Recently I wrote about feeling like I was trudging through the mud. I would say that this year, more than maybe any other year, I have felt burnt out in my parenting. Totally exhausted, and ready to give up the fight.
One of my friends on Facebook posted a link to an article about motherhood written by someone who had a two week old. I had a really hard time with my emotional response to that article. I was like let's talk again when you've been sleep deprived for years not just weeks. In my head I believe that every mother who writes about her experiences has a valid perspective. There's something really sweet about the new mom glow. It just feels a little hollow to me right now. It's easy to gush about how wonderful motherhood is when you are not dealing with the tantrums of a threenager, when you haven't woken up at two in the morning to find that your four year old, who makes his way into your bed most nights has wet your bed. It's easy to write about how wonderful motherhood feels when you haven't faced your hormonal ten year old or had to walk the minefield of boy/girl relationships at school or talk through mean-girl-moments or lock into battle over boundaries with electronics.
Motherhood is one of the biggest blessings of my life. I appreciate the way it has shaped me, I treasure each one of my children. However motherhood doesn't often feel that awesome. It doesn't matter what stage you're in. Babies are exquisitely exhausting, toddlers are this terrific combination of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion and soul-crushing boredom. Preschoolers are baffling, school aged kids keep you on a constant learning curve, pre-teens are hair-tearing-out hard to know how to respond to, teenagers bring out our worst fears... but teens can also been wonderful helpers and awesome friends. I love that my oldest and I can enjoy some of the same books and movies. I love hearing her perspective on life, even thought sometimes I just want to scream at her immaturity and thoughtlessness there are moments when I am surprised and challenged by her vision of the world. I have learned so much about the power of perspective and denying fear power to control my responses from raising hormonal pre-teens. The middle-years (like 5 or 6 to around 10) have these moments that are pure joy. I love that the pre-5 years are so simple. And who can resist the cuddliness and sweetness of a baby? Every stage is equally soul-crushing. The pressure-cooker years when I had four kids six and under were tremendously difficult, these years when my kids are a little older give me perspective, but also create an exhaustion in my soul. I'm just so tired of the fight to keep that perspective. I want like a year off to re-group and tank up but in parenting you just don't get that kind of space, you get five minutes (if you're lucky) of crying in the shower, or an hour over coffee with a friend, or a weekend retreat.
I have felt a lot of burnout in the parenting department this year. I have felt not-listened-to a lot. I have felt conflicted about how to balance letting go and giving freedom on the one side and discipline on the other. I have felt a lot of moments of just flat-out exhaustion from having a lot of the same conversations and discipline issues over and over and over.
Sometimes being brave means letting go and walking away, but being brave as a mother mean hanging on, even if it's only by a thread. Being brave as a mom means knowing at the core of your being that even if today feels crappy and pointless and just another endless succession of negotiating screen time between all of the kids and balancing if you should intervene in this sibling squabble or let them try to work it out on their own, the sum of these days is monumental. All of this nothing adds up to the greatest something you could ask for. All of this mundane is really a miracle.
I think burnout is a great moment to step back and see what I can do better. Where am I over-parenting, over-directing, over-discipling? Where have my expectations become unrealistic? What of this everyone-is-one-the-verge-of-crashing-down feeling is real and how much is just that I didn't sleep well last night? It's hard for me to find perspective in the middle of it all. Sometimes you need to have an hour, or a day, or a weekend to back up out of the middle of things and find some room to just breathe and sometimes you just have to take a deep breath right where you are and do what needs to be done.