It’s 7:30am on a Saturday morning. I’ve somehow managed to sneak off to a coffee shop for a few hours today, after some good-natured negotiating with my husband on our weekend activities. Realistically, that is where I am with writing these days: stolen little bits of time every couple of months or so at the coffee shop by our house.
Truth be told, with four children under eight, the start of a new homeschooling year a few weeks ago, and our new baby due in three short months, I feel a little bit crazy a lot of the time these days! There is just so much to pull together, every single day. With all due respect to God, I understand more now as a mother how exhausting it can be to bring order to a world of chaos six days a week! No wonder He knew we’d need a day of rest.:)
I’ve actually been thinking again lately about God’s direction to rest on Sundays, and what that needs to look like for me and for our family. We have kept many of the changes we made a while back, but sometimes life and necessity seem to make Sundays as tiring as any other day of the week (i.e. we still need to eat, we still make messes, and Sunday Mass is still no walk in the park, even now). Honestly, I find myself wishing that my own “Sunday rest” could sometimes look like a glorious Mass all by myself, followed by a day of holing myself up in a hotel room with room service and a Jane Austen movie. (Or my laptop. Getting to sit down and write once a week would be so nice!)
My sanity savers don’t always save my sanity (Michael can attest to that), but altogether they are such a great help to me! I really try to force myself to be thankful for them when I get discouraged or overwhelmed. My greatest sanity savers are “my girls.” We are blessed to live in the same town I grew up in, and my mom and my aunt are generous with their help. From watching the kids for Michael and I’s monthly Domestic Church meetings, to helping with the kids’ doctor’s appointments, to bringing over food and some cheerful service from time to time (usually when I send frantic texts begging for help), I don’t know what I’d do without them. I also don’t know what I’d do without my little mother’s helper. We pay her a small stipend every month, and she comes one or two afternoons a week while I’m home. She plays with the bigger kids and takes the baby off my hands. If the kids are still resting in the afternoon when she gets here, she’ll fold laundry, sweep the kitchen, or do my dishes for me. She’s wonderful.
Our rest hour day anchor is a HUGE sanity saver in my life. Everybody has rest time in a bedroom after lunch for a couple of hours, every day. My oldest two children get (locked and passcoded) old iPhones with and an audiobook playing. They also have a little assigned reading, journaling or copywork to complete during that time. My four-year-old gets to choose a special toy for rest time, but she still usually naps. And baby Roman sleeps all afternoon like a dream if we’re home. The best part? I take a nap just about every day on the couch. Usually, it’s a timed nap for 20-30min, and then I pray for about five minutes before making myself roll off the couch and get things done (bills, cooking, chores, dishes, etc).
Speaking of prayer, getting up on time to get dressed and have morning prayer time is an important daily anchor for me as well. It’s a humbling moment, every day. I absolutely know that I need His help, His blessing, and His guidance each and every day. Also, I know I need to feed myself with His word. I read the Scriptures from the Mass for that day, or if I’m short on time, I read just the Responsorial Psalm or the Gospel. I like to listen to the short Regnum Christi Gospel podcast on the Laudate app if I have a couple of extra minutes while I’m getting dressed.
Walmart Grocery Pickup. Is AWESOME. I’ve been using it for about a year now. It’s a MAJOR sanity-saver for me to not have to take four young children with me to the grocery store. I’ve also been staying well within in my grocery budget and meal planning like a champ. I never thought I’d say this, but I love you, Walmart!
My gym membership. I started going to the gym a few years ago when we were living with my parents and my mom offered to help us pay for a family membership at the Y. Having a place where I could drop off the kids for an hour while I listened to podcasts or audiobooks made a huge difference for me during a time of my life when I was really struggling. Mentally, the exercise and the regular break from my little ones was a gamechanger. When we moved into our own home again and were writing a new budget, a gym membership was my one non-negotiable.:) I did find a great gym very close to our house, for a great deal. Now, I drop off the kids with the sweet lady who has run the big childcare area for years, and I put in my audiobook (currently listening to the Poldark series), and I tune out for an hour. Thank you, Jesus, for my gym membership.
Paper plates. At least once a day. It’s what works right now.:) Even with the bigger kids helping significantly with daily chores now (see below), it’s incredible how many dishes and how much mess happens each day. I have a very large kitchen with white tile flooring, and I sweep at least twice a day to keep up with all the food and dirt and pencil lead pieces and shredded paper that finds its way to my floor each day. For a short time earlier this year, each child got one cup, one plate, and one set of utensils for the day, and she would have to wash her plate to use it again for the next meal. But the consistency and supervision just weren’t there on my end to keep up with it. I need to try that again.
I used this summer to really work on getting the kids to help me around the house. It’s funny how the most important part of this task was (and is) the self-discipline on my part to be consistent with this training! An aunt gave me some old mini chalkboards from her classroom, and I started using those to write “dayboards” for each child in the morning. I write everything from piano practice to unloading the dishwasher on their dayboards. Earlier this summer, I realized we had an issue with the kids not consistently brushing their hair and teeth in the mornings, so I’d put that as a to-do item on each board as well. The kids complain surprisingly little about their dayboard work each day. I’ve loved the changes it’s brought to our house. The nature of being a mom and my kids being (young) kids is that I have to tell my kids what to do and when to do it all day long, dayboards or not. The dayboards have cut down on me having to spring chores and to-do lists on the children constantly, which I can understand gets a little irritating after a while. I help the kids get their work done by giving them periods of time when everyone is having to do their work, not just them. I’ll say something like, “OK, the next hour is dayboard hour, then you can go play outside before school.” I have also realized that the kids individually need me to invest in more supervision in general than I thought (or usually feel like doing). We don’t have a perfect system going, and some days I don’t get to the dayboards at all, but it’s been a great tool that has made a real difference for our family, I think.
Staying close to home has also been a sanity saver for me. The only sport we signed up for this fall was a Friday dance class for Faith five minutes from home (and the other kids, plus me, have friends to visit with while we’re there). Otherwise, we only leave the house for PSR, piano, and twice a week if possible for my little power hour at the gym. Michael and I do have other things we’re involved in right now, but aside from giving one more weekend marriage retreat this fall, we complete those obligations inside our home. Necessary errands and doctor’s appointments (and the time homeschooling takes over the course of each week) over and above that are just about all I can handle. Right now, I think we’re doing what we need to do, and not doing what we don’t need to do, and I feel mostly at peace with that.
And my kids do seem happy and thriving. Praise God! This will sound silly, but I actually pray often that God would shield them from me–at least from the Crazy Mom days or moments when I’m stressed out and teary, or fed up to here with the kids’ bickering, or biting somebody’s head off because she left the tops off the dry erase markers and they dried out while we were gone. You know.
I think if you made it through this long post, you know.:) God bless you, wherever you are and whatever your day looks like today. Let’s both make it a point today to thank God for all the ways He is providing help to us in our individual lives and struggles.
Peace be with you!
Faith sits in the middle seat now in our van because she’s so good with entertaining her baby brother. I turned around to see this last weekend on our way home from visiting family in northen Louisiana. They had fallen asleep like this. 🙂