I’ve been getting up before the kids do for the last week or so. And it is good. So, so good.
It all started back in late October when, in a blinded rage, I sat straight up in bed in the predawn light, my sheets dripping with the secretions of multiple preschoolers, and ordered our bedroom intruders out, out OUT.
No more could they come busting through our doorway at 6:40 am, 6:24 am, and finally (damn you, daylight savings) 5:45 am, yelling out breakfast orders and flinging themselves bodily upon our defenseless sleeping forms, bulging Pull Ups oozing overnight urine from regrettable 8pm sippy cup refills.
Marching the offenders back to their room, I pulled the door shut and slid to a sitting position in the hallway as the prisoners rained punches and kicks down upon it. Their shrieking protests soon woke the baby in the adjoining room, and so at 6:04 am, all three progeny were roused and ready to wreak havoc on the day, and I was ready to give up before sun up.
It feels crazy to write this, but this is basically how the last 4 years of life have been, give or take a few children.
And I didn’t know I could change anything about that.
It’s stupid, but it was a stupidity born of inexperience and, I think, a lack of discipline on my part. Both in dealing with the kids and, maybe more importantly, in structuring and scheduling my day.
But I honestly didn’t know how to fix that.
Every single day I fell onto the couch or our bed after the bedtime antics finally wound down, exhausted to the core of my introverted soul and craving alone time, decompression, and distraction. And soon enough 11:35 pm would roll around and I’d still be up. And from that point on it was just an anxiety-riddled countdown until the first kid woke me for the day, only to repeat the cycle again. And again.
I needed more sleep, and I needed more structured, scheduled time in my day to recharge before I found myself drained and dead to the world.
I know it’s cliche to say a self help book changed your life, but I’m going to say it, nonetheless. It could be a matter of timing and circumstance, but this book got me, and it got me good. I’m about to flip back to page one and start re-reading it from cover to cover, because I need it all to sink way, way in. But it’s already starting to effect positive, tangible changes into my life and my motherhood. And in case any of you out there are drowning the way I was, I wanted to highlight some of the best takeaways I’ve gleaned from my first reading:
1. Order your day to reflect your priorities in life.So it should really look something like this: prayer, care for self, care for spouse and children, care for home and work, and finally, leisure.
My days formerly looked something like this: screaming/shower maybe? probably not/sweeping/frantic scrubbing/yelling/drive somewhere – probably Target/trip to park/zone out on internet/write/work/make dinner/yelling/snuggling/fighting/bedtime/tears/wine/internet/bed. And maybe a rosary somewhere.
2. Make a schedule. A schedule is not restrictive, it is liberating.
Liberating because you are now free to walk past that full dishwasher and that pile of stuff on the floor because you have scheduled time to address those specific areas of concern, freeing you to hit the gym, the classroom, or your knees for whatever task is presently at hand.
I have resisted a schedule my entire life because I loathe the idea of being trapped in a routine. What I had somehow failed to realize all along was that a routine of my own creation was immensely freeing – it was completely mine to design. I’m having fewer and fewer moments of that panicky feeling when you think you should be doing w, x,y, or z and end up doing NONE OF THE ABOVE because you can’t do them all at once, and you have no sense of the urgency of any of them because EVERYTHING FEELS URGENT. And so the opportunity slips away, unrealized.
3. You, as mother, are the CEO, the COO, and the CFO. So you’d better act like it.
And you’d better be spending good chunks of time with your advisory board (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) during the workday, because things do not go well otherwise.
I was fitting prayer into my life rather than the other way around, and wouldn’t you know it, it was usually the one thing I could somehow never find time for. Funny how that works…
Now rather than rattling off a 3 minute Divine Mercy Chaplet on the treadmill when I remembered to, I’m spending the first part of my day with Scripture and some spiritual reading (and some coffee) before the kids are even allowed out of their rooms. And it is so life giving. I can say that even now, after only one week. It is giving me new life.
4. You’re the boss. Nobody else is going to boss these kids for you. So you’d better learn how to do it. I’m a little unclear on the origin of this particular heresy, but I somehow got it into my head that somebody was going to come and whip these small hellions into shape for me at some point along the journey of motherhood. I keep looking around and waiting, but so far nobody has come knocking offering solid advice on character formation, training in virtue, and schooling in laundry-folding. So, ahem, I guess that leaves…well, me.
Me. I’m the one. I have to figure out what it is that will get through to each of these small creatures, and then to approach them with my message of peace, love, and unwavering obedience. Because if I do not have the latter from them, our household cannot dwell in the former.
Now, I’m not claiming to have had any big breakthroughs in behavior here, except that we’ve been trying mightily to do the thing where we say what we mean and mean what we say…and then follow up on it. Every time.
Do you know how exhausting it is to follow up with preschoolers and toddlers? All I can say is, I hope it pays off. I’ve heard it does. I’m taking it on faith at this point, and so far, all I can show for it is the hopeful trend that for 5 straight days, the man cubs have stayed in their room until their alarm clock went off at 7 am, at which point the 7 on the clock matched the giant 7 drawn on the poster on their wall.
I really cannot say enough good things about this book, and about the effect that not living every day with my hair on fire (if wet hair, unstyled hair could catch fire) and feeling singularly persecuted by my delightful children has had on me. And on us.
Anyone else have experiences like this with A Mother’s Rule? Or another life-changing read or piece of advice?
Now I’ve got to run, because laundry and bathroom scrubbing are actually next up on my schedule. But don’t worry, the day ends with some quality wine time on the couch penciled in. Win/wine situation.