I think I am not alone in finding that I am often completely spent physically after a day of breastfeeding, carrying, hugging, making meals, doing laundry, keeping the baby happy. I often have little left to give at the end of the day, and the next morning it all starts back up again. How is a mother and wife to constantly give to her family physically without (for lack of a better phrase) burning out? I guess I am looking for more than the old "make time for yourself, go get a manicure once in a while, have some YOU time" (because “me time” simply seems to create the desire for more of it).
Several ladies provided a response.
Allison Kieselowsky (mother of four young children)
I know exactly how you feel. I currently nurse a baby, continue to re-enforce potty training and early literacy skills with a toddler, and teach two older girls, plus deal with the regular routines of meals and laundry. I don’t get much “me time” at all. Yes, I’m tired at the end of the day. Yes, I get resentful of my responsibilities, especially with infants and young babies who are particularly demanding and tiring for me.
I have constant companions—that phrase “constant companions” in reference to my children has helped me think about this issue completely differently. We’re in this together, and we need to work together to find refreshing activities to revitalize all of us. With four children, I might drop the laundry basket right in the middle of the kitchen, get everyone’s running shoes on, and take a walk. I need the fresh air and exercise to make it through the rest of the day. Or, I put on “move and groove” music and have an impromptu dance party in the living room. (Remind me to tell you about the time our neighbor stopped by unexpectedly in the middle of such a dance party. He was surprised.)
Maybe thinking of a few things that refresh your spirit (walking, listening to music, painting nails, building a bookcase, etc) and working those things into your day with the children rather than in spite of the children. Mothering is a marathon and you need to pace yourself. The house may not be as clean as I would like and the children may go to bed with nails that need to be trimmed, but if I’ve read an amazing book with my children or laughed very hard about some hilarity, I’ve had a great day.
Also, a very wise mother told me when I was a mother of one little girl: After getting dressed and eating, plan to accomplish ONE addition thing each day. One. Not twenty. One. That might mean you get dressed, feed everyone, and load the dishwasher. Everything else you accomplish is just bonus material.
Leigh Spittel (mother of four grown-up children)
As the mother of four children born in a six year span, and as a Pastor's wife, I have certainly longed for more " me time," and fought hard against falling prey to physical burn out over the years! While I am enjoying the "empty nest" stage and have more " me time" to pursue my own interests now, I find myself fondly remembering the "simpler" days when my children were little! First of all, I want to applaud you for choosing the traditional role of stay-at-home mother. While it's definitely less glamorous to smell like a burp rag most days, I firmly believe that the joys and rewards of bringing up intelligent, disciplined, well mannered, goal oriented, service minded, Christian adults was well worth any sacrifice that I made over the years.
The key to gaining more time for each day is to train yourself to think in small blocks of time for household chores to for finding time for yourself. Make a list of goals for the week and break it down into daily goals, focusing on just one main goal per day. If you achieve the one, the sense of accomplishment will be greater! Your focus will also increase with each task since you have a limited " window" of opportunity. If you enjoy reading, try reading short stories (Reader's Digest is one of my favorites), or finish one chapter of a novel per sitting. You can adapt this concept to other interests too, but it does take practice. You will feel less overwhelmed and more positive if you can find several small periods for personal "refreshment" over the course of the day rather than trying to secure one "hour or two" for yourself. The latter is less likely to happen with small children on any average day.
Involve your family in the daily routine of household chores. This encourages the development of logic, visual and non-verbal skills, lifelong survival skills, family cooperation, and a deeper respect for Mom's efforts! Toddlers can learn to sort laundry into baskets (think dark, light and white loads) as a "sorting game." Pre-school age children can help put away clothing and toys into bins or baskets on shelves. Kindergarten and elementary age children can learn to dust and sweep with the aid of handy "Swiffer" cloths or similar. Develop a natural cadence of activity levels over the course of a general day, with activity periods followed by nap or rest time, especially during the summer months, so that your children learn to anticipate and adapt to a familiar routine, which builds confidence. This will generally yield more time for you as well as your children grow and become less dependent . Occasionally, you may want to schedule a sitter, have a teenage neighbor play with your children while you are at home, swap babysitting favors with a trusted neighbor, or wait until your husband returns home for the evening.
Lori Payton (mother of four adult children)
Yes, this chapter of life is exhausting. I used to have the mantra "I will not always be the mother of small children." It is a season, with the challenges and joys and adjustments that come with it.
The vocation of mother of small children is all-encompassing and overwhelming at times. Understood. It is a vocation, a calling, and God will provide the strength and wisdom as you take each day as it comes.
It helps to try to get together with other moms in the same situation. I know that it is harder and harder with schedules, work, home-schooling, whatever. . . . however, the support and the perspective and the fun of being with others will help a lot! Even if you are just laughing over it all! I used to organize regular coffee/playdates. Easy. Your friends can help you fold your laundry! They all know how chaotic life can be. Just do it.
Try to schedule a rest period in there somewhere. My oldest stopped napping early. We were living in Germany and had no family/friend help available. I would put a story/music cassettes on (he is 30 now), turn on a timer and put it up high where he couldn't reach it, and told him he couldn't come out until it rang. He didn't have to sleep , but he could not come out! I have raised 4 kids in 10 years and I have to say that a regular rest time was a lifesaver.
I highly recommend the book, "Organized Simplicity" for helping with a rhythm and routine.
Monique Miller (mother of seven children, school-age and down)
“But the greatest good in married life, that which makes all suffering and labour worth while, is that God grants offspring and commands that they be brought up to worship and serve him. In all the world this is the noblest and most precious work, because to God there can be nothing dearer than the salvation of souls.”
Every small act of love and service to your family- whether it's embracing another pregnancy, nursing a hungry baby, preparing meals for your family- each of these acts are holy and as being done unto our Lord. I believe when we begin to understand the magnitude and importance of our calling, we can then approach it with the fervor, dedication, and vigor it requires.
You are correct in understanding that having more “Me Time” for manicures, spa treatments, etc., has nothing to do with your actual needs and won't sustain you for the long term. There is nothing inherently wrong with these things, it's simply important for us to understand that we shouldn't need these things to be content, we are certainly not entitled to them, nor are we deprived if we don't get them.
Dear sister, let our Lord relieve you of your burdens. Come to Him humbly, with a repentant heart, unleash all your anxieties on Him, and let Him be your sustenance. Come to Him each and every day through his life giving Word. I completely understand it is very difficult for a mother to have any sort of devotional time for herself. I usually have my devotional time at the kitchen table, in the midst of dirty breakfast dishes and food crumbs. My husband installed an application for the Laudate on my phone which makes it easier. I no longer have to thumb through pages to find the reading of the day. Be prepared and accept that you will get interruptions. You likely will have to stop, sometimes several times, before you can completely finish your devotion. This is OK. Don't get frustrated, keep reading until you are done. I would also urge to pray. Pray for everything and throughout the day. Pray for the Lord to give you the strength you need to complete your work for the day. Pray to the Lord for wisdom in raising and disciplining your children. Pray to the Lord to give you a submissive servant's heart, and to help you respect and obey your husband. Pray, pray, pray.
In the spirit of full disclosure, after I asked my husband to proofread my response to you, he had a few insights himself. He wanted to stress to you and your husband that our calling to sacrifice ourselves in service to our family is just as much as a directive towards fathers as it is for mothers. In Luther's comment regarding changing diapers being a holy task, it was actually an admonition towards the men in the congregation. Biblical parenting and marriage is a mutual giving and sacrificing for each other. Especially when our children are very young, this is demonstrated when fathers help out with the care of children. This doesn't mean the minute Dad walks through the door, Mom hands the baby over to him. At the same time, it's over-burdensome to saddle all child care and domestic work solely on the mother.
Finally, let me leave you with this. Our Lord loves children profoundly. Repeatedly throughout scripture our Lord tells us children are His precious treasures (Psalm 127; 128). Children are His tiniest image-bearers. The task and calling of caring for our Lord's tiniest treasures is a high honor, not a lowly burden to endure. It pleases the Lord and all his angels to watch you serve your family because you are doing so in Christian faith.