“You know what it’s like having a fourth kid? Imagine you’re drowning, then someone hands you a baby.”-Jim Gaffigan
When our twins were born, my husband and I did a headcount and discovered we had five children and the oldest wasn’t yet five. Our post-children counting skills were better than our pre-children counting skills, apparently.
Maybe some of you have had multiple children in a few short years or have volunteered in a preschool class and then just decided to never leave. Kids are wild, aren’t they?
In those first twelve months as a mom of five, I became quite close to my new companion, Overwhelmed. You could say we were Besties. And my Besties I really mean Worsties.
Our extended families were amazing. They vacuumed and babysat, grabbing a basket of laundry on the way out the door. For a few months, my sister even came to be my maid/nanny so that I was never the lone adult in the house.
Her and I, we got into a rhythm and worked in tandem: nursing and burping and changing; reading stories and breaking up fights and distracting tantrums; making peanut butter sandwiches and wiping fingers and blowing noses.
Those were hazy days. I’m actually just guessing what my sister and I did day after day because I don’t have actual memories.
Then the day came. In that stretch of daily overwhelm, one day stands tall above the rest. That Sunday night before the dreaded Solo Monday, I lay my exhausted body in my bed and the tears poured, long after my husband was snoring. How? How would I do this?
How could I feed and water and and mother and sustain everybody? I was only one person and they were so many.
Let me tell you my best of luck: Monday morning dawned and four out of my five kids were sick with colds and fevers. Oh, yes. It was a good one.
And you know what?
I SURVIVED IT!
Not a single kid starved to death that day.
Not one single kid wondered off into the woods never to be seen again.
Not even one kid ended up in the ER.
THEY SURVIVED TOO!
That night I deposited my lifeless body in bed at 7:45. (Or earlier. Remember, I have no actual memories.) But not before I patted my unconscious back with my comatose hand.
I’ll tell you what that most mind-boggling day did for me:
It gave me confidence.
I was slightly surprised and ever so pleased with myself. What did this survival mean? It meant that I was stronger than I thought. It meant that I could do hard things. It meant that I had not yet found my limit.
[Side note for all you driven personalities out there: This is not an encouragement to see how much busyness and stress you can pack into your lives until you crumble. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You are amazing already.]
Tired, overwhelmed mom, this is what I want to say to you today:
You are seen. Your small, kind deeds done to small, not-always-kind kids are seen by God. He misses nothing. You are seen.
You are a survivor. You are stronger than you know: mentally, physically, emotionally. You were created to survive these tired times.
You are not alone. As isolating as motherhood can make you feel, it’s not true. Moms all over the world battle the same loneliness, fatigue and discouragement. It’s not just you.
You will get your reward. Remember that God who sees? He also rewards. His rewards are far fatter than any paycheck we’ve ever earned and our pay day is every day and yet still coming.
You are a hero. I am not bragging you up one tiny bit extra. Listen. If you look your baby in the eyes, if you feed your toddler when she is hungry and snuggle her when she is sad, you are setting your kids up to succeed in ways you don’t even know. Your little people believe they are valuable and are leaps ahead of those don’t receive those things. Honest to God.
You are more than a mom. You have other talents and passions stuffed in every nook and cranny of your person. You are smart and creative and the world needs what you have to offer. In this season, you may not get to pull your offerings out as much as you would like, but they remain an important piece of who you are.
Mom, I believe in you. I believe in your grit and your skills and in the One who created you to be swirls of tough and tender.
If you find yourself wrestling with a teeny-tiny nail clippers, stepping gingerly across crummy kitchen floors or stretching across one kid to snap the buckle of another, I imagine you too, might have crushing days.
If this mess-of-a-mom can survive the overwhelm, you can too, my friend.
For some of God’s thoughts on mothering those littles, here are some more kinds words: Moms, This is How God Feels About You.
[Second side note: if you are struggling with depression or question if your feeling of fatigue are typical, please see a doctor. You are well-worth the care and concern.]