I’m sitting here trying to type words. I had a great idea. That is until it vaporized when one of the last 29 questions or 36 weird noises that my kids have made. 8-year-old girls and 14-year-old boys are weird. And I’m not alone much these days. It makes me realize how important solitude is. It’s not only best for me, but I can be a better mama when I am able to find it regularly. Or, if not regularly at least more often that I can. As my patience dwindles at the excessive plastic baggie rustling coming from the kitchen.
#StayingAtHome has taught me lots of lessons. I learned how to Zoom for the first time, I’ve learned how to practice therapy online and probably the most important, it has helped me identify concrete needs and set some boundaries. The first two, while not instantly mastered, were easy compared to that last. When it comes to identifying my needs and establishing actual boundaries with other people, I’m pretty terrible. I tend to push those needs further and further aside neglecting them for the urgent and immediate needs that face me as soon as I wake up. Think reheating that first cup of coffee 3 times before finally giving up on it. And for me, very much and introvert, being alone is critical.
My discipleship group leader was talking about her need for this. She said that it is even difficult for her to find solitude even if there is anyone in the house with her, even if they aren’t popping in and asking for something (else) to eat or fighting over the remote.
I realized that this is also true for me. When anyone is at home I’m constantly listening, smelling, scanning the figurative horizon for something that needs my attention. Mothers are wired that way. We need to be, but I also think about how the momma cows would go off grazing with the rest of the herd while the calves were left in the care of a younger cow or heifer. They would be happily munching in the best pasture while the calves would be up in the corner laying around or playing. She knew that they were safe and that she didn’t have to worry about them for a sweet, solitary meal. When she returned her calf would run up and start nursing, happily swishing his tail. She had had a rest, her bag had a chance to fill up and they were both better for it. This takes a lot of assertiveness. I’m bad at that when it comes to my own needs. I have to remember that their feelings might be hurt, but it’s better for all of us.
Some readers might be offended by being compared to cows. I guess there is some negative connotation floating around out there. But this is really none of that. Those momma cows are peaceful and they know what to do when they are drained and need a few moments to recharge.
Finding that time to recharge is more challenging now than ever. It’s already taken me 3 times as long to write this much because I’ve had to: pour more milk, go see what all the yelling outside was about (it was nothing serious this time), go find a child who had wandered outside, engage in a legal battle about how we aren’t getting the Barbies out of storage right now, and ask someone to be excused because drinking fruit punch is apparently an audible activity.
These aren’t even daily occurances. All this happens within an hour and there are easily twelve of those during the day that moms have to contend with.
So here are some things we have implemented and/or enforced a little in the past couple of weeks so I don’t lose it and blow gremlin slime all over the house.
- Everyone eats at the table and we all wait until the others are seated to begin (this means that our son now fixes his plate very last)
- Bedtime. Because I need to not see or hear them by the end of the day
- Mandatory Recess. My words “Don’t come inside until I call you for supper.”
- Limited screen time. This was always true, but my kids get along remarkably well when they are playing games or playing outside and fight like cats and dogs over the remote.
- Arts and Crafts. This includes making play dough. Although I’m present for some of it, I choose projects that they can do mostly by them selves and that will keep them busy for a good while.
- Insisting that they make their own food if it is within their ability. This mostly applies to our daughter. There are a few things that we help with, she’s eight. Like helping with a full milk jug.
- Adjusting my expectations. I always add this and I’ve gotten more negative comments on this one than anything. But it’s true, I need to be able to set reasonable expectations for my own productivity. It’s just not going to be as good most days. And I need to give myself grace.
- Being faithful to my need to get outside alone. Giving myself permission to rest and recharge for a few minutes so that my grace bank fills up and I can be nice to my people again. It takes discipline and assertiveness. Areas that are really hard for me. And if I take my own advice when my students tell me something is hard, “Well, we found something we need to work on.”
What are you doing to maintain your balance, whether it is connecting more or carving out alone time?
I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said on the internet somewhere, but if you stumble on this post today, I hope it helps you. I hope you know that you aren’t alone and that we will get through this and be stronger and better because of it.