Although I had dreamed for as long as I could remember about being a mother of eight children, I had no idea what I was getting into when the nurse handed me, my first newborn son. After a few months of life with a baby, I was thinking, “There is NO WAY on this good earth that I will ever make it to eight!!! In fact, I might not make it past one!!”
I loved that baby more than I could have ever imagined, but I was overwhelmed with exhaustion from little sleep, and my baby’s nearly constant crying. I was lonely because my life was filled to the brim with diapers, breastfeeding, and endless hours of walking the floor with an unhappy baby, leaving little time or energy for anything else.
Four more children followed within the next ten years, most of them with beloved strong-wills. While I loved my kids and did not for one moment regret the decision to have a large family, most of the time I felt like I was in a fog.
I loved the idea of being needed by my kids but wished I was not needed quite so much. I loved the hugs and sticky kisses, but sometimes I wanted to lock myself in the closet so that I could have a few touch free minutes. I loved cuddling my babies, but could not wait until they were old enough to be more self-sufficient.
I could not remember what it was like to take a shower without worrying about what the children were doing to themselves, each other or the house in the few minutes that I was unavailable. I missed going out with my husband on a whim.
The days and weeks seemed to drag on forever, and I wondered if they would ever end. I often asked myself if I was cut out for this whole business of motherhood.
Eventually, my kids grew out of those needy stages, and I started to feel like myself again. I could think more clearly when I did not have children always climbing all over me and begging for my attention.
I was not so stressed out when they stopped throwing tantrums in public and could sit through church without even a hint of an outburst. It was like a breath of fresh air when I could squeeze some time out of the day to be alone, even for a few minutes, and I truly needed that to function.
I have since realized that the baby and toddler stage, while it had its beautiful moments, was not my favorite or most effective stage. While I loved my babies and miss cuddling with them, I do not miss many of the other things that went along with that phase of life.
But I LOVE the stage that I am in right now. While it has its share of challenges for sure, some of them being potentially life altering, I still feel like this stage highlights my strengths as a person and as a mother much more so than have other stages that I have passed through.
So if you are feeling overwhelmed with the stage that you are in with your children right now, take comfort in these three things:
1. All stages pass, even when it feels like they NEVER will
Your current challenges will eventually fade into memory, leaving you feeling like a rock star for having navigated them without completely losing your mind. HOLD ON.
2. Everybody has their favorite stage of motherhood, and that is OK:
There is often so much pressure to enjoy every moment of motherhood, leaving moms everywhere feeling stressed out, exhausted and GUILTY if they are struggling to find joy in their current situation.
If you are feeling that way, give yourself some credit. Loving your children is different from loving their current stage of life. Maybe you are in your element with babies and toddlers, and you feel like the challenges are minimal compared to the joy of cuddling your little ones. More power to you; enjoy it while you can.
Perhaps, however, you do not deal with the challenges of young children as well as you hoped that you would. Maybe you don’t function well on little sleep and miss being needed by people other than a baby or a toddler.
Don’t beat yourself up over that. You are going to shine in another stage of motherhood.
3. Joy comes in moments
I discovered this when my children were very young, and I felt burdened with many challenges that continually stretched me beyond my natural abilities. Even when things were not going well overall, I could always find joy in moments if I was paying attention.
Sometimes I found those moments in a simple hug or kiss from a child who said, “I love you, Mommy,” as he ran off to play. Other times, I saw them when two of my kids who usually did not get along were laughing and playing nicely together. I occasionally discovered magic in the colors of a beautiful sunset that lifted my heart, or in watching the toddler who had misbehaved all day peacefully sleeping as I headed off to bed.
Moments such as these sustained me through many difficult days because they reminded me that joy could be found in any stage, no matter how challenging, but I had to look up and find it.
Mothers everywhere…hang on through those difficult stages and know that you are not alone. Try to enjoy life where you are by looking for beautiful moments that are sometimes hidden behind the neon sign of frustration and struggle.
If you are not in your natural element with your current stage of motherhood, remember that things change, children grow, and you will eventually find the place where you truly ROCK. Do not wish away your days waiting for something better ahead, but don’t get too discouraged when some stages stretch you.
Know that each stage of motherhood will eventually come together to create a beautiful canvas that you are now painting one brush stroke at a time. The strokes from the dark and difficult days will be just as important to the finished product as the strokes from the joyful days that pass with relative ease. When all is said and done, it will be a masterpiece.
Just. Keep. Painting.