Wednesday, April 6, 2016

When the day gets you down

Sometimes it’s hard to get dressed up for motherhood.

I remember the seasons when I awoke each day, took the time to arrange my hair and clothes in a professional manner, and walked out the door prepared to meet whatever life brought.  If the day didn’t go well, at least I had accomplished one thing...I was dressed.

Then I had a couple children, then a couple more.  Suddenly my propensity towards morning cheerfulness drifted somewhere towards the neighborhood of grouchy and overtired.

It isn’t that I don’t have good intentions.  On the contrary, I have good intentions every day.  It’s just that sometimes those lofty goals don’t materialize as tangible results. Consider the following scenario.

It’s 7:30 am. You’ve been laying there for a few minutes, willing everyone to give you a few moments of quiet. You know that as soon as you rise from the warm embrace of your covers, that you will be greeted by the cold reality of life itself. The reality that means packing lunches, finding matching socks, and picking the baby out of the crib, only to discover that the diaper has failed yet again, and two loads of laundry have been added to your seemingly insurmountable pile of dirty clothing.

It is now 7:45 am. You have given the baby their bottle, stripped the sheets from their crib, walked them into the laundry room, where you discover you forgot to change the clothes from the washer to the dryer yesterday. So, you restart the load in the washer so your family doesn’t smell like a damp basement, and leave the sheets in a heap on the floor.

Someone is yelling your name because they can’t find the butter that is necessary for toast. So, you come down to save the day, and in the meantime trip over baby’s trash can you forgot to put away after you emptied it this morning.

Suddenly it’s time for face washing, teeth brushing, and hair combing. You supervise as well as possible while the three year old is holding on to your pajama pants, begging you to hold her. Your oldest yells, “The BABY is playing in the toilet again,” just as you finish inspecting the last molar on child number three.

You walk into the other bathroom to discover they have not only messed in the toilet, but have unrolled the entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet, and you have the unmatched privilege of scooping it out. You clean the baby’s hands, and their mouth...just in case. You spray and wipe down the entire toilet, because...well, you might as well.  Then, you say, “Where was I?”

Your husband is yelling for a towel, and your toddler is asking for a drink. “Just a minute,” you say...willing yourself to take a breath.

It’s 8:15, and everyone is ready to walk out the door. You give yourself an imaginary pat on the back for a job well done.

If you work part time from home, as I do, you might plop your remaining children in front of some socialist propaganda piece cleverly disguised as a cartoon, and attempt to get a few minutes of work done (I would never [ahem] do that...but it could be done).

The rational person might be asking you, “Why didn’t you just wake up an hour earlier, and prepare everything accordingly so that everything would just flow in perfect harmony?” Oh, but those of us who are comrades in the trench with you, know exactly why you didn’t wake up earlier.

You tried to go to bed at a decent hour, in order to get the recommended hours of sleep, but then you and your husband needed to chat about the budget, and that was impossible to do 3 hours before because the kids needed help with homework, and you were trying to clean up dinner.  Oh, and you were afraid it might turn into a disagreement, so you wisely decided to “wait until later.” Well, that later had come, and you were deciding on priorities late into the night (either that, or you might have watched your favorite show to you know...chill).

Then, around 1:00 am the next morning, one of your more worrisome children walks into your room, scares you right out of a sound sleep and swears she heard something creaking outside. You assure her that everything is alright, roll over, shove your husband and ask him to check on the noise.  He grunts something unintelligible, and stumbles out of bed.  You aren’t sure if he’s awake or sleep walking, but somehow he persuades her that it’s safe to resume her REM cycles, and you both fall back into blissful sleep.

Blissful, that is, until another child is forcing you out of your restorative “eyes-closed activity,” with the news that they have accidentally wet the bed.  Upstairs you go, stumbling around in the dark to find a new pair of pajamas, and to figure out a sleeping arrangement for your soaked offspring.

After a night with interruptions like that, you can barely drag yourself out of bed, let alone face a twelve hour day of inquiring minds that operate on a “need right now” basis.

Of course not every morning (or night) transpires like the one described above.  However, most mothers and fathers know that their best laid plans require more than careful planning. It is impossible to predict what will hit you in the face as you begin each twenty-four hour time frame, known as a day.

There are days I’m tempted to lose it. Nights that I’m on the verge of surrendering every ounce of sanity I had mustered up from the last catastrophe.  And, some of us do lose it… As a member of the “I’ve lost my mind” club, I can tell you that life lived in a facade of perfectionism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I could tell you all the ways you need to organize your schedule so that you don’t have unexpected emergencies like I do.  I could reveal a buttoned-up plan of chore charts and activity agendas that would make your head spin.  But, sometimes in the space between the list making and the life living, things spin out of control.

Did you sign up for a certain type of life, and find out there is a “no-return” policy?  You didn’t ask for the child with the serious bed-wetting problem, the spouse who left you, or the member of your family who has received an unwanted diagnosis that leaves you worn each day. And, yet, here you are… Giving every last drop of effort to make the life you’re living worth getting up for.

I don’t have to tell you that sometimes it’s going to be hard to get up and face the day, but let me tell you any way... There are going to be some hard days!  In all our efforts to be the men and women we were created to be, there is a common thread. - It’s called discomfort.  Moments of adversity that lead to a level of fatigue we hadn’t thought possible.

Have you ever been speaking to someone about your problems, and in their encouragement to you, they happened to mention that what you are going through is nothing compared to what they are dealing with?  Yes, we’ve all been there.  And, as we stammer around to come up with a response, all we really want to say is, “You may be more experienced in the art of suffering than I am, but can we focus on my sob story for a minute?”

The truth is, no one has your experiences...your life...your grief.  And, yet, on some level we all know the familiar pang of heartbreak. We know the disappointment that even a relatively normal day can bring.  And, while we don’t want to focus on the negative parts of our existence, the tendency to live there is strong.

I could tell you to “count it all joy,” and you should.  I could tell myself to “get a grip,” and I should.
But, before we give ourselves or others that advice, we would do well to take a deep breath, and make a conscious choice to neglect the sweating of small stuff.

In the off chance you end up doing 10 loads of laundry every day for the rest of your life, and live a majority of the day in sweatpants, know that there’s another woman out there who will cry with you over your cup of tea.  Then, after we are done, we’ll get up, throw another load in the washer, read about people starving in Africa, and ponder our privilege.  We will resolve to live a purposeful life, and give ourselves a break when our best laid plans unravel before our eyes.

And whatever happens...we’ll for sure stop pretending like we’re perfect.

Because we just aren’t.

And that’s okay.

(p.s. Sweatpants help sometimes)

And we know that for those who love God all things work 
together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28