I feel like a horrible mom. It’s only 7:20am, and I am quickly approaching my wit’s end. After a long week of interrupted sleep, sick kids, and plans thrown out the window, I am desperate for some peace. Instead, I lie in bed and listen to brothers bickering in the playroom across the hall.
When they awoke at 6:00am, bright eyed and bushy tailed, I set them up with cartoons and climbed back into bed, hoping for a little more rest. No such luck! Now they’re climbing all over me and what is precious and heart-warming most days is grating on my last nerve.
I adore these children. But seven days of constant interaction and neediness has taken its toll. As I sit in my bedroom chair reading my devotional, Little Man climbs into my lap with a steady stream of questions, and Big Guy laughs and squeals in the chair across from me. I can’t even read my bible in peace! Let alone, use the toilet or change my clothes or speak to their father. I escape to the front porch to pray, and have a 5 year old in my lap within 90 seconds. I lie down on my bedroom floor to cry, and my 7 year old finds me hiding between my dresser and my bed. His daddy invited him to help in the garage, and, even with tools in-hand, he ditches guy time to find me. I’m about to lose my ever-loving mind.
My husband sees the desperation in my face and lovingly instructs me to shower and then leave. It’s clear I’ve reached the end of my rope. “Just please call me if you start thinking you don’t ever want to return,” he said. “That would be a problem!” I laugh and assure him, I’ll be back…eventually.
I have a horrible habit of neglecting myself in service to those around me. I pour myself out, caring for my family, at the expense of myself. I put my needs on the back burner and before I know it, my tone becomes harsh and I feel like I’m suffocating under the weight of my life.
What’s more, I have a hard time asking for help. The self-sufficient, over-achiever in me rears her ugly head and I buy into the lie that a “good mom” could handle my life. I fear I’m being selfish if I take time to myself, outside of the acceptable outings: church, bible study, an occasional date night. It’s crazy talk!
The challenges of motherhood are great. The never-ending, thankless tasks of laundry, cooking, and dishes are enough to suck the life right out of me. There are no year-end bonuses or accolades for keeping my family alive and loving them well. No atta-girls for tirelessly wiping bottoms and sweeping crumbs.
Usually, the joys of motherhood outweigh the challenges. Until I drain myself dry. My kids don’t need a martyr. They need a mom who takes care of herself, so she has something to give.
As I step into the shower, I remember that even Jesus needed time away from the masses: from those he loved and instructed, healed and restored. He prayed and sought God and was refreshed and renewed. The mommy guilt washes away with the water, and I thank God that my hubby is here to help. I leave our children in his very capable hands.
As I stroll through Williams Sonoma, soaking in the grown-up surroundings, I feel tension leaving my body. I browse cookbooks, delight in beautiful table settings, and bask in the luxury of an unhurried pace. As I quiet my mind, I make room for God to speak.
When I try on clothes at the store next door, He reminds me that I am wholly and dearly loved: exactly as I am, today. He fills my cup with His truth and the lies lose their power.
I fill my shopping cart with ripe produce and revel in the goodness of dinner from the deli case. Only a mom of little ones is this excited about grocery shopping alone.
By the time I return home, I am at peace and my heart overflows with love. I’m greeted with great enthusiasm and return love to them in equal measure. This is the mom I want to be. This is who I am, when I take time for myself. I am a mom with untiring patience and determined perseverance. I am a mom who delights in my children, who shares adoring glances with my husband, wondering how we got so lucky.
I am a mom who takes care of myself, so that I have more than enough to give.
Please visit me at my new blog, www.ericaaklan.com
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!