I know it’s happening most when I start losing stuff—literal, tangible, physical stuff. I feel my control slipping and suddenly can’t keep up. I feel on edge, flustered, constantly losing words and forgetting what I was supposed to be doing.
This, for me, has been the hardest thing about motherhood: the feeling that my mind is not my own. Instead, it’s constantly consumed with survival—mostly the survival of these tiny humans I’ve been given. I’m constantly planning our days, our minutes, our seconds. My mind is working to make dinner menus and prevent tantrums (and calm tantrums) and make three hundred decisions each minute.
Most of the time, it’s all okay. It has steadily become better since having our second baby. But sometimes, little things become part of a thread slowly unraveling until I wonder, “How did we get here?”
This happened last week. The baby started sleeping really badly. The three-year-old started going through one of his angsty phases. The pollen came out. We lost a book, and I could not stop wondering where it went. One of our counting bears was missing. I felt like I wasn’t keeping up, and the smallest tasks became a big deal.
I don’t know if the reappearance of Clothes Mountain is a symptom or the root problem, but when the clean laundry cascades out of its nice, little basket, I know something is wrong.
I think most of it was the lack of sleep and bad allergies. The role my physicality plays on the rest of my life is so clear during times like this. But it was a host of other things too. Suddenly I wasn’t finding (or making) time to write, I stopped exercising for ten minutes a day, and I wasn’t getting any alone time. Home preschool was not going well, and I just felt no motivation.
It seemed like life had always been this way: a sore back and neck, mouth sores, a fussy baby, an unhappy preschooler, and no time or energy to fix anything. I wondered if we had ever done anything more than simply survive each day.
Sunday night, our one-year-old had a terrible night. I felt totally disheartened, wondering how I could face another challenging week. Then, slowly, things improved like grace streaming in through my blinds.
The baby slept in. The counting bear reappeared. The laundry seemed doable, and the allergies seemed to relent. And then, wonder of wonders, our missing book reappeared, clasped in our preschooler’s delighted hands. “I remembered seeing it behind the couch when I hid there one time!” he said, beaming with quiet pride that he had returned the book he had promised me would turn up.
All of these things seem small, but bad things—or good things—can translate to hard or easy weeks. However I’m starting to learn that all of this is cyclical. There are going to be hard days and hard weeks, but they are not the end. And as I look back, even in the midst of such a hard week, we got things done and we kept the children alive and fed. I feel more grateful for our daily lives after the hard seasons.
I know we will continue to have days and weeks of being out of sync—of everything going wrong at once.
I was reading this in Paul David Tripp’s Parenting today:
“The one who called you to this very important job is with you and because he is, there’s hope. Sure, there will be times when you’ll find yourself at the end of your rope, but fight fear and discouragement with expectancy; your Savior’s rope never ends, and he will never leave you alone!”
I want order. I want control. I want a guarantee that if I play my cards right and organize my life, we won’t have weeks like this. But that’s not realistic, nor is it good for my relationship with God or my relationship with my children. God wants me to rely on Him and know Him more, not just get my life in order.
These frazzled weeks are part of life in a broken world. And they are also part of the sanctification God is working in my life. No amount of decluttering or preparedness or even attempts at patience can save me from the occasional hard week or difficult season. But God is there, and these times are normal, and new seasons will come.
And the lost things will, usually, find their way home.