I slumped down on the floor against the kitchen cupboards.
Tears poured down my face as I let my jean legs just drape out in front of me.
I felt like such a failure.
Another hard day.
Another day of kids fighting. Again.
Of messes and noise.
Of meltdowns and what felt like time wasted. Again.
Who thought this would be a good idea?
"I'm not cut out for motherhood" I told God silently yet again.
More sighs. More tears. More prayers that ached from the deepest places within me but that I never actually gave voice to.
I went on as the tears continued flowing.
"Not only am I NOT cut out for motherhood but I am DEFINITELY NOT cut out for homeschooling!" I told God more insistently.
Again, the silent prayers went up but not out from my lips. The background chant was not of choirs of angels singing as I made my heart made known to the Creator but of kids YET AGAIN fighting over the remote in the loungeroom and who was touching the biggest cushion first.
"Seriously, I can't do this anymore!"
It was more of a silent-heart-declaration or maybe prayer of resignation than of petition or request. Nup. I just couldn't do it.
I was tired. More than tired. Bone-weary-exhausted-no-words-for-it kind of tired. I felt like I couldn't go on.
I felt done. On top of that I felt like I must be failing my kids.
Then the 'comparing' voice started. Do you know that one? It's the one that compares you to everyone else. It says things like, "Nobody else struggles like this". Or it makes me think, "Surely they'd be doing so much more if they were at school". It makes me think about all we are not doing rather than seeing what we are. It reminds me that my house looks like a bomb but tells me other people live in perfectly tidy homes. It tells me lies. It makes me feel small and inadequate. And sometimes, because I'm so tired, so worn, so weary....I let it.
Although this was a few years ago, I have become familiar with that floor on more than one occasion. I guess I just find it easier to have the little pity-party for one sliding down those cupboard doors wishing the cork tile floor might open and swollen me up whole.
Just this once.
Just for a little while.
I reason that maybe it could take me into some magical abyss and then spit me back up again later.
Sometimes, life is SO overwhelming that I know it is actually REAL and OK that I sit on that kitchen floor in tears, arms flailing, sending up silent-prayer smoke-signals to my God. I know He is big enough to handle it and yet whilst here on my own in THAT moment with the background hum of sibling fighting, I felt very alone.
Very humbled. Nobody really prepares you for how lonely motherhood can be. You know you share this incredible bond with so many other women around the world who exist now and who have gone before you. You know that it is a privilege denied to many and it is very certainly one I am incredibly grateful for. But there is also something about motherhood that makes you feel very lonely at times. Or is it just me? I am blessed with amazing friends and family. I am married to my very best friend and now have children who I also am blessed to count as friends. I love my community and my wider network of friends but here's the rub....in the middle of the every day mundane tasks, of the getting up and reminding people of chores and responsibilities, of the driving here and there, of the disciplining and the discipling, of the cooking, cleaning, clearing, culling, continuing.....in the midst of it all we get worn and weary. Add homeschooling into the mix and you might feel like you don't even know who you are anymore.
If that's you, then I want to encourage you. I want to send you my love on the winds of the world wide web and say to you that you are doing a great job (even if you don't think it's true).
One of my beautiful friends gently reminds me that what God calls me to, He will help me through. I love that and really do need the reminder from time to time ;)
Here are some practical tips that continue to help me when I am feeling lower than low. I have been practicing these for a number of years and like anything, I think it really does take practice but that we can, like a muscle, help ourselves in building the muscles of resilience required for motherhood. Of course, I don't always get it right (who does!?!) but I hope sharing these might be a help and blessing to you in some way.
TAKE A BREAK
When I feel the sliding-down-the-kitchen-cupboards-kind-of-sads coming on, I usually know it's time for a break. I try now to give myself some time away BEFORE I get to this point. I don't always read myself correctly, sometimes missing the moment or not actually creating the opportunity to make it happen, but if I do do it at the right time, I can fill up my cup and it just feels like I get to breathe again. I love going to a café on my own for brekky and a coffee (yep did that this morning). I love to go to art galleries, take photos when I am out in nature or just be close to water.
Q. What kind of away time would be perfect for you if you were able to take even a short break? I know it's super hard if you have no family nearby but if you have a trusted friend or neighbour and they are happy for you to have a moment to yourself, then do it. Make the effort and go if you can. It might be that you can book your kiddos into a local art gallery workshop in the holidays and steal away for an hour to your local library or grab a coffee and sit in nature. If you can do it, do. See it as an investment in yourself.
CREATE A RESTORATIVE RHYTHM
If you can't leave home, this is perfect for you. Even if you can, I have still benefited massively from creating restorative rhythms in own home and spaces. These will look different for each of us but for me it means investing in and preparing for times that I need to create solitude and sanctuary within my own walls AHEAD of time. I love taking time for a cuppa at home. I always have my favourite coffee and stevia chocolates on hand. Always. I'm not even kidding. It's as necessary to me as making sure I have a supply of toilet paper for the family. A dear friend of mine has invested in a massage chair as an absolute necessity because of her chronic illness and pain that she lives with daily. For her again, it is an INVESTMENT in the health of her body and soul to have that time in that chair. Another thing I make a habit of doing is having flowers on my table. I don't need them but I love them. They do something uplifting for me and make me feel alive in some way.
Invest in the things that make you feel alive each day.
If that's a podcast, make time to listen to it. If that's devotion time for you before the fam bam rises, do that. If it's something you're not sure about right now but are yearning for, then I encourage you to sit with it and work out what might help you feel like a whole person. Start with one thing. Go from there.
Q. Think about the things that make you, YOU and ask yourself how you can do things that feed the parts of you that are struggling. For example, do you like going for a drive? If so, take the kids but allow them to listen to their own music on their phones or ipods and you listen to a podcast or audio book or music of your own choice. You are a whole person with interests and ideas, thoughts and feelings. Take a moment to sit with them, write them down, offer them up or just think about them.
DROP AND BALANCE
Sometimes when we are carrying too many things, we need to really drop something to help not only lighten the load but to balance it out more evenly too. If you feel ragged from driving kids around to an activity every arvo, drop something. Or let them choose one thing for a term and commit to taking them to that ONE thing only. They are not going to be neglected or have some bad childhood because for a term they had to cut back. It's crucial for our kiddos to see us taking good care of ourselves too. We are setting the example for them down the track when perhaps they'll be parents. Would you want them running themselves ragged? Then show them how not to do it right now.
Q. Balance sometimes means taking shortcuts where necessary too. It might be in the cooking of simple meals or re-evaluating our expectations over where we wanted them to be academically by the end of a semester but however you can, work out ways to balance the load to decrease expectations and increase your ability to continue on. Is there anything you can drop or work on balancing today?
BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY
Yes, there is a sense of loneliness at times in motherhood in general and with homeschooling but there are also lots of people out there willing to be a part of community. I definitely could not have gotten through the last 13 years of homeschooling on my own. I am so fortunate to have people in my corner cheering me on, wanting me to do well as a woman, as a mother, as a friend. Some are people in my life that I see regularly, some I have phone convos with and others are online friends that I've never met in real life yet have been there through life's rollercoaster of ups and downs walking it all out with me. These are all people who love me in all my glory, who pray for me, who challenge and edify me and for whom I am incredibly grateful.
Q. If you have not yet built a community of cheerleaders around you, can I encourage you to try and do it? There are amazing supports out there online. Some of my favourites are my own little community connections I've made on my Facebook page or Beverley Paine's Facebook Group , in our local homeschooling group or even through Instagram. Even today I had a beautiful message from a lovely mama across the seas (hi Cara!) who reached out about homeschooling and chronic illness through 'the 'gram' as the kids say ;)
SEEK PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT
There is nothing wrong with reaching out and telling your doctor or a health care professional that you are struggling to cope. It doesn't mean you are doing a bad job at mothering or at homeschooling! It means that you know yourself well enough to recognise that you might need a little extra help. That might be in the way of a chat, in the way of medications or in the way of an appointment with a mental health nurse who can help you formulate some steps towards self-care, balancing the load and helping yourself develop a strong sense of self if that is something you are struggling with. Also know that it's not a failure if your kids need to go to school! Reach out and connect with others through this season.
Q. Needing to chat with someone? You can always call: Beyond Blue (1300224636) or Lifeline (131114).
I DON'T WANT TO MISS THE GOOD STUFF
The funny (not ha-ha funny) thing about the first part of this whole post is that on the days that I feel really worn out now, I see that they are the days that I pretty much see only the hard or negative stuff. The kids may have been fighting over the remote or the biggest cushion but there were also moments of kindness and love that I know I missed because all I could feel at that moment was tired and worn. I don't want to just feel the latter. I want to be present to notice the good stuff too and I tend to more when my own cup is filled, when I feel less alone and when it all feels less hopeless and more hopeful. So I guess my encouragement to you (and to me as I have tried to live this out over the years) is to try and invest in ways that build yourself up, preparing you to continue on rather than just struggle through.
I really hope that makes sense to you if you've read this all the way through. Sending you a really big hug, friend especially if today was one of *those* kind of days.
And I'm offering up a prayer for you (and one for me too).