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There’s really no other way to say it.
I’m glad July is over.
I wish I could say we had a great end to our summer, but the truth is it was really hard. I’m writing this a few days into August because July simply got away from me. Our kids just went back to school a few days ago and, if I’m being honest, this year I was more than ready for school to begin.
Don’t get me wrong – we love the relaxed routine that summer brings after a tough school year with rigorous schedules. We love taking trips and visiting family, sleeping in and lounging on the couch, or staying up late to watch movies. We love making special memories together at the beach or watching our kids thrive at camp.
But this summer also brought me something unexpected that I struggled to overcome. And it felt especially heavy knowing that we’re only a few short months away from our next FET, from our family growing even bigger, and from Scott and I being stretched even further.
This summer brought me a serious case of…mom guilt.
The first part of summer was actually pretty good. June was packed full of fun stuff like camp, a vacation to Florida, visits from family, etc. The kids had a great time.
But then came July.
We didn’t schedule too much in July, partly because it was an epic #momfail on my part (ok, Scott too) and partly because Scott had to get back to his normal work schedule, so we couldn’t really go anywhere. Honestly, the last few months of the school year had overwhelmed us and we just hadn’t planned well. This was my first summer as a full-time SAHM so it felt a little like unchartered territory.
When we finally had the time to sit down and really discuss it, we realized we’d missed the window of opportunity for nearly everything we wanted to do, for one reason or another.
So that left me with all four kiddos all day every day – and with a baby who still naps twice a day and three super active kids who need constant monitoring (because… boys), it was a challenge just to coordinate schedules and get out of the house, let alone do anything fun.
Not to mention, life doesn’t stop just because its summer time. There were lunches and dinners to make. There was laundry to be done. The everyday tasks of life managed to fill up a good portion of our days. And we still had swim lessons and tutoring to fit in, so that ate into our schedule even more. Honestly, we were lucky to get to the neighborhood pool once a week.
So what did I have? A lot of UNHAPPY, BORED kids.
So, when your kids ask you every day “Mom, are we doing anything fun today?” or “Mom, are we going anywhere today?” or “Mom, I really want to go do XYZ” – and you have to constantly let them down gently (or sometimes not so gently when they’re literally hounding you) – you develop Mom Guilt.
Social media didn’t help either. Since starting this blog, I’ve been on FB more than ever before. Although I try to keep my sessions strictly work or support related (blogging groups, our private FB group, etc), it’s just natural that my eyes will avert to my news feed on my personal page every now and then.
Unfortunately, once I get sucked into the vortex of Facebook and find myself scrolling for longer than I care to admit, I end my session feeling a bit melancholy and frustrated. Somewhere along the way, it starts to make me feel like I’m not good enough. Its starts to make me feel dissatisfied with my life and wish things were different.
So, if I’m not careful, I fall into the comparison trap and before I know it, a whole lot of guilt and discontent develops, which is exactly what happened in July. Social media also took time away from more important things around me, like my family, and it was a huge waste of my energy. Most importantly, I noticed it started to drown out the voice of God which has an enormous bearing on keeping me grounded. Without His voice, I started to forget the truth and take for granted all the blessings around me.
And to add insult to injury, I hadn’t been able to take care of myself like I normally do. I’d been living on 4-6 hours of sleep a night for over six weeks for various reasons, some within my control and some not. I stopped working out due to sheer exhaustion. It was taking everything I had just to make it through the day, let alone have extra energy for my kids and my husband.
All of this together completely affected my mental health, my overall well being, and everything else around me. Basically, July made me feel super inadequate in all respects, but mostly as a mom.
I felt totally guilty that I couldn’t take my kids to all kinds of fun places this month. I felt guilty that I had to spend time buying groceries, cooking food, doing laundry, cleaning spills and changing diapers rather than making memories at the aquarium, or the Braves game, or the water park, or the movies.
I felt guilty that I hadn’t planned better or signed them up for more activities. I felt guilty that I lost my cool on a regular basis because they were constantly fighting and simply didn’t know what to do with themselves. I felt guilty that we’re going to have more babies and this might very well happen again in the future.
I felt guilty that I had let them down.
I can’t quite explain the true depth of the guilt I felt. The closer we get to our next embryo transfer, the more I find that I feel like I’m falling short. I start to wonder if this is fair to our marriage or fair to the kids we have – and the harder it becomes to follow the leading of the Lord. This past month made me feel completely ill-equipped for the road ahead and completely out of my league.
That was, until the other day when one of my twins surprised the heck out of me. My resolve had been slowly crumbling over the course of the month and I was seriously starting to question if God knew what He was doing by asking us to have more children (of course He does, but this month really tested my faith). I know the enemy has been hard at work. So, I have no doubt the Lord was using my child to encourage me and speak truth into my heart.
It had been a really tough morning and I was losing my patience. I was angry, not only at the situation, but at myself for allowing this month to be so mundane and uneventful. I felt frustrated and ashamed all at the same time.
But as I was pulling out items to make lunch, my son came up to me and gave me an enormous hug and proceeded to tell me I was the best mommy ever. It was incredibly genuine and pure and it hit me straight in the heart. I was totally stunned.
Every day of July had been filled to the brim with frustration and sibling rivalry and, that day, I’d hit my limit. I couldn’t understand how he could see greatness in me when all I had done was spend the morning yelling at them to stop fighting. The only reply I could muster was “I’m not so great all the time, buddy” to which he promptly replied “Why do you say that? You’re great all the time! I love you!” And then he ran off like nothing ever happened.
I have no idea what prompted his actions – but I was humbled.
My son gave me something in that moment that I desperately needed and I’d forgotten to give myself for a very long time.
We’re usually so good at giving grace to others, but so bad at giving grace to ourselves. Why is that? We really are our own worst critics and sometimes it takes someone else to help us realize that.
When we feel like we’re failing, others see our beauty, our potential, and our successes. When we feel less than adequate, others see our worth. When we feel down about ourselves and doubt our abilities, others see our gifts and the beautiful person we truly are. They love us even when we’re imperfect and messy.
Above all, God gives us amazing, abundant, unending grace. There’s nothing we can do to disappoint Him. For some reason, I’d forgotten that.
In that moment, I realized I need to learn to give myself grace…a lot of it. Grace because being a parent is hard. Grace because sometimes life gets in the way. Grace because one moderately boring summer really isn’t going to hurt anyone in the long run. I need to give myself grace in general when I feel like I’m falling short, because the truth is, I’m not falling short.
This one month of this one summer may not have been the best in the records books, but I’m giving myself grace because I realize I’m doing a great job just by being a loving wife and mom and providing for the needs of my family. Above all, that is my greatest and most important calling – to love my God and be the hands and feet of Jesus in my own home and in the world around me. In the grand scheme of things, all that extra stuff is just icing on the cake.
So I’m forced to reevaluate and learn from this experience. Could I have planned better? Yes. Were they disappointed that we couldn’t do some things? Yes. But did I truly let them down and fail them as a mother or alter the trajectory of their lives by having a moderately boring summer? No, I didn’t. I did not let my kids down. So, really, I have no grounds to be down on myself.
There’s no doubt July was hard and the kids had serious cabin fever, but in the last few weeks, we also learned a little more patience, creativity, humility, and appreciation for the simple blessings of everyday life. And I can’t put a price on that. I need to give myself grace and count that as a win.
As we move forward, the importance of grace cannot be underestimated. Our journey is going to get harder. I’m going to mess up and I’m going to fail. Some days my best will be the bare minimum simply because I’m stretched. But as long as I devote myself wholeheartedly to my family, and as long as I love and serve them well, and as long as I’m following the Lord in all my ways, then I’m doing exactly what I should be doing – and for everything else I need to cover myself with grace.
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