Dear Stressed Out, Young Mama:
This is the older me telling the younger me that I see in you, that it’s all going to be OK.
But I’ve learned some things and if I could get you to take some advice from someone a few years ahead of you, I think you would find this life more enjoyable. Maybe?
1. You don’t have to iron so much, or hardly at all. If you hang clothes up out of the dryer (or off the line) most are not too wrinkled to wear. There are the occasional pieces that will need ironed for church or other nice events, but for most things, non-ironed clothes will suffice, especially for young children. Cherish a neat appearance without obsessing about perfection. And really, ironing is just an example of all the ways we feel pressured to be perfect. Give your best, but know that your best will vary in different seasons of life. If your best, with a house full of little people, is getting them out the door with matching shoes (or shoes at all), exhale and accept it. In a different season, your best may look…better.
2. Do not let your children scare you. If you’ve already poured a drink in the pink sippy cup but “GREEN IS HER FAVORITE!” please do not change the cup. Yes, it’s a small thing. Which is exactly why you don’t need to give her the green cup. (Example from the Nanny, Emma) But really, it’s a big thing. The giving in. To love her, truly, she needs to know you’re in control, for her good, and your strength will be a boon to her development.
3. Do not let other people scare you. One of the greatest forces in our lives is the fear of others, or what the Bible calls, “the fear of man.” Fight it. It will hinder you, impose on your decisions, and ultimately could cause you to live a completely different life than you might have chosen otherwise. Fear causes us to be ruled by the expectations of others and it’s an exhausting place to be. Remind yourself that you must answer to God. Fear Him. Live for Him. And rest in His easy yoke.
4. Savor the differences in your children, let them grow, and do NOT put them in a mold because that’s not where people belong. Push them to be their best but don’t stifle what they’re really good at, or expect them to thrive at what they’re not. Your children are like a bouquet of flowers. Every one is so different and they need the sunshine of your acceptance and love to flourish. Hold them to standards of upright character, but don’t hold them to standards of performance.
5. Slow down. This. one. thing. Evaluate often what the important things in life are and refuse to be ruled by the tyranny of the urgent. Do what you have to do, no matter how drastic, to slow down and savor life. Life is a short, fleeting space of time. The people in it are what matter. If you are too busy to give them your time, your love and your attention, you’re too busy. If you’re too busy to go on long walks or sit in the grass and listen to the birds, you’re too busy. Even the demands of our home can push out valuable time with the ones we love. Figure out what is sucking up your time and make adjustments. They’re worth it and you’ll be thrilled, in the end, that you did.
And another thing: accept that there are good days and bad days. And on the bad days, remind yourself that you aren’t stuck here. Push through it and survive it. Better days are coming. Then on those days, soar. Life is about ebb and flow and change and seasons. Grasping that reality has helped me become more buoyant in the waves.