The key to finding peace and perspective when parenting is hard.
Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Frustrated. Drained. If I were honest, these words would often describe my state of mind.
Like most moms, I know I NEED breaks from the daily routine. And I do get away, but like many of you, my “me time” often includes Costco, servicing the car, or just my time to exercise. That stuff is all good, but I don’t think it should replace some serious get alone and breathe time.
But I had some unscheduled alone-time come up a few days ago, and that is why I write…
Sunday morning, I ended up with some time to myself in an hour that is rare for me to be away from the house…The before-sunrise hour.
My brother’s family needed a ride to the airport, so somewhere around 4:30 AM I was up and on the road.
I drove them to the airport, and after the hugs and goodbyes, I found myself driving back to the North Shore in a quiet car. Passing random neighborhoods, I saw the island slowly waking up….signs of life, and a new day dawning. It was a strange time to be alone. I felt myself getting thoughtful and even emotional. I didn’t know why, but as I thought about it, it occurred to me:
Typically when I “get out,” I have already lived part or most of a day. I might leave the house wearied from two-year-old tantrums, or with an incomplete to-do list weighing me down. I might be having an internal debate over whether or not I made the right call on this parenting issue or that. I might have just lost my temper. I usually leave with a list of calls to make on the road, and errands to run–even if I’m headed out for some supposed ‘me time.’ Typically I leave the house frazzled and with a mind anything-but-peaceful.
Not a pretty picture I know–but I’m just being honest. (Maybe someone relates.)
But this particular morning was different.
I hadn’t even parented one minute yet.
My slate was clean.
I wasn’t sick of kids, or overwhelmed.
It was early (and a Sunday,) so making phone calls for dentist appointments or car servicing or anything else wasn’t an option.
The only place that was open was Starbucks, so yes–I made that one stop.
And now, the day before me was a blank canvas. I wasn’t tired (Starbucks helped,) and I wasn’t in a hurry. I had two full hours before church.
So, as I drove quietly, my mind had the space to roam. My heart was free to feel. And then the tears began streaming down my cheeks. And the thoughts that hit me…
Oh God, I don’t want to be so rushed. I don’t want to always NEED to get away.
I really don’t want to be frustrated and overwhelmed.
I really meant to respond to Jonah last night when he asked me so sweetly to PLEASE help him with something….and I said “just a minute,” and then never went back to him…
When Josiah needed help stretching his tight muscles for surfing, and I had to first do something else, and then forgot to return…
And all of those fits that Levi throws–I know as much as anyone that he really only wants my attention.
But What–what can I do? How can I be all of these things for all of these people….and still be a happy wife, and honestly — a sane human being?
Sometimes it feels like just too much.
Or maybe I feel too little.
As I drove through the pineapple fields and over the hill, I could see down to the ocean, and the beautiful North Shore. Home. In the midst of all of these thoughts, my heart began to pound with a fresh longing to see my family. I wanted to hold them and hug them as if I had been away for a month. I felt silly then — I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that I fantasized about flying away to a remote place to just be alone for a while?
Crazy, yes. But this time I allowed all of the conflicting feelings at once, instead of quieting them, or trying to organize them all like I normally would. I asked God if there was some take-home message here. Some way to love my family well, not just when I’m in a quiet place all by myself, but in the midst of the crazy, too.
And though I didn’t get a quick answer, or a set of supernatural bullet-points, I was reminded of a few things:
I was reminded that God’s peace is not dependent on circumstances, and that He is not restricted to quiet moments or even clear thinking. Instead it is available always because: He is peace. In the middle of it all, He is. He’s not overwhelmed by our overwhelm, and He isn’t thrown off when we show our weakness. He gets it. He gets us.
I was reminded that I am not alone in the daily grind of trying so hard and failing so much and loving so deep and being so tired. This is the stuff of true motherhood.
I knew I needed to go home and just pay attention.
Because these days matter.
Don’t wish them away, or hurry through them.
Guard them. LIVE THEM FULLY.
Not in a super-woman kind of way, because–YOU AREN’T.
But in a humble, love-the-kids and your husband in the day-to-day, just like you love them in the solitude of the sunrise, kind of way.
Finally: Perspective doesn’t come easy, so I must pursue it. Daily.
One of the best ways to gain perspective is in these getting-alone times. You need them. Don’t neglect them any more than you would neglect your own family.
Soon I arrived home to noise and chaos and a needy toddler and dishes in the sink. I don’t think anyone had missed me, or felt any extra appreciation for me. They hadn’t been thinking deep thoughts as I was, and the husband was — if anything, a bit frazzled from the pre-church rush.
The only difference was that of a mom with a softer heart. The dishes didn’t bother me like they normally did. I didn’t react in anger to the bickering boys but found myself telling them in a more-calm-than-usual-voice to “please, speak kindly.” I hugged my man in a way that said YOU ARE SO IMPORTANT TO ME.
And I smiled to God knowing that in those quiet early morning hours, He had lovingly snuck me away to speak encouragement to my dry and weary soul.
Now to those of you who could use a bit of encouragement…those of you doing your best and maybe burning out a little bit in a hundred different ways…
I want to remind you that you matter. These days matter. I encourage you to take time, when you can, to just step aside and catch your breathe and reframe your perspective. Then, step back in again…right into the things that press in on you. Wrap your arms around them and embrace them. Listen to them. Pay attention to them. And don’t miss out on God’s peace that is there, smack in the middle of it all.
I’d love for you to share in comments if this resonates with you. If you are in a season of crazy, or of peace, or anywhere in the middle. I’m sure we will find encouragement through one another.
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