In a lot of ways this last year has been all about me, at least inside my head. How am I going to meet my needs and take care of myself? And please go to bed so I can get to the things I really want to do! And I need to sleep. The list goes on. Because the pregnancy took such a huge tole on me mentally, physically, and emotionally I was constantly drained and had little to give to anyone else.
Right after Laura was born I was watching the hallmark movie Beyond the Blackboard and had a perfectly timed paradigm shift:
Stacy Bess: I had all these big ideas about teaching [being a mom]. You know my classroom [home] was going to be this amazing place where kids felt safe and loved. But I’ve learned some not good things about myself… I’m not doing my best for those kids. Why are you smiling?
Greg Bess: I’ve been waiting for you to get riled up.
Stacy: You think this is riled up?
Greg: Before this baby’s born [not relevant here…], you’ve got one season to play [their childhood]. Think you’re gonna kick some butt?
Those words gave me the shift I needed to refocus on providing my kids with a joyful childhood. One with a mom who is happy and enjoys them and life. I’m recommitted to my role as a mother and to act instead of being acted upon. I’ve started by cultivating the habit of smiling.
A few weeks ago after a particularly rough day at home with everyone being sick, I was on my way to a doctors appointment by myself. In those quiet moments I had some gentle correction. I’m a bit of a grump when I’m tired (which is basically all the time with a newborn) and I like to bring everyone down with me. I should smile, especially at home.
Even when I’m not grumpy smiling doesn’t come naturally to me. When I was a kid my mom suggested that I should smile. I remember feeling like my face hurt and it was exhausting. Normally I’m quite happy but I don’t feel compelled to show it. I decided it was time to give it a go anyway. My plan: any time I make eye contact with someone, smile.
After a few weeks I have already seen huge results. I feel happier and more engaged in life. Andrew and I are sillier and do fun things with our kids in the evenings. We also spend way more time talking and joking once the kids are in bed (which is NOT helping with the exhaustion and makes smiling a bit harder during the day. Balance!). I am connecting with Nathan better and his whole face lights up and he giggles when he catches me looking at him with a smile. I’ve made a point to smile at the kids while I’m putting them to bed and it helps Emily relax and go to sleep faster (it encourages Nathan to keep talking and come out of his room). I’m feeling more confident all around. I still have a long way to go but I’m determined to make smiling part of me.
I’m also trying to do one little thing during the day to make the day magical. Super simple magical. Not planned magical. Like giving the kids raisins with their peanut butter covered graham cracker to make pictures. Or blow up a bunch of balloons and play with them together. Or turning a blind eye to them eating cups full of chocolate chips that Emily got for them while I was taking a nap (I did require them to get out of Laura’s seat and off the table after the picture was taken). Or letting Emily work on all sorts of paper projects and helping with stapling when asked. Or enjoying Emily’s discovery of all the airports on the maps. Or making fancy popcorn for a family home evening treat at the end of a rough day.
I have grand plans of growing and becoming for myself in the realm of motherhood. I’m excited with my baby steps. As I have focused on smiling and creating a joyful childhood I have been amazed at the divine intervention. God’s power is here with us as we are raising children. There are unseen angels in my home daily, helping all of us in more ways than I know. Being a mom is absolutely work, but being able to do my little part and realize that I have been helped and strengthened beyond my own abilities is humbling and miraculous.
It feels good to get back in the game.