You’re in the middle of eating dinner and you have to stop and change the baby’s diaper. You make your preschooler their favorite food and they reject it with a whine as if you’re trying to poison them. Your toddler whines at you when you’re driving and tries to tell you which direction to go. All of them want to eat more sugar, stay up late, never take a bath, and leave their belongings on the floor. My husband I are continually amazed that we have to teach our children everything, and you know I mean everything.
Why are we surprised? I don’t know, but I think we all are. We know they are kids, but come on: if you ate it last week you can eat it today, the person with the steering wheel gets to drive, all meals start with real food, bedtime – and going to sleep at night – is a good thing, and if you leave everything on the floor you trip and hurt your foot or break a special toy.
As a morning person, I naturally start the day with a decent level of energy and positivity – even when I’ve been up in the night. But I’ve found the perfect storm of messes and crises can drain me in about 60 seconds flat.
We’ve all had days we thought we were prepared for and then by the time breakfast was over we were ready to give up on the day. So just as important as increasing our energy, which we’ll get into in depth, is avoiding losing energy.
And in my experience nothing can sap my energy like a stressful situation. When I reflect on sources of stress as a mother, it seems that many come from unrealistic expectations, and a lack of acceptance of the nature of childhood and motherhood.
Discovering your core personal values helps you identify some key ingredients that you want to be part of your life. Working these into the fabric of your life will give you continual sources of energy. Recognizing the nature of children and motherhood and making a conscious decision to adjust your expectations will decrease the amount of stress you experience – and energy that you lose – on a daily basis.
I think what makes this truth allusive is that children are incredible. They definitely have their moments where they amaze us. But that is a hint at who they are becoming, a sign of promise, proof that if you persevere they will turn into healthy, well-adjusted adults someday.
But for a large percentage of the time, children are messy and ungrateful. And so motherhood, especially of young children, is a special season of sacrifice. Parenthood is hard. Children are demanding. They are growing so quickly that every time they grow in or out of a habit, and you both adjust, then they are changing again!
My point is just to accept that this is normal. Let’s look at some definitions:
Energy: the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity
Stress: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances
Frustration: the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something
Accept: believe or come to recognize something as valid or correct
We need strength for sustained activity, because children never stop moving. Stress depletes our ability to deal with challenges. When we can’t accomplish a goal we get frustrated, but when we accept something we allow it to affect how we view life going forward.
As their parent you are going to teach, mold, and guide them, but you will just frustrate both of you if you try to control them. Don’t give into the temptation to try. It’s a fine line, but it’s important; and I think when we are mindful we will find God gave us good instincts for this.
What is motherhood?
In my experience motherhood is a marathon in which you are in charge of the growth and survival of autonomous human beings who rely on you, who don’t know how to live life, but want to learn and feel compelled to exercise their will and navigate life inquisitively.
Motherhood is a marathon, but it is also a gift.
Never forget that motherhood is a blessing, an honor and a privilege, and that children are a gift. It is an incredible thing to take care of a baby and be their whole world, and then watch them grow and share their struggles and triumphs as they explore their world and their own abilities to interact with and understand it. You have to teach them everything but you also get to teach them everything. I have close friends who haven’t been able to have children, or as many as they want.
I want to encourage you to embrace motherhood. Change the diapers, clean up the messes, wipe their tears. And consider that normal. That is your status quo. Embrace the season. Let your children be children.
Every seasoned mom has learned to pick her battles. But as always, balance is important here. Don’t buy nice furniture; but find time to take a shower. Let your children be children, but teach them how to live life.
What do you let drain you?
Motherhood has surprises. When you really have an emergency or an unexpected situation, that can be stressful and draining. That’s normal. But we shouldn’t feel that way every day, after taking care of our children that we know live here.
I stumbled upon this truth slowly, after years of inwardly complaining and begrudging the constant cleaning and incessant whining. Then something happened inside me and my attitude and my mentality toward my children and my circumstances changed. I’ve found that how I frame my circumstances in my internal narrative can drastically affect my energy levels and will determine how I handle the rest of the day after 15 min of simultaneous infant and toddler crises.