It's time to rise up and win the battle over weariness!
Some of the strategies have involved a major decision and turning around from a former way of thinking, others involve sacrifice and giving up some of my own unrealistic expectations of what I considered to be the 'excellent mother' and yet others are simple and practical housekeeping solutions including some recent discoveries that I have implemented that have made life easier and are part of what I am calling my 'weariness prevention programme'!
We all know that weariness is inevitable in the life of a mother but it need not defeat us. When I started to think about this subject in more depth I realized that much of the weariness I struggled with in my own life had been self inflicted. Have you ever watched the weight lifters during the Olympic games when they continue to add on the weights? The increased load starts to bring him down, sometimes he buckles and other times he manages to rise up and hold that bar above his head, his arms outstretched but as soon as the bell sounds he drops the weight to the ground immediately! He doesn't hold onto it to it for any longer than he needs to.
So here is my first question. Are you adding to your load? If so, what weights could be taken off? Are you holding onto some weights for longer than you need to when they could be dropped to the ground and bring instant relief? This is such an important question to ask if your bar is already loaded with weights. Are you caring for a sick child and still hoping to honour your commitment to bake for the school fundraiser? Wanting to stick to your regular homeschool schedule and 'soldier' on when the flu has laid everyone low? Planning to host that Bible study on the morning after a household breakdown has left you falling behind on housework and you are considering hiding the laundry you never got to fold in the spare room? I'm sure you can think of lots more examples of how we as mothers add to our loads. The weight of a packed schedule, busyness and unrealistic expectations.
IT'S TIME TO TAKE OFF THE WEIGHT!
I am so glad I made the decision early on to remove some of those weights, especially those that were especially heavy. It literally did feel like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders the first day I stood in my home and knew I would not be returning to work the following Monday. It was a moment of sheer joy knowing that God had given me the desire of my heart to come home and be a full time mother. There would be days ahead when we would face the consequences of that decision as we took on the challenge of living on a low income when we had a mortgage and interest rates were at 15 per cent (yes!) but through it all God remained faithful and He provided for all our needs, even when I knew little about how to effectively mange a household. He gave grace even when it was not deserved! That's how it works and what grace is all about. The levels of weariness I experienced after coming home from work each week night were high and it's something I never want to add back into my life.
Other weights I have removed over the years have been
Leadership roles and over-involvement in ministry outside of the home. My involvement in church ministry was extensive and being undertaken at the wrong season in my life. I had young children. Most of my evenings were taken up with leading Bible studies, committee meetings, visiting other women in their homes, planning women's conferences and of course attending them. My days were not much better. I was very skilled at filling up my schedule and I could hardly call myself a 'stay at home mum' because I was hardly ever home!
Today that burden has gone but I'm still involved in ministry to others. It doesn't cause me to become weary and I'm much more prepared and have more energy for my main ministry which is motherhood. I prayerfully consider every request. I'm very wary of commitments that take me outside of the home, away from my husband and children and require continual and ongoing input. I still reach out to people and do say yes to some requests which tend to come along as Christmas approaches ( to run Christmas decorating workshops) but I also look for opportunities that involve the whole family in ministry. Hospitality at home has become a focus and it is less of a burden now that I have older children to help out but I've also been able to be involved in new avenues of ministry such as organizing a screening of the Courageous movie for my region earlier this year - most of the planning was done from home. It was a busy few weeks but it did not weary me. Sometimes short but effective bursts of work can sow more seed and do more good than prolonged seasons of activity.
Don't be afraid to let something go even if it holds benefits. Not every weight we add to our bar is loathsome or unproductive but it still adds to our load. The sports and extra curricular activities which have us running from one end of town to the other and playing catch up on laundry and housework. If the weight cannot be removed maybe it can be redistributed. Finding a sport that all my children could participate in on the same day at the same time was probably one of the best decisions we ever made. It saved my sanity on weeknights, ensured we could all sit down to dinner together and it even saved us money (we get a group discount) My children can now skate rings around me (literally!)
Having made the big decisions and removed or redistributed the weights of heavy schedules and over commitment outside of the home it was now time to begin looking at other things that burdened me at home and many of these related to perfectionism and unrealistic expectations. I know what wearies me and at home I have put into action my weariness prevention programme. Here are some of the strategies that work for me.
1. I consult my manual for motherhood often. That's my Bible people! It has answers. It brings me comfort. It gives me hope. It guides me in my decisions. It tells me that the Lord '... gently leads those who are with young' (Isaiah 40.11) If only I had taken this on board when I was a young wife and mother! I was the woman who hosted a Christmas in July event at my home for over 40 people one week prior to giving birth to my first child. No wonder I was not rested or prepared for the early exhausting days of motherhood!
2. I rise early before my children. This gives me a head start on the day. A quick shower wakes me up. I have time to dress, put on the coffee, consult the manual, talk with my husband before he heads off to work. No complicated breakfasts in this household. Its muesli and weetbix on most days. Pancakes taste just as good later in the day! My early is 6am during the week and 7am is positively a sleep in on a Sunday. I can manage 5.30 am too but know I must also go 'early to bed' if I want 'early to rise'. As a real night owl I struggle with this. If I stay up late watching television, trying to finish a project or surfing the net it will induce weariness but I accomplish more in the course of a day by rising early rather than staying up late.
3. I try to stay hydrated. Living in a warm, often humid climate has really brought this home to me. When I was pregnant with my twins I really wanted to get past that 37 week mark. I had read that women expecting twins who drank lots of water were more likely to achieve this or carry to term. So I bought myself a pretty steel drink bottle and carried it everywhere and refilled it often. It became an extension of my arm! I had more energy and felt less weary during that pregnancy than previous ones and my twins were born healthy at 38 weeks with no complications. I'm convinced the water made a big difference. When I forget to drink water during the day I'm much more likely to develop a headache, become tired and/or irritable. Just try making an effort to drink more water and see what a difference it makes to your overall feeling of well being.
4. I search for simple solutions to everyday problems. What is it around the home that causes you the most anxiety? Write down the 3 things that bother you the most and have an effect on others and make a decision to find a method that will work for you in making it easier to manage. As I mentioned previously weeds were a major issue for me at this property. We had mulched the orchard and vegetable gardens with straw but had never put down weed matting in other garden beds until recently. The bank where we have planted blueberries now has weed matting. The blueberries will eventually spread out to hide it but right now that black weed matting, is a welcome sight. It's one less area to weed. I feel less weary about the weeds. I sometimes feel I want to go and hug that roll of weed matting! Better hug my husband instead - he suggested it!
Lemon oil applied around my windows has really helped to keep the spiders away and cuts the number of cobwebs down. I went out and bought pantyhose to tie onto my broom for this very purpose and will be forever grateful to Shannon Lush. A simple and natural solution to an every day problem that bothered me that I wish I had known about years ago!
My solution to vanity clutter and the quickest way to tidy up a bathroom counter. It all gets tossed into my copper urn. Beautiful and practical!
Same goes for slow cookers for meal preparation and baby sleeping bags for winter, the ones in fleecy material with arms you can buy at department stores. Have a boy like mine that wrestles crocodiles in his sleep at night and kicks off all his blankets, then wakes up because he is cold? I didn't discover these wonderful 'sleep aids' until baby number 7! Best $20 I ever spent at Target. They have them for both babies and toddlers in designs for boys and girls. I needed one of these for baby number one - wish someone had told me about them back then!
Finding a rose in a patch of weeds! Beauty is there, we just have to see it!
I'm hoping these suggestions are not sounding too simplistic but often it is the little things we forget to do that sometimes bring on weariness. Like forgetting to
5. Step outside the house - each and every day, even on the days when the sun is not shining and especially on the days when the sun is shining for that all important dose of vitamin D. Sometimes I just step outside for a few minutes. My therapy is watching birds because the Lord always reminds me of my value to Him and His provision for our family as I watch a bird gathering nectar. If you don't have a garden find room on your balcony or windowsill for a pot and plant it with with something lovely. Take time to admire the colourful pansies, feel the texture of the leaves of the lemon scented geranium or breathe in the calming scent of a lavender bush. I have a new saying 'Dreary doesn't have to mean weary' because I know that on days when the sun does not shine I need to find something else to boost my spirits which is why I believe it is important to
6. Have a corner of loveliness somewhere in your home to take delight in. Just one mantel, table or counter top where people are not allowed to set down keys or pile up papers. It may be a corner of your bedroom that you can retreat to when you are feeling stressed but my preference is to locate it somewhere that you have to pass by every day. As you walk by with that washing basket piled up high the picture of your smiling girl catches you eye and you are reminded of the blessings of motherhood and that what you are doing right now is not drudgery or a chore but an act of service for special people that the Lord brought into your life.
7. I choose to see the work I do at home in a different light. I've mentioned this before at my blog but I don't use the word chore in relation to household tasks. There are no chore charts on my fridge but each individual has assigned responsibilities and we work together as a family and share the load. I taught my children from an early age to help around the house. It was hard work at first as they sprayed more times than they wiped but it bears fruit in later seasons. I have teenagers who do their own laundry and clean their own rooms. It is possible, it really is possible but you have to start when they are little!
8. I watch and listen to my children and find something that they are doing that brings joy to my heart as a mother. It doesn't have to be a major achievement or an outstanding feat. Something as simple as my little boy playing intently with his toy cars and a shoebox that he has turned into a garage. Yesterday, it was my 19 year old son teaching his little sisters how to play chess. He's often busy with his own projects and I don't know what prompted him to take the time to do this but I watched in wonder and absolute awe and thanked the Lord for letting me experience that. I was proud to be his mother at that moment in time. A moment that reminded me not to grow weary in doing good for in due season we reap if we do not lose heart.
It's time to draw this post to a close. There is so much more I could share that is part and parcel of my weariness prevention programme. The strategy I learned from Emilie Barnes years ago in taking 15 minutes each day to tidy just one drawer or one shelf that is part of my daily routine. Decluttering my home on a regular basis. Reading uplifting books and blogs. Not taking on board the negative words that people may speak over my life that they view as so hard ('You've got your work cut out!') Not playing the comparison game. Treating myself to the occasional latte at a favourite coffee shop. Finding balance. Talking with the Lord. Giving myself and others grace. Knowing I cannot do it all and if I never master the art of making macarons does it really matter?
I pray that some of what I have shared has been of help to someone and that you have been challenged to stop adding weights onto the bar and even to remove some that you have placed on yourself if need be. It may take you out of gold medal contention in the superwoman round but you were not meant to be entering that division in the first place!
The Lord is there for us. He understands. He carries our burdens. Jesus is the champion weight lifter!
I also want to say thank you for sharing about your own experiences of weariness. I have prayed for each and everyone of you. A very special thank you to my friend Ellie from the Lavender Tub. Yes, she really does have a lavender bath tub! She has the sweetest blog and the most creative and economic ideas for furnishing a home I have ever come across in blogland! She loves the Lord too and shared her verse which has helped her through times of weariness. When you feel you can no longer hold up that bar with all its weights and you feel your foot slipping remember these words from Psalm 94 18-19
'If I say 'My foot slips'
Your mercy O Lord will hold me up
In the multitude of my anxieties within me
Your comforts delight my soul'
Let me know how you are winning over weariness! Your tip might be the one that helps another claim a victory over something that has stolen their joy. Thank you so much for sharing.