Quickest way to tear down an entire family? You go after the mother.
After having my fourth baby in six years, I was preaching and a huge advocate of the true necessity of taking care of oneself, of course, after learning the hard way. I believed in this very strongly as it’s a fact that is proven time and time again, when the mother goes down, the entire household goes down with her.
I didn’t realize how foolish I had been, driving myself into the ground, until I was on my way to the hospital. There I was, deathly ill, could barely hold my head up, but yet I was actually somewhat enjoying myself. No kids in the car, had the music turned up, and felt as if I had gotten a small break. Yes, my small break as I drove myself to the emergency room after being severely sick for almost a straight six weeks.
Back up. Something is very wrong with that picture.
When the hospital staff asked me why I waited this long and let myself get this ill, naturally my response was, “Well, I have four young children. There’s really no right time to come. I just… didn’t have the time.”
As I watched their eyes go back and forth to each other, half in pity and half thinking how absurd it sounded, I thought to myself, “I have four young children. What the hell was I thinking? All the more reason to make sure I take care of myself!”
This made me more than grateful to have a warrior of a partner to help combat the chaos and craziness of a busy house that does not stop or slow down when Mommy can no longer… go.
For a hardworking husband who already more than carries his weight, taking on almost the entire duties of the household, there comes the “Oh CRAP” moment as he had to take over. I’d watch my poor husband and listen from the monitor as he tried to tackle a 6-year-old, 4-year-old, 2-year-old and 5-month-old, as I was stuck in bed, unable to lift my head.
An unequal balance
I’ve changed diapers with barely one eye open, nursed a baby that I could barely hold as I tried to gather all the strength I could muster up. I had an emotional breakdown in front of the doctor, my son’s preschool teacher, and the UPS man. Yeah, the poor delivery man just trying to get along with his day. Who does that, right?
An overly emotional, extremely sick, completely exhausted, overly drained mother. And who or what did I owe this to?
Throughout these trying times, I’ve come to find out that marriage and parenting is never 50/50. And you know what? Thank God for that. There are so many times one of us feels as if we’re giving more than “our share,” but the truth of the matter is, when one of us isn’t able to give our owed portion, the other makes up for it. And that’s the pure beauty and absolute phenomenon to an ever-changing and an ever unequal balance of this thing called family.
Come on, it’s not easy dealing with the chick who hasn’t showered in two… three (OK, I’ll leave it at three) days. You get the hug at the door, “Mmmm, same outfit as yesterday, honey? Excellent!” The already hormonal roller coaster ride takes even deeper dips through the sickness and exhaustion, and all one can do is buckle up and hold on for dear life.
Let’s face it. Who has time to be sick? What mother has time to be sick? What mother of four tiny children has any minutes penciled in for this to go down?
You can accept help and be a superhero
There are times I feel like I could stand on top of the roof and throw my hands high in the air as my superhero cape blows in the breeze and scream a fierce, “YESSSS!” There are so many occasions we are able to accomplish and conquer, well, the unthinkable.
But there are times, in order to be able to conquer what others say is impossible, we must give our body the break that it is truly crying out for.
I realized that sometimes life doesn’t allow us to keep the superhero cape on. And as hard of a pill as it is to swallow, sometimes turning over the job and letting someone else step in, is what makes for a real superhero.
Admitting that we can’t. Admitting that we have nothing left. That our tank is more than empty. And we can’t give one single ounce more.
… Maybe that is a superhero mother?
To open your mouth and utter the words, “I can’t. I just can’t. I need… help.” It’s like a cut into the mother ego of the unrealistic thoughts we possess that we need to and should be doing it all.
And frankly, no one else will do it as good as mommy does. Right?
I’m someone who likes to be in control. I like to be able to fix everything and pick up all of the pieces. No one bathes the kids like mommy, no one brushes their teeth and dresses them like mommy does. No one rubs heads to sleep like we do, nor do they know how the kids like their milk poured, their sandwiches cut in that special way, and their favorite, most comfortable way to be held and picked up.
We have to remember our humanity
But the truth is, when we run ourselves into the ground, when we know that our family is actually suffering because of our inability to accept or seek help, it’s a problem… for everyone.
I did this to me. I did this to my family, simply forgetting to take care of #1. And it took many hits, many collapses, many times hitting rock bottom, before I learned it’s OK if I can’t, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
As mothers we are built to endure like no other. We are equipped with supernatural forces that do allow us to push when it seems impossible to push on. We are composed of every healing word, touch, and remedy.
But bottom line, we’re still human. And sometimes we forget that.
We do make mistakes. We do tire. We can get pulled down. We do become annoyed (yes, dear Heavenly Father, He knows this). We live and breathe for our children and would walk across fire for them, but yes, we do require a break from them at times. And you know what? They need a break from us, too. They need the opportunity to become more independent and well-rounded human beings and learn how to function and cope and perform and accomplish without Mommy right there.
When we are able to swallow our pride and admit to that, that may very well be the hardest thing we superheroes, we gladiators, we mothers have to do.
The hard reality is, we won’t be there to catch their every fall. We won’t be able to prevent every heartache, or fight every battle for them. Sometimes taking a step back and letting them learn some independence, test out their wings on their own, so one day, they will be ready to fly when its time. And when that time does come, whether we’re ready for it or not, we don’t want them to be hesitant but rather confidently go after their dreams and bravely face their endeavors.
Let go of the reins
Through this period of exhaustion and illness that befell me, I was able to find the silver lining. That’s the beautiful thing about these so called setbacks. Through each and every storm, a lesson is there to be learned. And when that sunshine does return, you know the rainbow is sure to be on its way.
So when mommy was down for the count, did my family have their struggles? Sure. Did things move a little less smoothly? Yes. Were my husband and children excited for me to bounce back? Absolutely.
But let me tell you, during that time, my family learned to overcome and rally together as a team. Our toddlers even learned more independence and not only this, but a sense of nurturing and caring for one another.
Sadly, I had this happen after each baby at some point, so I must have never really learned my lesson fully. I have hit rock bottom multiple times through motherhood the past seven years of trying to carry on as Wonder Woman, but here I am, four babies later, and still learning. Still needing my daily wake up calls. Still being reminded it takes a village. Still requiring the blunt slap in the face that, Nope, can’t do it all and you know what… that is OK.
So next time you’re pushing way too hard, flying past dangerous limits and have sped by the big, red flashing lights of “warning, dangerous territory”, put on the brakes and ask yourself who are you doing any good for.
So, what’s the quickest way to tear down an entire family?
Yep, going after the mother.
But this is also the quickest way to rally your family, your team, together.
I don’t want to be Superwoman any longer
When your leader is down, you learn to combat differently. You learn an entire new level of strong that you never knew existed. You learn what true teamwork and responsibility is. You learn that when you must step up, you’re capable of more than you ever thought you were.
I’ve decided that I don’t need to be Superwoman any longer. I don’t need anyone else’s approval or rating of the job I’m doing at home. I no longer desire the need to please everyone as I’ve found the several thousand times I’ve attempted this, I’m incessantly pedaling backwards.
No, I no longer want to be Superwoman. I just need five sets of eyes within my household to know I’m there. That I’m taking care of myself so in turn, I can take care of them. I need these five beating hearts to realize I love them with an insurmountable amount of love that they’ll never come close to knowing the depth of. I only need these five people to be strong for, to think that I am their Superhero.
And if I have their approval, then I must be doing something right.
So the next time you go for the jugular, the next time mommy is taken down, think again. You mess with the mother, you awaken the Papa and Cubbie Bears.