense seasons, it is more than ok to strip your days down to the basics. Give your kids lots of great books to read. Sign them up for an online math program. Provide them with a journal to write down their thoughts every day. But, most of all, hold them, talk with them, and spend time with them.
- If possible, sign up for a grocery delivery service. This is an extra expense, but can be LIFE CHANGING during a hard season.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Find the tribe who has an extra “$20” to give. They will become your people and will hold you close during this season. I promise.
moms are not superhuman
Back to my original story. I very well could have clinched my jaw and carried on with my day. I probably would have snapped at my 8-year-old, said some things to my 9-year-old that I didn’t mean, and done a sub-par job teaching the kids about the Iliad and the Odyssey. I’d have continued on in my funk, pulling my two youngest from their room after rest-time in a huff and growling at my husband over something that was clearly not his fault.
Do you know what I did instead? I said OUT LOUD to everyone in my house; “I don’t have anything to give you today. Grab your Kindles and play quietly in your room until I come get you”. And guess what? My kids were THRILLED! They happily played on their devices all afternoon. And I grabbed my current mystery/thriller paperback and headed for the bathtub (with ALL the bubbles). A little while later I felt better and was able to end the day with smiles, kind words, and kisses all around.
Do I do this often? Nope. Am I incredibly privileged to be able to take a bath on a random afternoon while my husband works from home and my two teenagers listen out for the littles while homeschooling from their rooms? Absolutely! But my point is this…we can ALL do a better job giving ourselves grace and taking things off our plates. Moms are NOT superhuman. And we would do ourselves a favor to remember we don’t always have “that” to give – and it is completely ok.
If you are interested in reading more of our story, check out Meet Tanna From Megavan Mama.