Is this normal?
That’s a question we ask each other a lot as Moms. Ex: My kid just drank from the toilet. Is that normal? Yes. (But not a great idea.) Or, My kids want to eat three breakfasts. Is this normal? Yes. (But expensive.) And maybe, especially, this question: Sometimes I don’t ENJOY being a mom. Is this normal?
I posted this question on my Facebook page yesterday and received and overwhelming and very encouraging YES. Yes, it IS normal. Check out HOW normal: the post reached almost 3000 people.
I posed the question at the start of the day, which was (like most days) hectic. I had planned to let Sawyer buy lunch, but at the last minute decided to pack one. Then we remembered we hadn’t done homework the night before because we went to see Rob’s mom. Add in three other kids and breakfasts (one of which is a nursing baby) and trying to get Sawyer out the door by 7:30am and it was just NOT amazing. I felt like I have felt the past few days and few weeks especially: grumpy.
I feel like someone took a vacuum to my heart and sucked all the joy of parenting right out of it. I am now taskmaster mom: Eat your breakfast! Put on your shoes! Hurry! Stop hitting your sister with Legos! Don’t throw blocks! Stop yelling in the house! Let’s go! Climb down off the table!
There are parenting lows where you really feel like you’re going to go on strike (and I actually got to that point by the end of today), but my question on Facebook was more about the normal days where you simply don’t LIKE it. You don’t LIKE breaking up the fights and dealing with the attitude and the complaining and the crying. All set in a context of a house that looks like a bomb went off, laundry and dishes and crumbs and diapers like shrapnel all around the room. These very normal, everyday things have turned me into a grump.
Honestly, as the day wore on and got worse (imagine the extra issues of a broken A/C so we are sweating through our clothes, two sick kids, & a half-sick Mom), coming back to the comments on that Facebook thread helped me make it through today. It helped me feel like I am not alone. Do I want to be stressed out and grumpy and feel joyless about parenting? NO. But is that reality sometimes? YES.
Kristen from When at Home wrote a fabulous blog post about the fact that you can’t enjoy every moment of parenting, no matter how many people tell you that they will be old before you know it and at least you can HAVE kids and don’t wish the time away. This parenting gig? It’s for real. I knew what I was getting into after years of not wanting kids (pre-marriage and all that) because I KNOW how selfish I am. I know just how introverted and how much I crave time absolutely alone with no one at all not even adults around. I know that I have Big Dreams and want to do ten million things with my life and having kids makes it hard to do All The Things. I knew what I was getting into, and I’m still (even on days like today) glad. I am. You probably are too, because you’re a normal Mom.
It’s normal to feel like your day is insignificant sometimes.
It’s normal to find your kids annoying sometimes.
It’s normal to find a quiet space in the house and take deep breaths sometimes.
It’s normal to raise your voice sometimes.
It’s normal to want to go on strike sometimes.
It’s normal to eat your feelings sometimes.
It’s normal to turn on the TV for hours sometimes.
It’s normal to cry when you think the kids aren’t looking sometimes.
It’s normal to count the hours til bedtime/naptime/schooltime sometimes.
It’s normal to feel guilty and wonder if you’ve screwed it all up sometimes.
You are normal. You are.
I find great, great encouragement in knowing that. However. I want to say that when the “sometimes” become “every day,” there might be bigger issues. If you look at those things on the list, they ARE normal, but I bet we can all agree we wish they didn’t exist. Or we wish that they were less frequent than sometimes. Only on full moons, perhaps, or the third Tuesday of the sixth month following Christmas or something. We don’t want to be those people up there. (Especially if all those things happen on the same day.) So if you’re finding that those statements above are normal to you every day or many times a day, it might be time to call in the big guns. It might be time for a four-letter-word: HELP.
It is normal to have days where your kids make you nuts and you lose your temper and you just want to drink a glass of wine at bedtime. But when this becomes every day or something like wine or TV or even the internet becomes a crutch, then it’s time to ask for help. Maybe that help looks like a small break or a night out, or maybe it looks like talking to a professional to see if things are OK. (Or, what I do, is talk to someone who talks to professionals to see if they can tell you if you ALSO need to talk to professionals. There is no co-pay for that.) Whatever step you take, you need to do it for you and you need to do it for your kids. Period. I think generally we know when that time is, but we are not always good at admitting it or asking for help.
A tiny break may do it for you. Or if you need something more sustainable, a once or twice a week mothers day out might give you a few hours to recharge. Maybe you need to plug a nap in each day or (like me) stay up late to get those things done that you want so desperately to do (like write). It could help to have a date night with your husband or to have a playdate with a friend and talk about how difficult things are.
Or you might need something to help balance out your hormone levels, especially if you just had a baby. You might need to talk to a professional, not just once, but every week or every month. You might do well with some medication. For some reason, I feel like we talk about that in hushed tones, but the reality of postpartum (or any) depression is that sometimes, medication helps.
For me? I want to have some kind of alarm bell that sounds when I start getting all cranky and talking in my Taskmaster voice and feeling a sense of doom when I look at the state of our house. I want a giant gong that GONGS right in the middle of my day to remind me to choose joy.
Let me make a distinction: I did not say to ENJOY. But to choose JOY. You see, joy is a thing not really like a feeling. It comes with perspective of seeing the bigger picture and giving thanks and a lot of things that have very much to do with Jesus. To enjoy something is a feeling. You can choose joy but still FEEL stressed out. You can choose joy and not change your feelings at all. It is an attitude more than a feeling, a choice more than an emotion. Many days, it is a sheer act of the will.
Ann Voskamp hit the secret to this when she began writing about giving thanks. I don’t keep a list like she does, but when I remember to give thanks, I also remember I can choose joy. Giving thanks makes choosing joy a little easier. Realize as well that giving thanks is different than FEELING thankful.
Tomorrow will be a new day with the same stressors. Will I choose joy? Maybe some of the time. (More if we can get a gong.) Probably some of the time I’ll be back up on that list, breathing in a corner or counting the hours until naptime. I have a feeling that this will be the daily struggle til my kids are grown and gone. I do SO hope choosing joy and giving thanks win out. But either way, I know that I am normal. This? Is the struggle of every Mom.