God gives Strength, If not Sleep

Photo-89

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a whine about whining. There were lots of thoughtful comments and even more email. I think I've answered everyone, but I'm not the world's best email manager, so if I've missed you, please ping me again.

One of the notes asked, "When you were a younger mom, with lots of little kids and no one big enough to act as your own personal nanny, weren't you tired? Didn't you feel like you couldn't even get out of bed and do the day some days? Did you ever just break down and cry at 3 in the afternoon from the sheer tiredness of it all? I don't think you're remembering right if you think you were cheerful all the time."

Um, yeah.

When I look back on my 20s and 30s what I remember most is fatigue. I was nursing or pregnant or pregnant-and-nursing from 1988 to now, with a "break" for cancer and another 4 month "break" in 2005, hoping to get pregnant. That's a whole lot of hormones and a whole lot of sleep deprivation. 

When I got this email, I first remembered a time 15 years ago. Mary Beth was an infant, we'd just moved into a new house, and Mike was working two fulltime jobs, one of which he hated. He was exhausted and grumpy and things were tight and tense all the time. He was rarely home and the physical care of house and children was wearing on me. We lived in a neighborhood full of new construction. On this particular day, our next door neighbors, Ed and Kelli, were having a housewarming party. 

They had just moved in and invited family and friends to help them celebrate. Our houses were practically right on top of each other. They didn't have curtains. I saw Kelli light a great, big apple-shaped candle on the counter. All night, their friends had fun and that candle glowed. I walked my cranky baby, got my rowdy boys to bed, cleaned the kitchen, folded laundry, all while the candle burned a bright beacon of carefree fun next door. It's been fifteen years. I still see that candle. I wished we could afford beautiful scented candles. I remember feeling frumpy and leaky while what looked like a scene from Friends played out next door. 

Because I remember it so clearly, I think I must have written about it. I dug around a little, but can't find it. Ed and Kelli are still our friends to this day. I was at their wedding (I remember I didn't take my coat off in the church and didn't go to the reception; I was wearing a dress two sizes too big because I couldn't afford to buy something new). And we've lived a few crises together that look nothing like a sitcom. So, yes, it didn't all glow honey-tones of joy. In searching for some "tired" pieces from years past, I ran across this one to share with you. My five children were 10, 6, 4, 2 and 6 months at the time. I'll leave you with this for now. Perhaps I will address the snarky reference to my teenagers as nannies later.

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I am weary as I write this morning. Stephen, six months old, has discovered that it is quiet and he can have me all to himself at three in the morning. It isn't very often that he takes advantage of this opportunity. He seems to know that if it's not a routine, he can get away with it. Every once in awhile, he awakens and refuses to go back to sleep. There was a time, two or three babies ago, when I would have fought this nighttime rendezvous. I would have have worried that I was spoiling him, that he would never learn to sleep, that all the experts advised against such encounters. It has been some time since I consulted the experts. Now, I find myself agreeing with Stephen. It's nice to be alone together in the quiet and the stillness.

Last night, I sat with him on the porch. It was blissfully cool, as a long awaited cold front blew in. The streetlights cast a glow across his rounded cheeks and he looked positively cherubic as he smiled and cooed at me. I talked to him and sang to him. Itickled him with a flower from the garden. He yawned and stretched and I melted as he drifted off to sleep smiling. When Stephen was snug in bed, I drifted off smiling, too, feeling good about motherhood and life in general.

Then it was morning. Bright and early, my two-year-old, unaware of my date with her brother, bounced on me and insisted on breakfast. I have never handled sleep deprivation well. My mother will certify that I have always required a lot of sleep. I used to lose sleep, worrying that I was not getting enough sleep. Not anymore.

For nearly twelve years now, I have been sleep deprived. When I am tired, I can be cranky and impatient. Little things that should not bother me become big things. I am tense and irritable. And I lose sight of why I am doing what I am doing. I forget that there are moonlight and flowers, because all I can see is carpet stains and diapers. When my second child was about six months old, it dawned on me that I wasn't going to sleep like a normal person for a very long time. If I wanted to be at all happy, I needed a coping strategy.

Now, when I have a bad night, the first thing I do in the morning is acknowledge that it was a bad night. I tell God that I am grateful that I was able to be there to meet the needs of my children the previous night. I tell Him that He knows better than I do that I don't handle fatigue well. I tell Him that there is no way I will make it through the day under my own strength. I ask Him to help me. I remind myself that I can form my children positively or negatively that day. I can be a grouch and set a negative example: "Look, children, you only have to be nice to one another if you are feeling well and rested and all your ducks are in a row." Or I can beg the Lord to help me be charitable and patient, despite my human weaknesses. After I have thoroughly discussed the matter with the Lord, I usually tell my older children as well. They need to know I'm struggling–so that they can help me and so that I can be a witness to the Lord's strength when He comes through for me. And He always does.

That's the simplifed plan for coping with child-induced sleep deprivation. Pray about it. Come to think of it, that's really the plan for all of life. It also helps to remember that nap time is never more than a few hours away.

Comments

  1. says

    I was never very gracious about my sleep deprivation until I miscarried. The two precious souls who were born to me after that had the benefit of a Mama chastened. I finally realized how lucky I was to have them.
    Fuming about the “teenagers as nannies” comment. Goodness. Because teenagers are naturally virtuous when it comes to time management? And they really have better things to do than play (and therefore help mom) with their younger siblings, building relationships and developing life skills along the way? I’ve always said the best cure for teenage angst is time with a chubby toddler. It’s just so totally true.

  2. says

    I read every one of your words in this post, Elisabeth, and still marvel at how you did it…and yes, it was only with the grace of God. Even at this age I don’t handle sleep deprivation: migraines are the result.
    I’ve learned so much reading every word you type, sweet woman, that I envy your friends, both present and past. You’re a jewel and a gift from God to every life you come in contact with…real and virtual. I pray you know that.

  3. says

    It’s funny you talked about sleep deprivation today. Just last night I was thinking of how tired I was when I went to bed and I was reminded of a period of months (years?) when I was DEAD TIRED!
    That was the period between the time Christopher was born and he was about two. He didn’t even begin to sleep through the night until he was eighteen months and still refused to nap.
    His sister had not only slept through the night at four weeks old but she got gold stars in Kindergarten for napping. I guess God evened it all out with a boy who didn’t like sleep.
    I often reminded God that He gave me the good sleeper at age 23 and the bad sleeper at age 35. It didn’t make sense from a Mommy perspective. Another aspect of life I had to accept by Faith. ;)
    When my daughter had her first child, I told her Elisabeth was one of life’s greatest gifts but she may have experienced her last good night’s sleep.

  4. Greg from USA Today says

    I have read nearly all of your backposts and I just have a couple of questions:
    1) How did you do it with your husband seemingly never at home to help?
    2) Do you regret the decision to have him work 2 jobs at the same time?

  5. says

    First of all thank you so much for this timely post! I hope you don’t mind but I pinned this post for easy and repeated reference. I need to remember this EVERY DAY as I have little ones that are not currently sleeping well. I don’t handle sleep deprivation well either and I need to remember to ask for God’s help because He knows I can’t do this by myself.

  6. Patty says

    You wrote: Perhaps I will address the snarky reference to my teenagers as nannies later.
    Oh good, I am glad to know that I am not the only one who found that comment to be snarky. It seems to me you did address it in this post:
    I can be a grouch and set a negative example: “Look, children, you only have to be nice to one another if you are feeling well and rested and all your ducks are in a row.” Or I can beg the Lord to help me be charitable and patient, despite my human weaknesses.

  7. says

    I agree with Megan. Sleep deprivation was much harder with my first two children. After waiting 8 years and thinking I’d never have another baby, every moment with her is joyful. Now I do find myself a little cranky with my older two and it’s impossible for me to read aloud without stumbling over the words, but I’m still very, very happy.

  8. Mama Turtle says

    Your words resonate this morning with this mama-of-a-one-week-old, a toddler, and a preschooler. Thank you!!
    I can’t remember where I read it (I’ll blame sleep deprivation;) ), but there’s a quote about being cheerful until 10am and the rest will take care of itself, and it’s usually true in our house.

  9. Molly says

    This is so timely as I had my 36 week check yesterday and my wonderful nurse questioned that wasn’t I worried about the sleep deprivation. She has a wide age spread–four boys ages 17 to 1 and, as much as she and her husband would love another, it’s the sleep deprivation that is making her pause. I will print this out to bring her next week. Thanks for all you share with us–in all these years of following you, your posts are always, always relevant to where I am right now. Peace!
    I’m also looking forward to the nanny response. I’ve learned over the years that you are so much more charitable than I could ever be, so it’s good that I am not charged with responding :-). Sometimes folks just can’t understand the love and teamwork that exist in a large family, and can’t imagine that a teenager can enjoy younger siblings or even enjoy giving mom a break! And the flip side is that teens can be selfish and sometimes need additional responsibilities at home to keep them grounded in this “me” culture. Holding down the fort for an hour while mom runs to the grocery is a lot different than a nanny at your beck and call–I doubt many of us leave our teens in charge all day, five days a week. We wouldn’t want to because we enjoy our families, but everyone needs some peace now and then :-).

  10. says

    Oh yes…please do address the snarky comment. I to get them…. “oh but you have cal…isn’t he 12?”. As if he hatched out 12… As if I , at one point didn’t have 6 children under 7 years old at one point…let alone all the other years before that.
    I normally glaze over those comments when I hear them at gatherings… But it does irk me … And it is insulting even though i try not to let it. Now I have 7 wonderful children…. And that ever so often comment about how ” I really don’t know because I have all those kids to play with the baby”…. Iii yiii yii.
    I wish i did have a proper response…educated, informative…yet set you in your place-response.
    I am all ears.
    T
    Ps…. Thank you for bringing this up…because I honestly thought people we just being snarky to me about it… I sort of breathed a sigh out hearing it is normal…. AND I am in your camp… I get the days can be long…. But they could be empty and that would be worse.

  11. Stacy says

    My parents raised my two sisters and I to be the most selfish, self-centered people on this earth. We did not serve each other. We were never asked to change a diaper, clean a toilet, help prepare dinner, read a story to a toddler sibling. And guess what? We are still the most selfish, self-centered people I know! And not surprisingly, so are most of my friends, who wouldn’t lift a finger to help a friend in need. They sit and whine and complain about how hard they have it. Generations have been raised to think they are the most important person in the world, and they need not help anyone but themselves. So I applaud you, Elizabeth, for how you raise your children to serve the family and put other’s needs above their own! and thank you for the reminder to give it to God and ask for His help. I am in the throws of morning sickness, with five children 9 and under and no one to help me. I feel quite sorry for myself!

  12. Katherine says

    I have seven children, ages 23 to 5, spaced two to four years apart. Very different from my mother who had seven children in just under 7 years (three of my siblings are 11 months apart). It was helpful that I had my mother to look to. Besides having seven children a year apart, she also worked full-time with my father in the family business. Yes, I remember her being crabby and tired, but she got through it and raised good children. She didn’t whine and didn’t complain. Having endured the sufferings and deprivations of WWII as a child in Asia and the hardships of immigration and adapting to a new country, she knew things could be a lot, lot worse. She knew life was hard, but felt very fortunate and blessed with her life. She now enjoys the respect and love of her 45 grandchildren.

  13. says

    I sit here reading this while being very sleep deprived this afternoon. Not from a child, they were at home under their Daddy’s care. I am sleep deprived from being awake all night with my family while we waited on my Uncle to die. He did at 5 this morning and then I drove the hour drive home to start breakfast for my children who had slept and rested during the night safe at home. Being sleep deprived comes in stages and I think God made women’s bodies to be able to handle it, the mood is our job. Somebody remind me of this tomorrow when I don’t want to get out of bed.

  14. says

    You are so gifted with words, Elizabeth. I guess that’s why I enjoy reading your blog so much! Totally agree with everything you wrote here. Our attitude is under our control and is a choice. I wish I understood that better when I was younger. Five children later and one miscarriage, I have a newfound appreciation for how short time is and how pointless it is to waste any of that time whining. I don’t know how to respond to the teenage nanny comment. My oldest is 15 and he is not able to look after his siblings. He does care for them and helps out with them quite a bit but his autism is severe enough that he can’t be counted on to be unsupervised. And he doesn’t appreciate his younger 12 year old brother being in charge, LOL! The fact that you have teenagers certainly doesn’t mean that you have free babysitting available.
    But I do have to admit that I struggle mightily with avoiding depression and overeating due to lack of sleep. How do you manage that? Obviously prayer is important as you wrote and I know that my prayer life has been lacking lately… I guess that’s the place to start. Maybe I’ll have to follow your lead on the diet changes too… can’t keep treating my body like I did in my 20s. Now that I’m in my 40s, I can’t take the punishment anymore!
    Anyway, thanks for reminding me of what’s important. Time is short. So is life. Why waste a moment of it? Blessings to you and yours.

  15. Rachael says

    Loved this repost. I am looking forward to the arrival of our fifth boy and feeling a little weary at 40. I know that reading this reminder to take my tiredness to the Lord was both timely and of great value. Regarding the “snarky” comment that so irked many of your commenters, well – maybe in a sleep deprived state some of your readers felt criticised by your previous post, even though you didn’t mean it that way. And maybe this lady’s comment came out a little wrong, written in a state of despair and exhaustion. She was clearly seeking reassurance that she was not alone in truly struggling during a difficult season. My eldest is 14. By no means a personal nanny, but I would certainly not deny that older children ARE a big help and I’m sure you would not seek to underplay the contribution your own older children make to the running of the home either, especially following your well deserved weekend trip. I certainly take your original point about seeking to encourage each other and build each other up rather than confirming each other in our right to be miserable about our lot, but we need to seek to support each other precisely when we are going through our roughest times and struggling the most, not give a girl another slap while she’s down. This lady has my sympathy and prayers – as, of course, do you, Elizabeth. God bless.

  16. says

    As always you write with such honesty. I’ve enjoyed catching up with some of your recent posts, I totally loved the picture of you and Mike together. I’m going to check out you instagram foodie pics as I think food is real issue for us right now with all the intolerances and special diets.
    Once again thanks for sharing.
    San x

  17. Megan Y says

    I have never commented on your blog, but have been reading it for four years, and just wanted to thank you. God used your blog when back when I had 2 children and you had eight to show me that not everyone felt sorry for themselves every time they had a problem. It was such a revelation to me, that I could choose see the challenges as an opportunity to serve my children, instead of an opportunity for self pity. This change of mindset has been the greatest blessing I could have received as a mother, better even than live in help! I have been able to enjoy having four young children so much more than I was ever able to enjoy having just one, even though I am doing so on less sleep, and with more bodily fluids to clean up! I am so encouraged to see how your bigger kids, intact with your little ones, it is clear this is the blessing of a close family, and not forced slavery. Please don’t stop telling young moms the truth they desperately need to hear.

  18. Jane says

    Thanks for this post. I’ve struggled a lot lately with whining about how sleep-deprived I am. My second child is a 14-month-old with a rare genetic syndrome, one of the many symptoms being sleep disturbances. Apparently, they usually get worse as they get older, and knowing that makes it harder to handle the moderate sleep loss now. My dear husband suggested I start praying the monastic Night Office. While I haven’t yet gotten to that, I am striving to fill those wakeful evenings with prayer. And for the morning, I’m going to have to post this on my fridge:
    “I remind myself that I can form my children positively or negatively that day. I can be a grouch and set a negative example: “Look, children, you only have to be nice to one another if you are feeling well and rested and all your ducks are in a row.” Or I can beg the Lord to help me be charitable and patient, despite my human weaknesses.”
    Thanks for really hitting the nail on the head, and giving me the kick in the pants to work on this.

  19. says

    You may not need to address the snarky Teenage Nanny comment, after all, with everyone else’s input! ;-) I only had 6, but I worked hard raising those babysitters whom I still paid.

  20. says

    Rachael,
    I’m incredibly grateful for my older children’s contributions to our family. They are not nannies, however, and I do consider it an intended insult to refer to them that way. I didn’t slap anyone. I didn’t even refer to any one blog specifically. That was a very intentional measure on my part. If my words could be read by a a blogger and she chose to acknowledge that they did, indeed, address her blog, then perhaps it gave her food for thought. If she didn’t recognize herself, it probably didn’t pertain to her. This woman’s comment was aimed directly at me. No question about it. It came before my “weekend away.” But maybe everyone will feel better about that weekend if I fill in a few details: Initially, we were going to take the two youngest girls with us. However, Mike had to work all day Friday and since it wasn’t Take Your Daughter To Work Day, I was a little worried about how I could pull that off without compromising his professionalism. Mary Beth (15) begged me to leave the girls home. She had all sorts of things planned. Patrick’s girlfriend (17) also promised to make it fun for them. And Patrick and Christian were totally onboard. Since I was going to be a little over an hour away and could be home quickly at any moment, we agreed to give it a try. I had 3 hours sleep Thursday night. Mike had slightly more. I went with him to work until around 4PM. He left me in the hotel and went back to work until 7. We had dinner out and nice evening alone. He was on the job site by 6AM. I stayed in the hotel and worked the entire time, except for an hour and a half when I went to find myself lunch and did some shopping. Our two youngest boys met him at his job site. We had provided tickets to a friend and his son and they brought our boys and sat with them while Mike worked. They watched the match and came back to the hotel. We surprised them by telling them they were going to stay and go with us to the aquarium the next day. We had a really good dinner out. In the middle of that meal, I received a text from Mary Beth informing me that there was a gunman in the restaurant next to the one where she was my babies. Of course, I went to call her. All was well, but perhaps you can imagine how that phone call impacted our meal and the rest of the trip. We finished dinner and walked around the harbor with the boys. We went back to the hotel and watched Forrest Gump. I’ve never seen Forrest Gump. Why? Because I don’t watch movies where the mom dies. I slept maybe two hours that night. We got up, went to the aquarium and drove home in time to make 5:00 Mass.When i got home, it was clear that the big kids had done a great job of entertaining the little ones. And it has taken me two days to clean up after their great time.
    My point is that I chose to focus on the positive, both in the moment and on my blog. I mentioned the gunman and the mess, but my focus was the good. you came away thinking I had a fabulous weekend away. I came away thinking I had a fabulous weekend away. I focused in writing and in my head on the really good things, the things that make me honestly look back on that weekend and thank God from the bottom of my heart for it. It. Was. Good.
    Would it make anyone feel better about her life to read the negative details about mine? I don’t know. But it doesn’t make me feel better. The next comment in this post I will answer has to do with depression. I get up every single day and fight depression. Every day. I have teenagers who have to fight it even harder. It’s a very, very delicate balance. I believe that service to another person and meaningful work in a household are very valuable tools against depression. I also believe that those things will better prepare a child for real life than an education in the finest school in the world. My children are not nannies and I found that comment exceedingly insulting. What is interesting is that my children did, too. When I wrote about negative blogs, one of the things that bothered me most was referring to children by insulting nicknames. I believe in the dignity of children. No matter how tired a mom is, it is reprehensible for her to insult her children. And, apparently, I have strong reactions when other people insult mine. Maybe she was sleep deprived, but how does it help her to cope better with her fatigue to insult another woman’ childrearing?
    I try very hard to provide lots of encouragement on a regular basis here. I don’t encourage wallowing though; I prefer to offer real help. In my experience, with my small group of my own children and my own lifetime experience, wallowing in self-pity is not helpful, nor is thinking in a disparaging way towards one’s children. Life *is* good. It’s not easy. It rarely looks the way we thought it would. But it *is* good. i choose to focus on the good and I was dismayed by the focus on the bad. In hindsight, I wish I’d kept those thoughts to myself. My expression of my negative blog-reading experience has drawn a barrage of negative notes.

  21. Barbra says

    I’m very grateful that I stumbled across your blog. I appreciate everything you write and can relate on so many levels.
    Regarding the nanny comment; sometimes people can be so self-righteous and stupid! I’m sorry you are bearing the brunt of it.
    With love from a sister in Christ!

  22. Patty says

    I am so grateful that you are willing to open your life to all this public scrutiny and comment. I think it is absolutely wonderful that your older children are willing to be with your younger kids, and you are comfortable leaving your younger kids with the olders ones. I know parents who cannot trust their older children to watch the youngers, who would feel unable to rely on them to provide even adequate, never mind loving, supervision. I am SO thankful you share these shapshots of your life, because it gives me hope that my teenagers won’t necessarily follow the path of those I know and hear so many complaints about, that I needn’t buy into the foregone conclusion they will go through a period where they are simply incapable of any sort of self-giving. I hope for so much more for my kids.
    The example of your family is priceless. I know it’s not perfect and neither is mine. But the positive attitude you exemplify is a Godsend. Literally.

  23. Heather says

    Very timely post for me right now. The Holy Spirit has really used this to work on my heart and remind me to rely on Him. Thank you!

  24. Stacy says

    Amen, yes! “Please don’t stop telling young moms the truth they desperately need to hear.” This is why we turn to internet blogs and facebook. We are so desperately seeking the truth and support. Please, Elizabeth, don’t stop ministering to us moms who are so thankful for your support and passing on your wisdom and lessons learned.

  25. says

    Elizabeth your blog inspires many many moms. At the end of the day you know where you stand. I am here every morning with my coffee. As an exhausted mama of a teething baby it is refreshing to hear it be told as is…keeping it real I say. You are a mom with two hands that work for the Lord. That’s all anyone needs to know. Blessings on you and all of your beautiful babes.
    P.S my husband struggles with depression. I may search ofr some of your previous posts about this.

  26. Stacy says

    I want to publicly apologize to my sister, who read this comment and realized it was from me. I should have said “I am still the most selfish, self-centered person I know.” I live thousands of miles away from my sister and parents, and have no idea how they are today. I shouldn’t have said something so negative about my sister. I have no friends because I reap what I sow – nothing.

  27. says

    Oh my…your post about baby Stephen was eerie,,,I had a very similar night with my baby last night and I am so tired this evening my very skin hurts. :) FWIW, I was the oldest child, by far, of a single mother. I did a *lot* of child care and such. I didn’t resent a drop of it. It was what was needed, and I loved my mom, and I loved my brothers. Oh, I’m not saying there weren’t times I would have rather not done it. But I didn’t resent it, and I didn’t feel like a nanny. I knew my mom worked twice as hard as I did. My oldest is 15. I asked her an hour ago, as she helped her younger sibs to the dinner table while I nursed the baby, if she resented doing work around here, and she said, “No…you’re working too.” I think that’s the difference. If she were taking care of her siblings while I watched soaps (are those still even on?) and napped all day, she’d likely get resentful after a while. But when they are pitching in to the best of their ability like everyone else in the house, what’s to resent? Did boys resent farm chores 200 years ago? Did Laura Ingalls resent milking cows and keeping house? Our children don’t resent working *with* their families. Ah…now my baby’s awake again, off I go…

  28. says

    Thank you for answering my question about depression. We are going through a rough time here on many levels. Not as bad as some, but certainly worse than many in our peer groups. And these kinds of feelings are all relative. You could be living like a pauper but when you are surrounded by paupers it is much easier to take than when you are the pauper living in a town of mansions.
    I admire your ability to look at the positive and remind us all what a treasure our children and our families are. So often, we have to deal with the negative vitriol spewed about large families and the trials that they can bring. But so few really want to share or dwell on the positives. And that’s why I, and many others, enjoy your blog so much. It is so obvious to readers that you love your family dearly and you remind us of how much we truly do love our own.
    I constantly struggle with depression also and I also struggle with my faith. Many of your writings on the web as well as in print have helped me revert to the faith of my childhood and I’m very grateful for it. People always want to bring those who are successful down. It sucks but I guess it’s just one of those things about human nature that will teach us how to forgive seventy times seven times.
    Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your writing and hope that you will continue to share your blog with us.

  29. Caitlin says

    I don’t understand the big deal about your original post. I think that clearly there is a difference between saying how your day is going, “I’m tired, I’m lonely, I have to patience today, etc” and whining and complaining about how stupid your husband and children are. The first is acceptable, the second is not. That’s all you are saying. Any mother that says she isn’t tired and every moment with her children has been sunshine and roses is either delusional or in denial, but any frequent reader of your blog should see that you are not that way.
    On my blog I rarely post super personal things, but whenever I post something about my husband or daughter I try to think about how I would feel if either of them would write that about me. When my daughter is 13 will I be hurt if she posts something on whatever fancy social media exists then about how I’m annoying because I always want to spend time with her, or the dumb things I say, or all the things I do to inconvenience her? Um, yes. So if it’s unacceptable for her to say those things about me, how could it be acceptable for me to say that about her just because she’s a baby? Because I have read blogs that young moms speak that way about their children. It’s almost more disturbing how some women speak about their husbands. Would I want my husband to put out there in the internet all the dumb, forgetful, stupid things I say and do? Goodness no!
    I think it’s fair for Elizabeth to encourage moms to think about the permanency of what they put out there, and how it might impact their relationship with their families…..

  30. Kim in Springfield, VA says

    As far as the critical comments go, for the last couple of years I have been actively practicing what our parish priest said to try in a homily once. You see, I have always been one to be very calm in the midst of adversity EXCEPT when I perceive an injustice and then my heart begins to race and my blood boils (as they say). Our priest said to practice handing the perceived injustice over to Jesus at the moment negative thoughts begin to creep into my head and heart. Basically, “just don’t go there!” Let God and let Go. It was hard at first, but now I find myself in awe of my new temperament! I can still try to fix an injustice, I am just in control of my feelings and thus, much more charitable. Just thought I would pass this on, over time, it is amazing how one can overcome these negative and often spur of the moment reactions. My reaction to these negative comments would be to either ignore them for what they are (naive) or respond in the way Jesus would if you gave Him the injustice and he gave you back His reply. No anger, just a note of love. We need to preach the Gospel and sometimes we have to use (written) words. : )

  31. says

    Elizabeth, You are raising faith-filled, contributing, great, responsible, attentive, dynamic children (the adjectives are endless). I’m so glad you called out the snarkiness of the comment. And I think that’s diplomatic…..it was mean. As always, you handled it in such a grace-filled way. I disagree that you have to explain or justify an evening away with Mike (by the way-those shoes are CA-UTE!).
    If you’re anything like me, this (getting away for more than a trip to the supermarket) takes great effort and planning on your part. Not only logistically but emotionally. Had you stayed home with those beautiful children, I know you wouldn’t have regretted it. Sometimes, it’s so hard to get away for even an hour. The lead-up is almost exhausting. Once you’re away, it’s refreshing and much-needed. But when you’re in the thick of it, you tell yourself it takes so much arranging. You are blessing your teenagers immeasurably by trusting them with the littles. You are blessing your littles immeasurably by giving them these special times with their older siblings. It is enviable on both sides of the coin. So glad you had the special time with Mike and the boys. How fun.

  32. Elizabeth says

    Oh, Elizabeth, I’m so sorry that you regret writing about your experience with negative bloggers because it has really spoken volumes to me in my own life and helped me just in the short time I’ve taken to reflect on it. Specifically, it has helped me realize what an amazing mother I have. My mom had a very, very tough childhood. I never knew that until the last couple of years that she has shared a few things with me. Yet, she was so positive with my siblings and me my whole childhood. I have never known someone to live in the moment like she does. She is such a cheerleader for my siblings and me and now our own children. She could have easily spent lots of time being very whiny–she sure had reason to! And sometimes when I’m being particularly whiny about my own adult trials, I could use a reminder of what God did in my own mother’s life– how he transformed her sadness into dancing:) I do NOT do that often enough and your post has and will remind me to do that very thing. And I thank you for that.

  33. Michelle says

    Thank you for this. I have 7 children from 22 down to 2 yr.old, family bed, nursing twin boys and am currently 6 months pregnant with #8. Ugh!! Sleep is horrible. I’m starting to dread bedtime. I just lost it on my 9 year old who came in the room after I had just finished paying the bills. I have been begging them all for quiet and order throughout the process(mind you I was done and just clicking on this site for my own benefit) when she came in and dropped a box of crayons, etc. right behind me. Well, I lost it in a very ugly way. I will ask for her forgivness when the dust settles, but will have already done the damage. I am thankful for your very good advice and thank God for his guidance even while I am such a sinner. God Bless. Michelle

  34. T says

    Sometimes it is hard to remember that other people are suffering as much as we are because we are so overwhelmed. My crosses have been largely invisible. I have not had cancer, but I’ve lost a sibling in a tragic accident and spent weeks of nights at the deathbeds of two loved ones dying of cancer and it was not fun or pretty. My other crosses have been so sensitive that I can’t talk about them with hardly anyone. Not talking about them has been extremely hard. Most people are unaware of what I carry and the ones who do know worry about me having a breakdown and think I am crazy for having 6 children in 9 years. I was just told this week that I am the reason why they will be using NFP to not have children so close together as me. It has made me feel like crying.
    I want to add to the conversation that not all young mothers are complainers. I know some very heroic ones . . . much more heroic than me. I guess they just don’t have time or energy to have blogs so they are invisible. I also know some real complainers in the 40-yr-set. It spans all generations.
    Please be patient with the young mom with the snarky comment! She may have been ill-treated by another mom with teenage help and has been annoyed. I can tell you this because it has happened to me more than once. It goes something like this: The 40-something mom with older children calls on me to help her because she can’t handle the additional load. I cheerfully agree to help out even though I have just as many kids as she does only they aren’t all nicely spread out every few years. It causes me to be stuck at home for several days in a row because I don’t have enough seats in my vehicle to fit all the kids in or teenage help so I can leave the children and run an errand. Then she comes and complains to me about how hard it is and I come to find out that her husband was home half the time helping with driving and also her older children helped so she got out multiple times for coffee and getting her hair done and still can’t handle the additional stress.
    The whole time she was thinking how easy it is for me precisely because she doesn’t have any idea what my crosses are. In her mind they don’t even exist. All she can see is my large beautiful home and loving husband and beautiful healthy children and she thinks my life is easy and perfect so I shouldn’t complain. And I don’t complain because that is right. I do have several blessings that other people don’t have. But I also have several invisible crosses that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. All this is to say that we all need to support each other because all of us are carrying heavy loads.

  35. says

    I understand that other people are suffering. I maintain that their suffering is in no way alleviated by them writing that I treat my children as if they were employees hired for childcare.
    I am so sorry that the crosses you carry must remain hidden and that you feel alone under the weight of them. That must be a very, very difficult burden. You are most definitely in my prayers.

  36. T says

    Thank you so much for the prayers. I do want to clarify that nothing I just posted was directed at you personally, but meant more towards the comments as a whole. I have read your blog for a long time and know that you are much more charitable than I am!. I deeply admire you and all that you do. I love your posts but sometimes the comments (not written by you) can be disheartening. I’m sure they bother you 100 times more than they bother me. It’s amazing that you allow comments at all!

  37. Claire says

    Elizabeth, I’m glad you wrote the post about the negative blogs, although I understand your dismay at the negative comments you have received in response. I have no problem with people venting about the struggles of motherhood, as long as it is not derogatory toward their husbands and children. And as long as the venting doesn’t overshadow the appreciation that should hopefully be a bigger focus of anyone who is blessed with the miracle of a child. It is very true that this negativity about motherhood is not unique to twenty-somethings, but you obviously got a taste of it among that age-group since you were searching for blogs for your future daughter-in-law. I didn’t interpret it that you were singling out twenty-somethings. I interpreted it as a reminder to all mothers that we need to keep motherhood in perspective and count our blessings, and I’m grateful for the reminder. I love blogs like yours that celebrate motherhood and the gift of children.

  38. says

    Thank you for exactly what I needed. I took me a while to find the time to catch up on your blog as I am where you were and are and really where all moms are regardless of the number of and ages of our children, struggling each day to positively form our children in His image, stay sane, have fun and somehow savor all the little magical moments. I really loved reading into to this peak into your earlier years as a mom. You should form some of your posts like this into a book, almost like a collection of short stories or themed into chapters with posts all sort of centering around a central theme. Much love.

  39. gwen says

    Kim! Exactly what my spiritual director told me…say””Lord I don’t know what to do with these angry thought.I give them to you”……..I too hate injustice……my blood boils. I was also told it helps to get up and change bodily position…walk around when you feel anger coming.I was also instructed to WRiTE down.” MY FEELINGS ARE NOT IMPORTANT! I CANT LIVE BY MY FEELINGS” he said it takes a lot of humility to admit that.

  40. says

    Firstly I want to thank you for your blog Elizabeth, I’ve always been very grateful for it. I find it difficult to read blogs that only depict a sunny, ‘perfect’ life and I take much encouragement from your ability to acknowledge difficulties and seek solutions without wallowing in negativity or getting snarky.
    Secondly I wanted to comment that I get the reverse when it comes to comments – I have 6 wonderful children ranging from 15 to 2 and am pregnant with number 7 (so many blessings!) and constantly have people asking me, in horror, ‘but how do you COPE?!’
    I gently explain that I find life MUCH easier then when there were ‘only’ 3 or 4 children, and that it’s lovely having a range of ages, and everyone pitches in and helps out.
    And that’s the key thing for me – I’ve always been very mindful that I am the mummy and no one else, the last thing I want is for my older children to be ‘raising’ their siblings. I too would be quite offended if it was implied that I ‘used’ my teenager as a nanny! He’s wonderful with the younger ones and a great help but I would never abuse his trust and time in this way.
    HOWEVER it feels right and proper for everyone to do their fair share according to their abilities and available time, and we do find that many hands make light work!

  41. MB says

    Dear Sweet Elizabeth, fellow mother of nine, in her 40′s. etc….
    I recall well having 6 children under 11, no sleep, a husband who traveled, and always worried on Thursday nights (we were paid weekly) that I would over draw at the bank (we never did)because the company made him cycle his travel expenses through our personal account, which always hinged on empty.
    We had begun to carpool to school (this was before I discovered homeschooling)with a newer family in town – they had three children. She asked for the afternoon rotation because she “wasn’t a morning person”. My husband, if he was in town, always left for work well before it was time to take kids to school. The other mother had a husband who worked from home,and her very active and healthy mother lived with them. But, I agreed.
    Many days the other mother would go on about what a delight it was that she got to hear about my kids’ day at school before I did, while she drove them home.
    One morning, after being up all night with three kids who had broken out in fevers overnight, I called the other family and asked if they could take the morning shift on that day. The father answered, and was extremely annoyed. They drove, but the kids later reported that the mom voiced her disapproval at the late notice, all the way to school.
    I cried for several hours that night. I felt, for the first time in my married life, real despair. I felt alone. I felt like I was doing nothing right. I felt like the only mother on earth with 6 children. etc etc.
    Now, 16 years (and three more children) later, I have perspective on that time. I did not have a firm relationship with Christ – still seeing him as a dictator, not a Father (this began to change the following year when I went to a parish mission with the as yet unknown Fr. Robert Baron!). I also began to realize that the other mother was most likely dealing with clinical depression. And it was at that time that I also began to open my heart to homeschooling, so that carpooling and sick kids were not so much of an issue! (I’m saying that a little tongue-in-cheek, of course).
    Yes, that was lonely time of fatigue and stress….but it was also a time of much joy and grace. I will never again have all my kids at an age when they are still home every night , together for dinner (heck, half of them are grown and gone!). I sewed everything then – I haven’t sewn now for over a year. I miss the satisfaction of creating things (I think that’s built in – a gift from God – to make something beautiful, often). I even miss a trip to the Quick Trip for ice cream being a MONUMENTAL event. I sometimes think my older kids appreciate what they have more than the younger ones, who rarely go without.
    Finally, as to the teenager remark: I actually have a grown daughter who is a professional nanny. She (and our older sons) have given a weekend away to us as a gift-watching the younger kids for us. I know they are in excellent hands, and they all appreciate the time together. They love each other, and enjoy one another’s company. Until we had grown children, the ONLY time we went away together, my husband and I, was to the hospital to have a baby. Literally. Even our honeymoon was two nights in a nearby town.
    I know having help is a huge luxury, because we never had it when our older children were little. I don’t think I should ever have to justify that to anyone….but I also remember well when I didn’t have it available, and it seemed everyone else had doting grandparents who were happy to take kids several times per week (emphasis on the SEEMED part). And I never the stress of cancer thrown in the mix.
    I am rambling,but I would suggest to your younger readers that they look at your life and take heart. As a younger friend of mine said just last week: “it does get easier. And when it does, you put your head above the clouds and realize how lucky you’ve really been all along.”
    Every stage has it’s challenges, every season it’s purpose under heaven.
    Peace to you, sweet Elizabeth. You have always made me (and so many others) feel that we are walking beside one another. That’s a huge gift.

  42. jennifer says

    Snarky teenage comments can really hurt a relationship. My brother-in-law and his wife have 2 young children. My husband and I have 6 ranging in age from 7 months to 14 years. Once my BIL was over complaining that he can’t get any work done and how it must be so nice to have older kids who “can raise themselves and take care of the little ones”. That’s exactly what he said. Both my husband and I looked at each other, dumb-founded. We didn’t even know how to respond to that comment. I’ve gotten past it, but I sure haven’t forgotten it. I think it’s too bad that some people think just because we have a larger family that we get free childcare whenever we need it from the older kids. We’ve raised our children to be gracious helpers and to cherish every life. That’s why they help out, to show love for each other. Thanks for this post it really puts mothering into perspective.

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