Mommas, Hide in the Bathroom: The Ankle-biters Are Coming

I started this post quite a long time ago, and it has sat unfinished for almost a year. My husband has been away at various meetings in the evening this week, so I have spent many an hour by my lonesome with the children. It has brought some of the chaotic musings of times past back to the surface, and I decided that now was as good a time as any to send it out into the world.

So, here's the deal: being a mother of young children is hard.

I've been doing a lot of reading about this topic lately, and I've found that the majority of the information out there only serves to make me feel like more of a failure then I already do. Articles about gently and tenderly tucking your little ones into bed at night, holding them in an embrace as they tell you of their hopes and dreams and fall asleep, nestled in the security of your arms...

Those people must only have one child, because clearly, there's not enough of me to make that possible, even if I wanted to.

Here's how bedtime usually goes at my house: 


I simply cannot handle any more craziness. Did you brush your teeth? Check. Do you want to wear pajamas? No? Okay, you can sleep in your dirty school uniform. Read books? No, we don't have time for that tonight. Maybe tomorrow. Hug. Kiss. Dear Jesus, thank you for this day {and thank you that it is now over!!}. Amen. Goodnight. I love you.

{Insert kids not actually going to bed here because they are getting up to poop and tell on each other for pooping and otherwise not going to bed, along with potential yelling and consequences that may follow}

What am I doing wrong??

But it's not just the perfect bedtime moms. There's the super-crafty ones, or the super-spiritual ones, or the super-organized-clean-and-tidy ones, or the homeschooly ones, or the I-would-never-feed-my-children-McDonald's-ever-or-anything-else-unhealthy-make-everything-from-scratch ones. Not that any of those things are bad, but I tend to walk away feeling like I should be doing a much better job than I am. After all, they seem to be able to. And I wonder, what exactly am I doing wrong? And more, what is wrong with me that I can't seem to live up to this "standard?"

With 4 kids ages 7 and under, I feel like I'm in survival mode the majority of the time. I feel ashamed about my mothering skills more days then not, and what's more, I feel ashamed that there are times, many times, that I do not enjoy mothering. Because some days are just hard.

Can I say that out loud?

There are days that feel like you are under siege in your own home. The ankle-biters are coming, and they're preparing to attack. They will invade your life, your time, and your personal space. They tell you when you can sleep and when you need to wake up. They exponentially increase the laundry load by their mere existence. They tell you when you can sit and take a break, and when you cannot possibly sit all day long. They multiply the time it takes to leave the house and the stuff you will need to bring with you in order to do so.

They will confuse you by moving things around the house and by "hiding" important items like phones and car keys. Their volume will be stuck on high when you need to have a two minute phone conversation. Unless the bathroom door has a lock, they will insist on being in there with you, making sure to comment on the fact that you are pooping. They will refuse to eat vegetables, have kicking, screaming tantrums in public, and tell the woman in front of you in the checkout line that they can see her butt crack. Loudly. 

Good Lord, it's a wonder any of us are still sane! As mothers, we are called to lay down our lives for our children. And we gladly do, day after day. Some days with joy, some days just because it needs to be done. Being a mother is hard work, it can quickly leave you on empty if you're not careful

It certainly has its rewards and blessings, and Lord knows I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love my kids, and I love spending time with them and watching them learn and grow and experience life. But I can look back on some dark times along my mothering journey and say that I haven't always enjoyed it. I've struggled with postpartum depression, anger, stress, and loneliness along the way. 

I distinctly remember feeling like I was suspended in a sleepwalking existence. I wasn't fully awake, or fully alive, but I certainly wasn't getting any sleep, either. I had no thoughts, no genuine facial expressions. Just fog. Pregnancy brain that never fully retreated, hormones that took forever to even out, and a life that most of the time resembled a carnival, where the bell of my Strength Tester was constantly being rung, and I was overpowered once again.

Having gone from a carefree, passionate young twenty-something to a stressed out mother of four in about half a decade, I often described myself to my husband as a shell of who I once was. A Mom-blob, as I so eloquently put it.  A visceral mass that just sits there, neither growing nor shrinking, not moving forward or back. Hanging in the scale of time, merely trying to survive and hold shape.

Looking back, I realize that I lost myself here and there along the way. You see, mothering is only supposed to be a PART of our identity. We were women with our own lives, hopes, dreams and goals before that sweet little baby came along, and with their birth, being a mother became part of who we are. But the issue with being a mother of small children, especially several of them, is that a lot of the time, it takes ALL of us. It's all-consuming, exhausting, and doesn't come with personal days.

And I've come to realize that the hardness, the fog, the crazy hormones and stressful bedtimes are all…normal. It's a season of life, and it doesn't last forever. We can spend so much of our time beating ourselves up for all the ways we feel we could've done better, when the reality is, life with little kids is hard.

It just is. And you don't need to beat yourself up for the way things are.

I thank God that His mercies are new every morning, and He promises that if we seek Him we will be ever more transformed into His image and likeness. That His grace covers even the worst days, and for hope that tomorrow can be better. I also thank Him that He can be found when we seek Him with all our heart, even if it's from inside the walls of a rather mundane existence. I'm thankful that there's joy in the mess, and that your heart can be full even when life is crazy.

I thank God that even though the days can be hard, they don't have to be synonymous with badThat hard can be good and full of blessing and worth every ounce of time and effort that you pour into it. Because hard work and loving people well, especially little people, is never, ever a waste. That, dear mommas, is a life well-lived, one day at a time. Even if it means you need to hide in the bathroom sometimes.