I’m gearing up for about seven days of parenting sans husband/daddy over here and I’m trying to bring myself back from the ledge of a poor me mentality about another week without my spouse. I’m honing my skills at choosing my attitude instead of letting my attitude choose me, so here are my thoughts on the matter.
Our days here in the Freitas house start early, often before 5am. God bless the baby, who is a great sleeper and doesn’t make a peep until at least 6:30, but I have one beautiful, insomniac of a child who has been an early riser his whole life, and who thinks that 4:45 is an acceptable time to start most days. I am home full-time and my husband is often out-of-town for work, so a 5am wake-up often means that I have 15 hours, alone, with two kids ahead of me. Some mornings I wake up feeling really excited about the day, with a real June Cleaver kind of attitude toward parenting and homemaking. On those days I feel so lucky to be home with the boys, excited to make the most of every minute and ready to craft and snuggle my way through an idyllic day. Other times I wake up to face the day and feel so daunted by the hours ahead. The simple tasks that await me overwhelm me; the three meals and snacks I have yet to cook and clean up after, the errands to run, appointments to get to, keeping the boys entertained and happy, surviving without adult interaction for another 24 hours, and so on. I would imagine that this is universal to stay-at-home and working parents alike. The many tasks, meetings and care-taking responsibilities can just feel daunting at the beginning of the day. Sometimes bedtime (aka cleaning time followed by junk food and Netflix hour for mommy) just seems so impossibly far away and I find myself checking the clock way too often.
I hate the days that I wish the hours away, because my kids are growing up too quickly and some day I will wish so badly that I had those long days back. I want desperately to enjoy every minute, and I do enjoy so very much of it. Sometimes though, I think that we get caught up in the concept of happiness and enjoying everything to such a degree that we are crippled when parenting just doesn’t seem fun, enjoyable or fulfilling at the moment. Where did I get the idea that the worth of my day as a mother was in how much I enjoyed myself while doing it? I would imagine that this is a first world kind of problem. I wonder if mothers raising children in extreme poverty or in war-torn communities stop to think about whether they are enjoying motherhood on a daily basis. I imagine that when keeping your family fed and safe is a real challenge every day, considering how much personal satisfaction you are getting out of mothering would be a rare luxury. Yet, here I am, concerned about how much I am going to be emotionally fulfilled by my day in my comfy sweat pants, with my latte in hand and two safe, well-fed kids near me all day. Ugh.
One of my favorite songs lately has been Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons. I heard it for the first time in church a while back and one of the verses became a sort of theme song for my days at home with the kids. Said verse is as follows:
The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes……….
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find
Recently I wrote these lyrics on a chalkboard at the bottom of my staircase. The hope is that I will see it when I walk down the stairs at 4:45 am with a kid who is ready to play ninja turtles and already asking what I will be making him for breakfast. The verse reminds me that I have a choice to make at the beginning of each day. Like choosing what to wear in the morning, I have to choose what attitude I will bring to that day with my kids, regardless of what kind of day lies ahead. I have a choice whether I focus my attention on the piles of dishes and number of tantrums ahead of me, or on the sparkling eyes and eager faces of the kids who miraculously have been placed in my care for another fleeting day.
I can decide that the day is going to be long and tedious and hard (which, of course means that it pretty much will end up being so). I can start throwing my mental pity party right then and there, dwelling on how hard the stay-at-home gig can be, counting how many hours I haven’t slept or how long it’s been since I’ve eaten a meal sitting down. Those pity parties usually involve stupidly angry texts to my innocent husband, simply because he has been sleeping for 8 hours uninterrupted in a hotel room and eating at nice restaurants, while I drown in mac and cheese and spend hours building Lego forts. (Luckily, he has learned to take these belligerent messages as a sign that I just need a little pat on the back and a few hours sleep when he gets home, and he forgives me). When I decide to start the day off with a mental rundown of why the day is going to be long and hard, I typically only last about two hours before I am grouchy with the kids, can see my mood rubbing off on them, have to ask their forgiveness for being said grouch, and consciously reset my attitude before we all melt down. Worse, I totally miss out on what could’ve been a nice morning with my kids.
My other option is to forgo the mental drama and decide (like the song says) to “sing praise” from the start, even if it doesn’t feel natural or gratifying to do so. I can decide that whatever the day brings I will find the good, I will be thankful, and I will try to give even when I feel like I have nothing left. I can pray that whatever may pass (kids may get sick, plumbing might break, car might not start, boys may be fussy all day) and whatever lies before me (meals to cook, laundry to do, kids to entertain), I will be “singing” when the day ends. This doesn’t mean that I’ll always feel like singing. The point isn’t that I’ll always feel joyful, even when the day is long and tedious and full of frustration. It means that I’ll praise anyway. I will be grateful for what was, I will focus on evaluating what I gave to my family and others, rather than dwelling what I got out of the day, and I will seek peace and strength for the next day to come so that I can be better at finding and giving joy tomorrow.
Justification for praise surpasses circumstances and emotions (good or bad) and means acknowledging that God is good no matter what. It means recognizing that the value in a day isn’t measured by how fulfilled we were by it, or how great it felt for us. This is true about life in general, but especially about parenthood. We aren’t missing out on the parenting experience just because some days don’t feel awesome and inspiring. We are missing out if we fail to recognize that the privilege of raising our kids is wonderful and beautiful, even when the daily tasks parenting requires sometimes feel totally sucky. (You following me here?) A great side effect of this approach is that when I focus on singing praise from the beginning of the day, even when it feels un-natural, I often end up in a much better mood, and thus a more patient, kind parent than I would’ve been otherwise. It’s a fake it ’till you make it kind of thing.
So sing through the dishes, sing through the diaper blowouts, the school drop-off lines, the meetings with your boss, and the grocery store line toddler meltdowns. There are always 10,000 reasons, and if you have small children in your home you don’t have to look far to see a few of those reasons right in front of you. Sing on friends, and please feel free to remind me to do so the next time you hear me complaining when I should be praising.