It seems like the best definition of being a stay-at-home-mom is being busy all day, exhausted at night, but still having no idea what to say when asked, “What did you do today?” I used to be proud of myself when I could accomplish my whole to-do list in a day. Now making a to-do list at all is an accomplishment. It amazes me that any day I have to grocery shop automatically means: exhausting. And heaven forbid they don’t have a car cart because the consequences are the toddler has to either 1. walk (i.e. run a 5k down every aisle and fill the cart with canned corn and fruit snacks) or 2. get covered in groceries that he may not touch, eat, sniff, crush , rearrange, or throw. Also, your legs are numb, offspring? Suck it up or tough it out – I literally have no other options. You may have a free cookie from the bakery, or 4 if the bakers aren’t looking.
Bribery is your friend.
I wouldn’t trade my role as a stay-at-home-mom for the world, but these young years can be tough. Hilarious, sweet, fun, rewarding, but tough. There are days when all the busyness is exhausting not only because it’s a constant rotation of squat, lift, bend over, carry, repeat but because reading children’s books, playing restaurant, and explaining over and over that brown grapes don’t have dirt on them is far from mentally energizing.
My church teaches this principle of the pendulum. In the first century, grapevines were given three years to rest before they were allowed to grow grapes. The vine dressers knew that without enough rest they wouldn’t be strong enough to bear fruit. the same principle applies to us – we need to work from our rest, not rest from our work. Our life is like a pendulum constantly swinging from rest to work, abiding to fruitfulness, tick tock. Neither can exist alone. A clock can’t stop at one hour and keep ticking and you cannot stop on one end of the pendulum and keep living.
I used to take this literally. Without enough sleep I get short-tempered and sad so I need to make sleep a priority. Not a bad idea, in theory – extremely hard to maintain in practice. Babies get sick. Toddlers have nightmares. Laundry piles up and thunderstorms happen and sleep is no longer a constant. It used to be discouraging to think I’d always be operating on 50%, always fighting off frustration and bad moods and apathy. I was trying so hard to get enough rest and it never paid off, so why on earth was God nudging me to start getting up early again to spend time with Him? The baby still wasn’t sleeping through the night. Wasn’t this the grace period? But finally I did, and I realized oh. Physical rest, though important and something to strive for, isn’t a constant. But spiritual rest can be. Resting my mind and heart in Him every morning lets me “go to work” yawning and tired, but renewed and at peace. Does it always “last”? No. Do I still lose focus, roll my eyes, yell at my kids, or pretend I can’t hear them sometimes because I just need a break? Yes. But giving up a little physical rest to invest in spiritual rest every morning makes me feel like a new person.
The days are long, but I want each morning to be a fresh start, not another “Here we go again.” And on the nights when I stay up too late, bending over to pick up the pieces of a day that blew up in my face, those are the nights I KNOW I need to take some time to rest in the Lord, not just to recover but to prepare for a new day investing in my children. If my job description is to parent my children with grace, to teach them about a God who adores them, and to gently shepherd them towards His heart, they need my example more than my words. They need a Mommy with rings under her eyes who showers them with grace and patience, much more than they need a Mommy who got 8 hours of sleep but is tiring under the weight of all the yesterdays that she is dragging into today.
Maybe it feels more like your life pendulum swings from cuddles to tantrums, from Caillou to Dora, or from goldfish to Oreos. Maybe your baby is precariously wedged between your arm, your husband’s back, and somehow your left knee and if you twitch she WILL wake up. Maybe you’ve given it a fair shot and decided that mornings just do. not. work. for you. I’ve been there and I get it. He understands, too. But carve out some time. Find a way to wake up and get some rest. He can restore your heart and prepare your mind for another day of tea parties, crayons, The Hungry Caterpillar, and squat, lift, bend over, carry, repeat. There is no guilt in abiding and no greater productivity than pointing (little) hearts towards Him.