Recently, I asked my 13 year old daughter, “What do you think I do to stay sane as I mother you children and manage the daily stresses of our household?” She laughed and immediately said, “You take baths.”
This may seem like a strange answer to such a complex question, but it’s actually the first thing that came to my mind when I asked myself that question just a few minutes before asking Emmy.
“What does taking baths have to do with managing a household and staying sane in the process?”
My days are probably like yours; school, chores, and extra-curricular activities like dance and gymnastics. We have church, small group, youth group, grocery shopping, doctor and dentist visits, trips to the library, and play dates with friends. I try to prioritize exercise, dates with my hubs, and keeping a semi-clean house. I’ve been seeking simplicity and a slower pace of life, but life with children is BUSY! There’s no way around it.
Definitions for busy include the following:
Having a great deal to do. Occupied with or concentrating on a particular activity or object of attention. Full of activity. Excessively detailed or decorated; fussy. Engaged. To keep occupied. Sustaining much activity. Cluttered with detail to the point of being distracted. Being in use. Having many things to do.
I can’t read through that list of definitions and think of one mother who is NOT busy. We are ALL busy.
How do we manage and conquer the day to day tasks at hand?
I became a mother sixteen years ago with the pregnancy of our firstborn, Josiah. I remember carrying bags of groceries up three flights of stairs to our un-air-conditioned apartment in the heat of summer. I remember lying on our bed dreaming of the son I was carrying in my womb. When Josiah was born, my whole word seemed to revolve around him. I was captivated by every facial expression, every sound, and every new thing he did. I embraced motherhood and continuously asked God for help.
The day Emmy was born, I went grocery shopping at Walmart. I had done a full weeks worth of shopping, was carrying those groceries up the stairs to our second story condo when I felt something in my body start to happen, signifying the onset of labor for our baby girl.
I remember feeling afraid that I would not love our new baby as much as I loved Josiah. The moment I held Emmy in my arms, all fear washed away as I was overcome with love.
One night shortly after Emmy was born as I was awake feeding her and soothing her cries, I felt so exhausted and overwhelmed. I started to cry, thinking, “how can I do this?” “How can I be a mother?” I called my mom the next morning and told her how overwhelmed I felt. She assured me that with God as my strength, I could take care of my children, and I could do it with joy. She encouraged me and reminded me that I should embrace this precious time with my newborn girl awake in the night. It would pass so quickly.
My mom was right.
Isabelle came when Emmy was almost four years old. Until that point Eric and I had been actively involved in our churches’ young marrieds ministry. When Isabelle was born, we were thrilled, and we were also exhausted. I couldn’t even fathom continuing to lead the young married’s small group we had previously been leading. We left the young married ministry and focused on thriving with our new family of five.
When Isabelle was two-and-a half, Judah was born. Judah was full of the most amazing, heart melting smiles, but he was also especially difficult for me in his early years of life. He was that child who would throw tantrums in the grocery store so bad that I had to leave. He threw many fits and challenged me every day. Judah is a strong willed, determined boy! I struggled with feeling so much love for Judah and also so much frustration. (Judah is still strong and determined, but he is also full of sweetness, generosity, and creativity with his fits now fewer and farther between.)
We had FOUR children. Life was full, challenging, and fun.
We thought we were done having children from my womb. I gave away almost all of my maternity and baby clothes with the exception of a few keepsakes. We had a dream to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. Shortly after being accepted into an adoption program, my husband and I went through a difficult time in our marriage.
We had to contact our adoption agency and let them know that we wouldn’t be continuing the process. I was so grieved. I wondered how I could manage our home, homeschooling, and caring for our four children as we worked through all that we needed to work through. God was so faithful, and we did the work we needed to do. After a difficult and beautiful year of counseling and healing, we got pregnant with baby number five, child of grace, Tirzah Raelle.
With the birth of Tirzah came a joy in motherhood that I hadn’t yet known. Going from four children to five felt so natural. Life didn’t feel crazier, it felt calmer. Tirzah means, “she is my delight.” We all truly delighted in Tirzah and in our growing family.
When Tirzah was about eighteen months old, my husband brought up the question of whether or not we wanted more children. I did NOT feel ready. LOL! But Eric did:). We talked about all of our reasons for not wanting another child and decided they were foolish reasons. The next month Ruthie was in my womb!
I was so sick in my early pregnancy. Sick with nausea and also a nasty cold/cough that I couldn’t kick. I was so sick that I slept in our guest room just so I could cough without waking anyone else up. I questioned my ability to have another child. I felt angry, despairing, and less than happy about being pregnant.
During one of those difficult nights I had a dream. I dreamed that I was giving birth to our baby. I saw myself give birth to a baby girl. I woke up and knew in my heart that I was pregnant with a girl! That afternoon I took a bath and poured out my heart in prayer for our baby. I asked God who she was and what she would be like. I asked him for her name. I heard the name RuthAnne.
I cried and cried with joy when I heard her name because I KNEW that is who she was and that my Father had just named her. I told Eric that I dreamed our baby was a girl and that God had given me her name. He asked the name, but I wouldn’t tell him. I told him that if the name was from God, he was going to give it to Eric too.
Shortly thereafter, in the middle of the night, Eric heard the name Ruth Anne, and then he saw the name RuthAnne as one name. A few days later I asked him if he had heard a name and he told me that he had. I rejoiced in the Lord when he told me that he had heard and seen the name “RuthAnne”! God is good and God is REAL!!!
When Ruthie was born we quickly adjusted to being a family of eight!
We now have two teenagers, a nine year old, a seven year old, a four year old, and a two year old. Life is full, busy, challenging, and crazy good! Praise the Lord!!!
How do I manage and conquer the day to day tasks at hand?
I take baths!
Every day I take a bath. Sometimes I don’t get there until 11:00 at night, but I get there.
In my bath I have quiet time. I read. I pray. I dream, and I contemplate my days. I think through and pray through things that are troubling me. I ask God for help. I read God’s Word. I enjoy myself with tea, bubbles, and books. It’s my time to be Melissa, daughter of God, bride of Christ. I cry in my bathtub. I laugh in my bath tub. I get angry in my bathtub, and I relax in my bath tub.
I get out of that tub, ready for sleep and for a new day.
It’s really not so much about the tub as it is the the quiet time with the Lord.
This time alone with the Lord, in His Word, in prayer, and in reading good books refreshes me. This time keeps me sane.
No “how to” matters without these daily times of refreshing with Jesus.
Every “how to” comes from Jesus.
I understand that mothering is a high calling.
I asked my husband Eric the question, “What do you think I do to stay sane as I manage our household and children?” He thought for a minute and then said, “You realize the high calling of motherhood.”
Ever since becoming a mother, I have been greatly encouraged by my own mother(who takes a minimum of one bath a day), two books written by my mother’s mentor called “A Mother’s Touch” and “A Mother’s Time,” and by a ministry called “Above Rubies.”
The ministry of Above Rubies has helped me to understand that as I mother my children I am doing the greatest kingdom work. I am serving, pouring out my life, and loving the way Jesus taught us how to love. I realize I am not alone in this great job of mothering. I need continually encouragement from the example of other godly mothers!
As I embrace motherhood, all the mundane tasks of mothering become less stressful and much more manageable! I realize how important, and how honoring to God my role as a wife and mother is. I see the eternal value of being a mother. I love being a wife and mother even in the midst of chaos!
I know chaos. I experience stress. I know what it’s like to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. I find my joy and my strength in Jesus and I fill myself with encouragement from His Word and from other women who also embrace and delight in motherhood.
So what are some “how to” tips for managing and conquering those daily stresses of being a mom?
1. Take baths everyday, meaning get alone with God, pray, relax, and feed on His Word.
2. Breathe and smile and sing… When you’re in a hurry trying to get out the door and you can’t find any matching socks for your kids, and then you realize you also can’t find them matching shoes because they left them in the van the day before…Then your four year old starts crying that she’s hungry as you spill the tea you intended to bring in the van on yourself…..At that same moment your toddler tells you she pooped. You hurry to change her but you can’t find the diaper wipes so you use paper towels instead….Ok, now your ready to go, but then your thirteen year old remembers that she forgot to let out the chickens. You look around your kitchen and feel frustrated because your sink is full of dishes that you didn’t get a chance to wash, and there’s a pile of crumbs on the floor that you didn’t get to sweep up…..Then your seven year old loses his first tooth by it literally, randomly flying out of his mouth as he’s heading out the door……Then you realize that you left your cell phone on your bathroom sink so you run to get it, meanwhile your older kids are getting frustrated because you are going to be late to wherever it is you are going. You finally get into your van when your nine year old realizes she left her back pack by the front door so she runs back into the house to get it….You look back at your beautiful children, but not before noticing how messy your van is and think to yourself ‘We really need to clean this van, it is disgusting.’ You sigh one of your frustrated sighs as your nine year old enters the van with her back pack and buckles up… You’re now ready to go. You turn on the radio, say a prayer, and breathe. You sing and you smile and you pray as you drive even though getting out of the door was so crazy and you are now going to be late to wherever it is you’re going.
3. Include your children in your day to day tasks. I think it’s safe to say that unless you are home alone, it is impossible to cook a meal much less use the bathroom without being interrupted by your children. I’ve learned to include my children in meal making. I’ve often worn a baby in the Ergo, while having toddler next to me on a stool or sitting on our kitchen counter while I cook. They love watching me and helping me cook. The irritation that may come from having them so close while cooking is well worth it in the long run. I now have three older children who love to cook and bake! I no longer have to cook every meal, because my children are capable and eager to cook. Teach your kids how to clean and help when they are young!
4. Let things go! You won’t get everything you want to get done, done in a day. At least, I rarely do. Yesterday, I wanted to clean my pantry, go on a walk, wash my kitchen floor, and read-a-loud to my kids. I didn’t get that walk in, nor did I wash my kitchen floor, BUT I did clean my pantry, take a nap with Ruthie, and read to my kids. Ask the Lord to show you what needs to be prioritized in your day and don’t fret over what you didn’t get done.
5. Take care of your body. Mothers, especially need to eat healthy, try to get good sleep (often this is difficult when we have young babies) and exercise. It’s easy to think we are too busy or stressed out to make healthy choices for our bodies, but these things make a world of difference when it comes to managing daily stress. I’m a fan of cutting refined sugar and processed foods out of my diet. I feel SO much better when I engage in regular exercise like dance, quick 15 minute circuit workouts in my family room, or walks with my kids. Sleep seems to always be a struggle for me as I love staying up late and I’ve had a baby or toddler for most of my married life:).
6. Make love with your husband. What’s making love got to do with it? A lot! If you find yourself getting cranky and stressed out, try getting jiggy with your man. A big “O” can do wonders for your mood, sleep, and relationship with your husband. You don’t have to be “in the mood” to make love with your husband. We mamas are not often “in the mood” after a long day of taking care of kids, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of making love. Go for it, get it started, and the results will help keep you sane.
7. Don’t journey through motherhood alone. We need help as we mother our children. We need older women who have “been there and done that” to encourage us and teach us. We need friends who will pray for us. We may need someone to cook a meal for us, help us clean, or babysit our children. It is important for us to reach out to other women, especially when we are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. It is important for us to immerse ourselves in truth and encouragement. Ask for help and ask for prayer!!!
8. Consider the needs of others. When you are feeling overwhelmed, think of people in your life who are going through a trial and pray for them, send them a text, or give them a call. Sometimes we can get so focused on our own struggles, that we forget about the struggles of the people around us. Choose to consider the needs of others and you’ll find your own trials seeming less painful. Every day brothers and sisters around the world experience the same difficulties we do. We are never alone….
9. Have FUN and practice gratitude!!! What brings you joy? What do you have fun doing? Painting, running, watching movies, playing board games, dancing, hiking, or eating out? What are you thankful for? Beautiful sunsets, coffee, dandelion bouquets, chocolate, the smell of rain? Just because we are mothers doesn’t mean we stop having fun. I kinda think moms have the potential to have the most fun of anyone in the world. Gratitude for all the little things makes life as a mom way more fun. Do the things you love to do and be grateful every single day!
The Virtuous Wife (and mom)
10 Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
She brings her food from afar.
15 She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes tapestry for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants.
25 Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.
This Proverbs 31 woman was a busy gal. She worked hard in many areas as she took care of her family. Ultimately, what caused her husband and children to praise her was not her beauty or her success, but her fear of the Lord.
Love God above all else! Put Jesus first and you’ll stay sane and CONQUER the daily stresses of life!