Thursday, October 2, 2008

Overwhelmed Mothers

First off, I don't usually watch Oprah. About six months ago, when I realized just how much she twists the Word of God into her own little package, making it say what she wants and therefore effecting those that watch, I decided I was done with Oprah. The bible says to flee from mockers, so in the only way I knew how I fled. Yesterday though, about half an hour into the show I switched over there while folding clothes. The kids were all outside playing nicely, a rare break in my day. Usually I'd have Little House on the Prairie on while folding clothes, but just wasn't feeling Michael Landon yesterday.

Anyway, yesterday's Oprah was about overwhelmed moms. She had mothers on the show that, in desperation for a break, had made a choice that had somehow cost them greatly. I sat, watching, hearing myself in these mothers and the mothers in the audience sharing their stories. My heart ached, knowing that I can completely understand their stories.

For those that don't know, I have four children. My son (8) has been diagnosed with ADHD and has trouble in social situations. My oldest daughter (7) has had night terrors and sleep walking since she was 18 months old. She has also gone screaming into the preteen years and has recently found an attitude that I can't even begin to understand. And then I've got two and a half year old twin girls. They play off each other and have learned already that when I'm distracted by something one has done the other can do something too. In short, I have four very individual, strong willed children.

Confession time...
*I have a TV in my son's room so that I can send all four kids to his room to watch a movie so that I can take an emotional time out.
*I have fought the twins trying to give up their nap times because that's the only chance I have to be alone during the day.
*I have locked my children in the car (my oldest knowing not to unlock it for anyone) so I could run into the library to pick something up because the idea of unloading, fighting with and then reloading all four children is completely overwhelming.
*I have yelled at my children when they've done something wrong, just to scare them from doing it again. (Made them cry. Did not make them not repeat the behavior.)

Do I "get" the idea of being an overwhelmed mom? You betcha. I've been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and coffee cup. Heck, I'm still there most days.

Now before you sit and start judging let me say that unless you've been there, you can't completely understand how desperate you can become when you're overwhelmed. I joke about how nice it would be to go to the bathroom alone, but inside I would love to be able to sit in the bathroom for 30 minutes waiting for nature to move things along, if you know what I mean. :) I would love to take a shower every morning, but the fact that I have to time it perfectly for when the children are distracted fully by the TV is annoying at best. I've come out of the shower to the twins sitting on the front porch playing. I'd love to sit down, with my bible and my coffee cup and just soak it all in. I'd love to finish a cup of coffee that's still hot actually, instead of reheating the same cup two or three times during the day, knowing it will be cold again before I can finish it.

I've found some tools though that have helped me not get overwhelmed as quickly.

The first one is MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers I attended my first MOPS meeting when I had just my older two kids, drove an hour for that meeting, twice a month. I've since been in a total of three different MOPS groups, each very different, but all sharing one similarity. Moms of little ones that also can't remember the last time they finished a cup of coffee or peed alone.

The second is PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel). This is a bible study group that meets each week. Military folks only. Each week I get there, I drop my children off in childcare and get to go upstairs and meet with other believers. I get fed, physically and spiritually, each week.

The third is an amazing church that loves children and families. I can go each Sunday, serve the Lord and sit through church. I get to worship God and know that my kids are all being taken care of by people that love them. Our church back in Georgia (which had amazing people that I love) stopped children's ministry during the church service. I grew up sitting in church with my family, but having four small children with you in church is overwhelming. It made me more worn out each week. And now that I think about it that was with only two kids.

Fourth, is Women of Faith ( Once a year I get to go away for a weekend and get my spiritual cup refilled in a large group of women who also love the Lord.

There are also other little things-stamping/crafting club once a month... My Space and Facebook (the only area of my life that I don't HAVE to share with the kids if I don't want to)... Starbucks, or any decent coffee place, that have drive-thrus (my kids all know I like caramel lattes)... the backyard is filled with outside toys that the kids can go play on when I need a few minutes to breathe.

As a mom, you have to make the choice to look for ways to get your self back to normal. I'm not the best at it. I've cried myself to sleep at night wondering if I was completely screwing my kids up. Honestly, if I didn't have these things to count on I have no idea how bad things would be. I probably would have been in jail for child abuse a long time ago. We're not taught how to be parents. It's all on the job training.

I still struggle everyday with how much of myself I've lost since becoming a mom. I'm not me, the original me, that I used to be. I want desperately to get that person back because there I was happy with me. I'm not happy with the me I see now. Being a mom has made me desperately aware of my flaws. It's hard. It hurts. Not remembering the last time I did something that was me, the original me. I sometimes don't even remember what that person was like. I remember bits... concerts and music were my life... I'd spend hours in thrift stores looking for something cool and vintage... I'd sit down and draw random pictures or write poetry or prose... I wanted to be a photographer or reporter when I grew up.

Someday, when the kids are grown, I may get that person back. But until then I'll just have to hold on to the remnants. And keep trying to not get overwhelmed each day by the pressure of raising four children into God fearing, Jesus loving, balanced people.

Lord, give me the strength to keep my eyes on you when I'm overwhelmed in my mothering. Help me remember the big picture. Some day the kids will be grown and I can spend all the time I want to discovering, or rediscovering, myself. Until then though, help me do a good job. Help me focus on you alone. Help me remember that if you are my focus everything else will fall into place. I love you Lord. Thank you for loving me, my husband and my children, more than I can even begin to comprehend. You are an awesome God. Amen.

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