If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard a hundred times, “Enjoy every minute because they grow up so fast.” Often times these words are told to me by well-meaning strangers or older friends and family members whose children are now grown. There is undoubtedly wisdom to these words. All I have to do is look at the pictures of my newborn children to see how quickly they have already changed and grown. And in those moments, I do feel a bit overcome by bittersweet memories as I suddenly see life whizzing by.
But sometimes, I must confess, these words have the opposite effect of their intended meaning. Rather than inspiring me to love my children in the moment, they fill me with feelings of inadequacy and even guilt. Because honestly, I don’t enjoy every minute of motherhood. There are moments when I feel completely and utterly overwhelmed. Moments when I feel like I desperately need to come up for air; to have a moment to myself. There are aspects of motherhood—like changing a poopy diaper for the hundredth time, those sleepless nights, or wheedling my children to eat (again!)—that I will definitely not miss. I know that doing these things is important and that, if I let them, they can even become sanctifying. But that doesn’t mean I enjoy them.
You’re not a “Bad Mom” if you Struggle with Joy
Following a recent post entitled Making Motherhood Attractive: the Power of Positivity, I had a reader comment asking for the HOW to achieving joyful serenity. The mom went on to share that although she used to be known for her “optimism and positive attitude,” she fears her kids mostly experience a “grouchy” mother. Her heartfelt words got me thinking. Because, well, I often feel the same way. I have days when I feel like Wonder Woman and days when I feel like a complete and utter failure. And although I love my motherhood and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, it’s also hard.
Through my reflections I came to the following conclusion: enjoying the moment doesn’t mean that we’re failures if we’re not perpetually happy. We’re not bad moms if we need time away from our kids or if we feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to look back nostalgically and remember only the good times; but when you’re in the nitty gritty part of raising little people there are a lot of really difficult moments. And when those happen, we won’t feel the joy but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
“Enjoying the Moment” is ultimately a Choice and NOT a Feeling
What I’m learning is that “enjoying the moment” is less about how I feel (which I might add changes rapidly) and more about how I choose to live. It’s about having the wisdom to recognize when I need to step away for prayer and times of rejuvenation. It’s about ending each day with gratitude and always counting my blessings instead of focusing on the negative. It’s about savoring those precious moments that make motherhood so worth it, and remembering them during the hard times.
Choosing joy means knowing yourself and knowing what works best to get you out of that funk—caused by Monday Blues, sleep deprivation, or whatever. Here’s what I’ve found has helped me best.
- Music – “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” (Berthold Auerbach). Music has a profound effect on our moods and dispositions. It’s why when I worked at the LOFT as a teenager the store had a designated playlist for each month, setting “the mood” for shoppers’ experiences. Movies wouldn’t be nearly as moving, electrifying, or terrifying if they were watched in silence as opposed to their carefully crafted scores. So when I’m having a particularly off day, I make a habit of playing some of my favorite upbeat music. The kids and I will have a dance party or sing along, and before long our frowns have been turned upside down.
- Sunlight – Light has been scientifically proven to affect our moods. People tend to feel more upbeat, enthusiastic, and energetic on sunny days whereas depression peaks during the dreary months of winter. Obviously, we can’t control what Mother Nature decides to do, but we can often control the lighting in our homes and environments. That’s why I’ve made a practice of opening all of the blinds and getting as much natural sunlight as possible throughout the day. And on rainy days when natural sunlight is limited, of keeping the room as bright as possible.
- Carve out Adult Time – I’ve found too that having time just to myself, whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour, is essential to my attitude. Even if that time is spent working, it’s a treasured time when I can think and process things on my own. Then, when I return to my children I’m more refreshed and capable of tending to their needs.
- Have a Plan for the Day – Though things won’t always go according to plan, I’ve found that having a game plan goes a LONG way in perking up our day. With a plan, I don’t have to go around frantically try to squeeze things in or to create “fun” in the household. Rather, I’ve got a map that we can loosely follow and give our day a greater sense of purpose.
- Get your Nest in Order – As a type A person, I feel so much more cheerful and joyful when my house is in order. Having a home that is tidy and inviting makes me feel happier being there. This way, instead of looking at a huge pile of chores/things that need to be done, my home becomes my happy place; our space to live joyfully and creatively. I don’t mean to imply that my house is always immaculate. There is ALWAYS cleaning that needs to be done, but I try to keep it perpetually straightened at the very least.
- Accept – Our emotions are neither bad nor good. They are natural responses that are oftentimes completely out of our control. We are each going to feel sad, angry, disheartened and even depressed at various points in our lives. Sometimes we just need to accept that this is where we are and to admit that it’s OK. I guarantee Christ wasn’t feeling joyful along the road to Calvary or during Gethsemane. The key is not to wallow or to dwell on our emotions, but rather to healthily acknowledge them and to seek help when needed.
- Build a Support System – As social beings, we were created for community. We all need to know that we are not alone. There is something very healing about sharing our experiences with another human being, growing from their wisdom, and sharing our burdens. We moms need this. So make sure you have this whether it’s through church, family, or a mom blog. Be careful, however, to make sure that your support system is a positive one. We, women, have a tendency to focus on the negative when together, which can be toxic. You want a community that will uplift you and help you to discover joy in those moments when you feel bereft of it.
Choosing joy won’t always be easy. It will require a lot of hard work on your part and a lot of grace. But never fear, for our God is faithful and he always turns our dry periods into prosperity; our trials into good. Which is why I’ll end with St. Paul’s words, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Wishing you and yours JOY!
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