Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How do I do whatever it is that I do. :)

I'm still working through all of your wonderful questions, even though I already turned 30.  :)

My sweet friend in California, Joanie, asked me this question in the comments section on a previous post:

WHAT do you do for "me" time? How do you get some space to think some thoughts to yourself? How do you parent with such Grace, Brianna?!? you keep your sanity? You know me, so you know I'm not saying it with undertones of how you do it "with all those kids." No, I only have two and I'm convinced I have gone off the deep end long ago, so it isn't that. It's just that you seem to be quite happy and smooth where I seem to be faltering and grumpy. I admire you, Friend! (And yes, I am thankful for my little sweethearts - even when they flood my house in the name of "cleaning" and "soaking feet!" But still I wonder how you do it!)

First of all, I have to say that I am so often not much of a grace-filled parent (though I try), but I DO know that I am receiving God's grace each and every day, and that's how we stay afloat!  (I'm often faltering and grumpy too, just for the record.  :)  )

But yes, I'm big into keeping sanity.  :)  I won't do anyone any good if I'm completely at the end of my rope.  I do sometimes reach a point where I feel overwhelmed and beyond stressed out, but it's rare, and usually happens either when I happen to be sick, or when my kids are not getting along.  Neither of those things happen all that regularly, thank goodness!

Being an introvert, I do need "me time".  But I get "me time" at home and I carve it out during the day, every day.  My children are known to play make-believe or draw together for hours on end, and if they're playing happily in the next room (or the same room), I'll kick back, read blogs, write blogs, read a book, or sit and stare.  :)  Mary takes a nap after lunch, so that's a two hour window where I can do things semi-independently.  Sometimes the older kids will watch a movie, though not usually.  They know that Mommy does not solely exist to entertain them, and they don't really ever get bored.  Whew!

I am also blessed to have some wonderful girlfriends that I meet for coffee or at the park at least once a week, on average.  They are also adoptive parents, and they also homeschool and love to thrift, so we have a bit in common.  One of them even lives in my neighborhood now.  We also try to get drinks and dinner out together once a month with another friend who lives south of us, just us girls.  (And, we miss you Jody!  And Cassie!  Come back!  :)  )

Maybe this will surprise some of you, but I am a low-energy person.  Oh yes, I am.  I'm raising five kids and attempting to keep my house relatively tidy, but you should see the inside of our detached garage.  Still a disaster of a mess three years after moving in!  Desperately needs to be organized, and we've done some, but mostly it's a mess.  Because after doing the things that need to be done, I just don't have the gumption to get out there and take care of it.  We hope to have it done by the time our girls come home, but I don't know.  So some things we just have to let go, and hopefully we choose the right things.

I am a bit of an optimist by nature, and I am pretty happy and content.  NOT to say that there aren't times where I'm (unfortunately) yelling angrily at my kids and wanting to pull my hair out.  But, I'm learning to accept my vocation in life, I'm learning to delight in motherhood and I do really love being home.  I honestly feel like my life has great meaning and value, even when I'm having a miserable-ish day.  And I always know that worst case, all the kiddies will be in bed by 8:30 and at that point I can make a margarita and curl up with a good book.

I am choosing day by day to believe that I have been called to be a wife and a mother, that this is part of my God-given purpose.  So not vogue to believe this but I do, and I think it's healthy.  It's the path God has given me to make me holy.  And it's not easy, so it must have the potential to work!  I try to surround myself with friends who also value motherhood and who, while being real about the challenges, have a positive outlook when it comes to being home raising children.  I try to read books (typically by Catholic authors) that hold motherhood in high esteem, and that affirm this calling.

And perhaps more than anything else, I am a very simple person.  A wonderful friend from high school used to laugh and say that I am "easily amused."  SO TRUE!  And, I always have been.  Chock it up to me being an only child, or an introvert with a characteristically "rich inner life", but I am content with quiet, simple days spent at home, and equally quiet evenings with Kevin watching "Frasier" on DVD.  We have a good time no matter what we're doing.  We're boring.  Yet we have so much fun being boring!!!!

A very wise person, probably a saint (who shall not be named because I can't find a definitive source for the quote!) said that God's truth comes with graces attached.  In other words, as we follow God He will give us grace to carry out His will, as we need it.  Thus I did not have the grace to parent four children when I had but three, or five when I only had four.  But as they come, they bring grace with them.  (In some ways that's an oversimplified way of looking at it, because I DO think something can be incredibly challenging and that it won't always feel like you have the grace to carry something out.  Especially when we start talking about post-partum depression or other clinical issues.  But in our weakness, He is strong.  Somehow, He is doing something beautiful.)

Let me give you an example of this.  In April we traveled to Ethiopia and then to Rome with our youngest, Mary Lu.  Our four oldest stayed home with Grandma.  At first we felt so footloose and fancy free, just having one baby to care for and love.  But a few days in, it didn't feel like such a break, and I began stressing out about coming home and how-on-Earth-have-we-managed-to-care-for-five-kids-in-the-past and how-will-we-do-it-again!!!  So you see, we adapt.  Both ways.

All of that to say, when people with one or two (or three or four) children tell me they don't know how I do it with five, I always tell them that no matter how many children you have, it is challenging and feels at-capacity as you're doing it. 

And the truth is that I don't get out by myself a whole lot.  I actually don't like doing that much because yes, I miss my husband and kids when I do!  If I'm itching to leave the house during the day, I'll typically load up all my kids and set off for Target or Costco or the thrift store.  We have a blast!  Ultimately though my heart is at home (it helps that I'm a homebody anyway!) and while there will always be things about keeping a home that I dread, it's still a pretty darn good life I'd say.

Other moms do a better job than me at lots of things.  I'm not crafty, I don't throw elaborate birthday parties, I still don't have a good meal planning routine and I waste too much time on Facebook and Twitter and blogs.  I'm not perfect.  But, I'm Mom.  And I love my kids.  Sometimes "good enough" is good enough, you know? 

Of course the reality is that I couldn't do any of this without the amazing support and love of my husband, Kevin.  He is an actively engaged husband and father, an amazing help, and definitely a full-fledged partner in this adventure.  After putting in a long day at work he comes home and changes diapers, wrestles with kids, reads them stories, and listens if I need to complain.  :)  Then after all of that he's always up for an animated discussion about theology or politics or what the kids did that day to drive me to the brink of insanity.  So the journey of motherhood may be hard, but for me it's never, ever lonely.  Because we're doing this together.

Thanks for asking!


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