Apr 022014
 

Two years ago, my husband and I went to a counselor for help, not with our marriage (though we have seen a marriage counselor in the past), but because I was at the end of my rope. People often use this expression when they’re frustrated or under stress, but this was more than mere frustration. I was completely worn out, exhausted and defeated, and I felt unable to cope with the demands of my life as a mother at home. I was a mom who yelled too much, rarely smiled, and was never happy. I felt like I had nothing to look forward to, and life had stopped being fun. More often than not, after the kids went to school and DJ had settled into an activity, I would sit in a chair and just stare into space. I had plenty to do – I always have plenty to do – but I wasn’t interested in doing any of it. I wasn’t even interested in doing things that I previously loved, like scrapbooking, or reading. Reading used to be my primary hobby, and I could plow through a half dozen library books each week, but suddenly it took me two months to get through a book – or I might never get through it at all. I just couldn’t concentrate anymore, on anything. I would find myself starting the same paragraph over and over, and eventually I would just give up and return the book to the library. It was really very sad for me because I felt like I was losing that last little part of myself, the one thing I had left that made me Heather, and not just “mom.”

My husband, who loves me and was tired of watching me slog listlessly through the days, insisted that I get some help. I balked and argued and dug in my heels, but eventually I agreed. We made an appointment with a male counselor at Keys to Living, a Christian counseling group, and we went together. At first I was reluctant to see a male counselor because I didn’t think he would understand my concerns, but I soon realized that it was actually easier to talk to him. I say this not to disparage female counselors in any way, but I believe many women worry that if they confide in another woman she will silently (or even openly) criticize them, or judge them through the lens of her own experience, so they hold a part of themselves back. With a man, it doesn’t feel like there is comparing and contrasting going on behind the scenes, so it’s easier to be completely honest.

I told the counselor that life felt like one big chore, and that my time was never my own. I told him that I felt like I had no freedom, like I was stuck in an endless cycle of work and demands. Everyone wanted something from me, but no one cared about what I wanted, and I was weary and drained because I could never even think a complete thought without interruption. I explained that my children, though I know we taught them the word “dad,” seem incapable of using it, and I could no longer stand the relentless barrage of questions and demands that was always directed at me, and never at him. I told him about 11 years of chronic sleep deprivation, and how I’d gotten so accustomed to being woken up several times each night that I was no longer able to sleep through the night at all, even when the kids didn’t get up. My brain seemed to wake me up in expectation.

Basically, I told him the truth which was, in simplest terms, that I needed a break. Instead of being everyone’s nurturer, I needed to be taken care of myself for a change.

Even as a child, I did not feel that I was cared for. I grew up with a mother who had not yet grown up herself, and by 4th grade she and I had completed a bizarre role reversal in which I was the parent and she was the child. While other kids played after school, I picked up my brother from preschool and cleaned the house. By 7th grade I added cooking dinner to my after-school schedule because I knew that if I didn’t establish some kind of stability and routine in our house, nobody else would. By the time I had children of my own, I had spent so much of my life being everyone’s caretaker that the selflessness required by motherhood came quite easily to me…..until I had nothing left to give.

Our counselor explained that I should not feel guilty about taking a break from my children, and that the reason they always sought me out is because I was always there, and they’d never had to learn how to do without me. He suggested that my husband and I agree on one day each week when I would be free, and we decided that Saturday mornings would be my time, and he would handle the children. This was fine…for a while. The problem was that if I tried to stay home and work on a scrapbook page or something, the kids would still pester me because I was there. However, if I left I didn’t know what to do with myself. I believe I’ve mentioned many times in the past that I’m a very introverted person, and being among crowds of people is neither relaxing nor energizing for me. I hate shopping, and while working in a quiet place like the library is nice in theory, packing up all of my scrapbook supplies and papers and photos and hauling them there was really kind of a pain. Saturday mornings began to feel like a chore instead of a break, and I actually resented that in order to not be harassed constantly, I had to leave the house. It felt like yet another injustice.

Slowly and surely, my weekly time “alone” began to fade away, and before I knew it we had settled back into our old routine, wherein I took absolutely no time for myself until I was so angry and fatigued that I was forced to leave in order to keep my sanity. I know this isn’t the right way to handle this problem, but I’ll be honest – I can’t seem to find any other way. Fortunately, it seems that my husband can. Last night, he could tell that I was very tired and fed up, so after dinner he told the girls to clean up the kitchen, and then he put me in the car and took me out for coffee. Other times, he’ll tell me to go take a bath, and when the kids try to come in he yells, “Hey! Leave your Mom alone!” These are not perfect solutions, but they do make a difference because it’s so nice to just be taken care of. Sometimes it’s incredibly helpful for me if he just takes charge and tells me what to do, because it’s such a relief to not be the one who is orchestrating everything….to let someone else be in control.

I honestly believe that most men really do want to help when their wives are tired, frazzled and at their breaking point, but they just don’t know how. Really how can they, when most women don’t know how to help themselves? It seems ridiculous that so many mothers, especially mothers who stay at home, are reluctant to take time for themselves unless someone makes them. Why are we so terrible at this? I think there are lots of reasons, not the least being that if we stay home, there are still too many people who think we do nothing all day, and therefore we have no reason to be tired. However, I think there are bigger issues here, mainly guilt and control…or the loss of it. We feel guilty for leaving our children because somewhere along the way we became convinced that no one but us can care for them adequately, and therefore it’s impossible to give up control over their care to someone else.

I would like to tell you what I always tell my children – mothers are people, too! Mothers need sleep, and food, and fun, and time to pursue things we’re interested in. We’re not unfeeling robots with an endless supply of energy, and I don’t believe that we’re called to be martyrs who sacrifice every last bit of ourselves for our children. Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) God wants us to be happy and enjoy our lives, and I know too many mothers who are not enjoying their lives at all. They’re walking around in a perpetual state of fatigue and misery because the enemy – the thief – has stolen all their joy. Psalm 127:3 reminds us that children are a gift and a reward from God, but the enemy will do everything in his power to make us forget that. He wants to keep us frustrated, aggravated, and depressed. He wants us to doubt our choices, and to fantasize about having a different life when what we really need to do is claim the abundant life Jesus has promised.

If we want our needs to be met we need to surrender some control, and take responsibility for our own health and sanity. Most importantly, we need to listen to the wisdom of Psalm 37:4-5 which tells us, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.” I can tell you that when I’m unhappy or depressed, the first thing I do is neglect prayer. While I’m mired in self-pity my Bible remains closed, and this is exactly what the enemy wants! True happiness can never be found if we ignore God, or seek fulfillment apart from His plan for our lives. The Lord says, “I know of my plans for you…..plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Too often we forget who we are, and what God has done for us. He loves us, and He created us for a purpose! We are infinitely valuable to Him, and what God values we should also value.

Trust me when I say that I’m speaking to myself here, as well as to you. My husband and I have decided that on Saturday mornings he will take the children somewhere for a couple of hours so that I can have time for myself here at home. This means that I must train myself to actually take this time, and not fall back into my old, self-destructive habits. My family will probably tell you that they don’t believe I’ll actually do it, because they’ve watched me stumble, in my frustrating, headstrong way, over the same obstacles again and again on my path to abundant life, but I’m more determined now than ever to learn how to enjoy the journey.

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” ~Psalm 16:11

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  21 Responses to “Mothers Are People, Too! Enjoying Your Abundant Life”

  1. Thank you for this Heather. It was exactly what I needed to read today.

  2. Hurray for your post! I couldn’t agree with it, and you, more. I, too, grew up in a household in which the roles were reversed. Plus, my father died unexpectedly when I was a teenager, leaving even more responsibility on my shoulders.

    I am now the (grateful) adoptive mom of two children who are homeschooled. I COMPLETELY understand your need for solitude and time to yourself, but not getting it. Our local school system is horrendous, leaving us two options; private schools or homeschooling. Private school is completely out of our budget, so homeschooling it is. Now – homeschooling is wonderful, but it’s exhausting for me. I never keep up with everything – never.

    My solution for the moment is to go to a local scrapbooking crop at least twice a month. I’d like to go more, but we don’t always have that budgetary flexibility. I haven’t been able to go for a couple of weeks now and I feel the difference in my stress level and my patience level. My point is, I guess, that even moms are allowed to experience fulfillment and joy in the things we do.

    Much support for you, Heather, and for all those frazzled, fatigued moms everywhere.

  3. God Bless YOU Heather and thank you for sharing yourself! I am always amazed how God works, I sure needed to read your post today
    I am a Mommy to 2 girls, ages 3 & 4. Also we have an angel baby, born last September whom I miss every moment. I love being their Mommy, I love being my husband’s wife – he is just a fantastic guy! I have found myself having the same feelings you describe and then feeling huge guilt too. Adding in that I am walking thru a grief that can not be expressed properly in words. What I can express is if I did not know Jesus I just would be unable to go on.
    Thank you for encouraging me (& many other Mommas). God Bless all of us Mommy’s who ARE people too!

  4. I’m so glad you wrote this post! I have dealt with depression and trying to keep it together as a working mom. To be completely honest, I wondered how you did it so cheerfully and felt that there was something wrong with me. I finally learned to not worry how others do things and figure out how I have to do things. For me, I need to work out daily and need to have quiet time. At first I felt like I was being self-indulgent and silly needing this time on my own but now it is my magic pill for getting through the day. We, my husband and I, even went further by taking a transfer across country allowing me to stay at home and narrow our priorities. So, I guess I would say keep fighting for your me time no matter how you get it . This will show your daughters that when they are wives and mothers, that they deserve a break and train your son to do the same one day for a future wife:) take care and take breaks…you are a dedicated wife and mother who deserves her own time!! God bless you!!

  5. I was a single mother fortunate enough to have an ex who took my daughter almost every weekend and holiday from age 4 or 5 on. I also had a mother who loved to see her and who would taker her on outings frequently as a baby / toddler. I could never understand the guilt trips that the other moms I knew would give me about how weird it was that I was okay with just letting my child go when it came time for summer camp or her time with her dad. They’d cry for days and they were bothered by my calmness.

    It hurt because I could understand their pain but they could / would never see my side. I was ‘unnatural’

    Enjoy the time you have for yourself and never let someone else’s self-absorbedness tell you you don’t deserve it.

  6. Thanks so much for posting this. I am going through so many feelings of frustration, exhaustion (sometimes anger?). I feel like I’ve lost my joy, and you are right, my Bible has remained closed. That will change. Six months ago I went back to work full-time after staying home for almost four years with my little boy…so add a major dose of guilt into the equation…why do I need “me” time when I’m by myself at work all day?? Again – thank you SO much for sharing. Your words really touched me today of all days.

  7. Heather, This article brought me to tears. I have been there too many times to count. I am a working mom, but my work is being a nanny and there is just about never a point in time where I do not have some amazing little human needing something from me… It is such rewarding work, but sometimes I just need time to complete a thought without an interruption or whining! This article reminded me how we, as mothers, need to take a mommy time out more often because it is not only good for us, but it’s also good for our children and husbands too! It is important for them to nurture their bond also. The kids need to rely on themselves and rely on Dad more, and Dad needs time where he is not overshadowed by the force that is “Mom!” Thanks for sharing this! ~Jess

  8. Hi Heather! Your beginning sounded exactly like my journal pages. For the past 5 years I keep on writing about feeling overwhelmed. At least when I get it all out on paper it helps not to feel so helpless. I work 3 days a week but the days when I’m home are truly the hardest. I have also dealt with feeling apathetic to everything that I’ve enjoyed. I read very few books and the ones that I start I take forever to finish. There is something magical though that happens when I get my alone time. It’s my time to recharge and most importantly to regroup my thoughts. The problem is that I often wait till I’m on the brink of a burnout before I demand my alone time. Thanks for this post and a reminder that it’s very important for us, mothers, to take care of ourselves. One of my favorite podcasts from a Power of Moms is called “Mommy is a person”. I’ve learned from listening to it that we need to teach our children that “Mommy is a person”.

  9. Thank you for this honesty and for sharing your experience. I am experiencing this exact thing almost word for word right now. I am beyond blessed and happy that I get to stay at home with my children, but I have lost myself and have struggled with not feeling like I have an identity or a purpose. You are right. My Bible has remained closed and the enemy has taken up residence in my life. Your words are so encouraging and give me that push to just do it and take the time for myself that my husband will very willingly encourage and support. Really thank you for expressing your struggles and for making us all feel not quite so alone 🙂 You and your blog are a great blessing.

  10. Thank you Heather, this was beautiful. As I laid in bed with a terrible migraine yesterday I actually told my husband that I wish I could be sick more often. How ridiculous is that? This post was exactly how I was feeling but unable to express yesterday. Thank you for taking the time to validate what I’ve often been feeling and help provide guidance from the scriptures!

  11. Wow! I feel like you wrote this directly to me! I know lots of moms expereince the same thing, but I could have written the first part word for word. The second half is wisdom I really needed to hear. So, thank you!!!

  12. Thank you for this post! I’m just starting my journey as a stay at home mom and have gone from a busy, fast-paced full time job to being here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with my now 5-month old. We even went down to one car to make it work so my son and I don’t get out very often either. Most of the time I’m content but every once in awhile I want to go out and be just Me for awhile… alone, without being mom, which makes me feel Super guilty. So far I’ve made it just a couple of times and I always do come back happier! I’m learning there is no ‘off’ time when you’re a mom… you’re always on and it can wear you right down!

  13. Sounds like a great idea. You get some time alone to just be and your husband gets some special one on one time with the kids. Good for y’all.

  14. This is an AMAZING post!! I feel it spoke directly to me, as I’m sure every other mother felt the same.

  15. Planning to “join you” in the morning, Lord willing! Only I will get up and leave the house so I’m not tempted to clean!!~ *I appreciate your sharing this article– we moms ReaLLy Are people, too…. : )

  16. Thank You! That is all I can truly say! My hubby are working ourselves out of debt which means he is gone a lot! The things you feel/were feeling sound just like me! I know my hubby wants to give me more time but it is very difficult because he is the main breadwinner. He does his best with what we have. That you for being honest and letting your readers know they are are not alone!

  17. Awesome Mom! I’m only 11, so I can’t really relate to the post at all, but still good writing.

    • Thank you, lovey. You’re an awesome daughter and I love you!
      (P.S. Next time you eat apples and peanut butter please clean up after yourself).

  18. Not that Im happy that this happens to you or the other moms commenting, but thank God im not the only one!! Im a young mom, 26, of 3 kids( 8mo, 2yr,4yr old)… and most of my friends are single.. no kids . Im the social type and thats what I miss most, just talking to someone who doesnt mention themselves in third-person. The truth is that Ive avoided all of my friends because I dont want them to see the mess that is my life. I used to encourage others that a family life is beautiful and how marriage and motherhood should be respected and not seen as “the end of your life”. But im afraid that if they see my disorganized and chaotic life that im responsible for that sad and boring cliche of motherhood. I dont even look like myself anymore, and suffer constantly with depression. Dont know how my husband still loves and puts up with me… but there are times that he cant handle it, and I have to suffer in silence for the sake of our kids. Im sorry to over share but Ive never told anyone how I really feel… Im afraid of failing at the one thing I know I was called to be, a mom. 5 years and 60lbs later… I feel like ive gotten nowhere… I really hope that you and I one day wake up and feel awesome about our lives…excited to change a diaper even!? Ok nevermind, but atleast we can take comfort in knowing that we’re not alone. May the lord bless you with an abundant life!

  19. Wow…Wow…Wow! Heather your transparency is so refreshing!! You are telling my story word-for-word. Again, Wow!

  20. […] *Three-way tie* Mothers are People, Too: Mothers are human beings with needs, and we need to advocate for […]

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