In my previous article I wrote about how I sometimes feel like an old tattered teddy bear, who’s been tossed, toted and squished until the seams burst and the stuffing erupts.
Unfortunately, unlike the teddy bear’s frayed parts, my episodes of impatience and lost temper are anything but cute.
Honestly, I try to be a patient mother.
I try to listen with interest when someone interrupts my attempt to write an article for the fourteenth time in a row, so that they can tell me the uber adorable trick they’ve just taught their baby brother.
And I try to maintain my cool when two siblings start barking their opposing sides of a debate five minutes after we’ve all walked outside of the church doors. I try, but sometimes I fail.
All these little (and not so little) parenting crosses are the surest road to sanctification, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they wear on my peace of mind (and sanity).
So how do I manage to push my stuffing back in on those days when the baby refuses to nap, the teenagers are goofing off from their studies and the girls are bickering about everything?
How do I prevent myself from throwing in the towel, packing a knapsack and running away from home?
Strategies for Putting Myself Back Together
Number one on my daily list is that I remind myself that there are only 24 hours in a day and that at some point my darlings will have to go to bed, offering me a little quiet time.
Years ago, when we started out as parents, we established Dad and Mama Time which began promptly at 8pm. All of our children were expected to go to their bedrooms at that hour.
We allowed the older children to read in their shared rooms as long as the noise level remained (relatively) inaudible (to parental ears). Now that our brood has reached 8 and includes 2 young adults, bedtime isn’t quite as prompt, but it still exists and follows the same pattern.
Our children, even the young adults, are expected to retreat to their rooms so that my husband and I can relax for at least an hour before we pass out from sheer exhaustion.
Some days, I count the minutes until bedtime (there are 780 minutes between 7am and bedtime).
Also crucial on the daily list is prayer time, both individual and communal.
Currently, we begin every school day by reciting the rosary together. I take the lead on the opening prayers and then the children jump in and lead the decades.
I used to organize the leaders before we began, but that often led to challenges over who got to pick the third or fifth (etc.) mystery. Now I simply announce rosary time and commence reciting the prayers. Somehow, this works and no one ever balks that they wanted this or that mystery.
When I am neglectful of this time, it shows in the whole household.
Number three on my daily list is a bit of me-time. Okay, I don’t really like that term because it can reflect selfish pursuits in our current culture.
No, I don’t employ a live-nanny so that I can dedicate myself to workouts at the gym and daily shopping excursions for designer shoes. But I do make a point of applying a little make-up and styling my hair.
If I take the time to look myself in the mirror each morning, it goes a long way toward reminding me that I am an individual and not just someone’s mother.
Taking the time to make myself feel pretty and put together (think no sweat pants or frumpy old T-shirts) also lifts my spirits and helps me to remember that I am a beloved wife.
Of course, it’s not so much about the make-up or clothing, as it is about the act of taking care of my appearance (something my husband appreciates, too).
I also enjoy drinking a glass of wine in the evening. Since our budget is tight, I opt for the discount brands. Right about the time Daddy walks in the door is my cue to pour a glass of the red variety. I relish the sips while we chat about our day and make ready for the dinner table.
Some More Tactics
Some other tactics for managing the stressors of life in a family include regular date nights (I’ll have to write another post on how we finally learned to orchestrate those without taking out a second mortgage), a committed family adoration hour once a week, Moms’ Nights Out, and an occasional mama-time-out (i.e. locking myself in the laundry room with a chocolate chip cookie while texting my best friend for moral support).
And, of course, there’s always gratitude. Because there is always something to thank God for, even on the hardest of days.
When I am knee deep in laundry with a fussy toddler at my feet, I thank Him for the privilege of my washer and dryer and for the physical ability to lift my little one up for a snuggle.
When the floor that I just mopped two minutes earlier gets trampled by dirty boots and the clean bathroom towels are left in disarray, I thank my Heavenly Father for the roof over our heads and the floor beneath our feet. I also offer a prayer for those who aren’t living in such freedom and abundance.
In the Shadow of the Cross
Amazingly, when I frame my trials in the shadow of the cross, they diminish by comparison and I recognize just how very blessed a vocation I have as a home schooling mother.
Managing a household of strong personalities, teaching a variety of grade levels and meeting my own personal needs can leave me feeling overwhelmed and under-appreciated. However, with a few basic strategies, I am better able to put myself back together and renew my resolve to keep my eyes fixed on the eternal goal.
this post originally appeared on Seton Magazine online