For the second round of “Just Ask the Wemmicks” (where several of us Wemmick-Moms answer a reader’s question), hosted by Visionary Womanhood, a reader asks an excellent question that I think every mother has asked:
“How do I teach each child their lessons AND cook 3 nutritious meals a day AND nurse the baby AND keep everyone in clean clothes AND keep the dust bunnies at bay, all on very little sleep?! Did I mention that right now I’m only teaching 3 out of my 6 and we are focusing just on phonics and math?”
Here is my answer:
Take a deep breath. Motherhood is hard and good. I am where you are–what I call “in the trenches”–so I know about those feelings of being overwhelmed.
My answer comes in two parts: having (and maintaining) the right perspective (theology) and then implementing practical ways to manage the multiple tasks.
1. I have learned how profoundly my thinking about motherhood affects my ability to cope. While denying the reality of our huge lists of responsibilities is not helpful, neither is dwelling on my insufficiency. And regardless of how much I believe in the importance of my job, the enemy can still hinder me in my thought life. Being aware of this temptation helps me to resist the tendency to falter under the weight of life.
As I ultimately desire to become more like Christ, I must learn to think like Him as well. He gave. He gave without a grudge, without keeping score, without expecting anything in return (knowing the harvest would come later). This must be our aim. When we give freely, as we have been given to, we don’t view motherhood as always having people take from us or “having the life sucked out of us”, but rather as a privilege and an opportunity to minister–to give as Christ did and to invest in eternal things. (I’m not suggesting you have had these wrong thoughts, but I have.) (A thanks to Rachel Jankovic for her thoughts in Fit to Burst.)
And as we give, daily renewing our minds with truth, keeping our perspective right, we must remember that God does not call us to something without His help. (1 Thessalonians 5:24) He delights in weakness so His power can be known. He delights in keeping us in a place that we are compelled to call out to Him. If this were easy, we wouldn’t need Him. It helps me so much to remember that it’s not supposed to be easy all the time.
Motherhood is a mission field, rife with challenges. But understanding its eternal implications drastically aids our ability to meet them.
2. Practically speaking, I’m learning some things that have helped me.
- Let some things go. For some this is easier than others. Whether it’s the thought that every child has to have a bath every day (they don’t) or that a child can’t wear the same clothes for more than one day, or that the house must maintain a certain level of clean, or that you can’t use paper plates–I’m just guessing here because every mother is different–but we would do well to relax some of our pre-conceived ideas about what “has” to be done. This is only a season; sometimes survival is more important than clean windows, especially where it involves helping us keep our joy. We must do what we can but look constantly to the eternally important. In ten years, letting some dust bunnies go for a time won’t matter. But how I reacted to them will.
- Make sure chores are being delegated appropriately. Sometimes we forget how much children can do for themselves, or even think it’s a bad idea to expect them to share the load. It’s actually an excellent thing for a child to learn to do age-appropriate chores, as early as possible. Part of our job, as soon as our children are born, is to begin moving them toward healthy independence. Unloading the dish washer, setting the table, taking out the trash, wiping down counters, sorting laundry, putting stray items in a basket–there are many tasks that littles ones can begin learning. Take the time and it will pay for itself.
- Meals can be simplified in a number of ways. A crock pot is a busy mother’s best friend. It’s worth the time to stock up on some crock pot meals. Cooking extra and freezing a portion is a great idea for easing the load on a super hectic day. Cereal for breakfast several days a week is a great time-saver and they won’t die . Planning and posting meals by the week lessens the mental load. Having a supper helper makes meal prep. easier and is good training.
- Multi-tasking comes quite naturally to mothers, but sometimes I like to think about how to do it better. Can a lesson be taught while you nurse the baby? Can a child read to you while you cook or do laundry? Also, having an older child help a younger child is not only a time-saver, but an excellent exercise for the older child. Nothing helps a child learn better than teaching. Math and phonics, especially can be reinforced as an older sibling helps a younger one.
- Another thing I try to remember is how important my health is in this busy season, especially while losing sleep. Taking a good multi-vitamin, getting plenty of sunshine and taking a few minutes each day to walk or rebound will go a long way to boosting the way you feel.
- Combing through your daily/weekly schedule might be necessary. Are there things that can be cut out or postponed to a later season? Are you saying “no” when you should to extra things that are not a priority for your family?
At the end of the day, if you have worked alongside your children (even if it doesn’t all get done), talked to them, read to them, been available to them and loved on them, you’re going to make it and they’re going to be just fine. Be encouraged! Do the next thing, let some things go, relax and enjoy this brief, busy season. When the days overwhelm and you blow it, ask forgiveness, then face tomorrow with renewed vigor and hope.
This is good work. Push through, call on the Lord, and He will daily bear you up.
Check out the links below for some other Wemmick answers (which I think are great!).
Natalie @ Visionary Womanhood
Terry @ A Mom’s Many Lessons
Kasey @ Walking Redeemed
Marcia @ eHomebody
Cindy @ Get Along Home
Bambi @ In the Nursery of the Nation