I am very in tune with my feelings. All day long I think about how I’m tired. Or hungry. Or how my kids’ constant noises are testing my limits. Or how much easier it will be when the weather is nicer.
Of course, there is an abundance of good feelings too. Like how much pleasure my kids give me when one child says he wants a hug and then the other two come running so as not to miss out on any affection. Or how proud I am when they praise each other or remember to show each other kindness instead of selfishness.
But on the whole recently, I am sorry to say it’s the feelings about the taxing nature of motherhood that have been most pressing on my mind.
I love the snuggles, but at times feel suffocated when I am trying to think or work and a child is hugging my arms, nuzzling against me, and patting/touching/cuddling me without pause.
I love their inquisitive natures, but at times feel overwhelmed when the questions do not take a break, even during the sanctified hour of afternoon rest time when silence is supposed to reign.
I love that they look to me for approval and help and attention, but at times feel anxious for the day when I am not so needed as I now am all day long.
The trouble is that these feelings, valid though they may be, fail to take into account the other half of the story.
Kids Are People Too… But Sometimes I Forget
When my feelings threaten to overwhelm, tunnel vision takes over and I fail to see that my kids’ feelings are just as pressing as my own.
Everyone knows exhaustion and over-stimulation often lead to impatience, but what I have been hit with recently is how these feeling are affecting my empathy for my children. Or lack of empathy, if I’m being honest.
Yesterday, when one child was extra clingy and unusually whiny, I immediately began thinking of how I can help him to be more self-directed and I wondered if he needed more structure or even chores to help occupy him. I wanted to help him learn, but I also wanted to make things easier on me.
Instead of jumping to figuring out a quick fix, what I really needed to do was to step back and consider his feelings and what was going on with him. It’s hard to know what is going on in our kids’ minds, but often we can get pretty close simply by taking into account recent changes or upcoming events.
For us, we are a couple months away from welcoming another baby into our home. And after losing our third son last summer, my children are not unfamiliar with loss or the simple reality that every birth is a miracle we cannot take for granted.
So when my husband encouraged me to consider how my son might be concerned about the future–the changes in our home and for the safety of his brother–it was like I had a lightbulb moment. Of course I should have been thinking about that. He is a person too, full of deep emotions and feelings just as real as my own.
Later in the day I was noting how stir-crazy my kids were acting. I suggested a laundry list of their usual indoor activities, but each was as unappealing to them as the next. Desperate for them to find something to do, we all went down to the basement to pick from the stash of toys currently rotated out. Laden down with big tractors and little matchbox cars, we returned upstairs to play.
They were happy…for a few minutes. Then the squabbling started up again and disputes had to be settled until everyone found what they needed to play contentedly. We were all struggling and my mind was escaping to count down the weeks until Spring and warmer weather would arrive and rescue us from this funk.
What I need today, and maybe you do too, is encouragement not to see my kids’ behaviors just for the ways they are affecting our home and my personal well-being. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, especially in this season of long indoor days and restless spirits, so I am not saying these feelings are not normal.
However, normal does not always equal good. Normal is not always what we would choose if we knew there was a way out. No one really wants to stay in a place where exhaustion or emotion lead to frustration, impatience, or even resentment towards our children.
What I am learning is that the best way to switch from impatience and helplessness at the constant pulls on my attention is to get outside of myself and my needs and to take the time to consider those of my children.
Practicing empathy flips a switch inside from I can’t handle this! to We are in this together and together we can figure it out.
Dear friend, I know so many of you are in similar situations where you feel worn out and like you don’t have the strength to handle whatever season you are in. I know because I’ve talked to you and read your posts and seen your comments.
Today, take a step back. Slow down and remember that your kids are not against you. Consider their little hearts and their needs. They are much more similar to yours than you may realize.
Shifting the focus from your feelings to how you can serve your children may just be the best thing to bring you all out of a place of fatigue and frustration to one of joy and endurance.
What do you do when you start feeling overwhelmed?
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