It has been a long time since I’ve sat here, staring at a blank screen. I’ve started a dozen posts in my head since I last wrote and mentally bookmarked just as many topics to address. I even have a small arsenal of posts that I wrote before my daughter was born so that I could continue to publish regularly throughout “the hard weeks right after,” but somehow using those now seems false, not true to where (or even who?) I am now.
And the hard weeks…hahaha! If only just a few weeks had been hard.
Far from it.
She’s five months old now, with a smile that charms even the hardest of hearts, but every day remains a challenge. And the reality of transferring any of those thoughts to paper or completing any of those posts feels staggeringly difficult.
It’s tough for me not to compare myself to others these days. “So-and-so has three kids and no outside help at all. She seems to manage just fine. How come it’s all I can do to get through each day?” And I feel inadequate.
It’s hard for me to accept that my particular combination of strengths and weaknesses, of interests and passions, of projects and children, of feeling-things-so-much means that sometimes I find just getting through each day completely engulfing, overwhelming, and all-consuming.
It takes pretty much everything I have just to get through. To keep everyone entertained and learning, disciplined and napping, fed and bathed and diapered.
[Sidenote: I have never been more thankful for our small apartment because I can’t imagine keeping even an additional square foot clean.]
I’ve always said that I’ll make the time for the things that are really important to me – that I’ll make the time to run when I need to, to write when I need to, to pray when I need to.
I’m not as sure that’s true anymore. It’s too easy to not make the time, when I’m overwhelmed and overworked, maxed out and exhausted. These things require discipline and a regular routine, something I can’t excuse myself from or talk myself out of.
Yet, when I go too long without these things – without the running and the praying and the writing and the practicing – I start to lose myself. I struggle more with anger and resentment and I feel more easily discouraged, more easily depressed. I fight with my husband (more) and get frustrated (more quickly) with my kids.
I’m less thankful for what I have.
And that’s what has brought me here, back to this blank screen. It doesn’t matter what other people can do, with however many kids or babysitters or part-time jobs or mother’s helpers or house cleaners they have or don’t have. I need the structure of regular time without the kids, where I can come to this page, stare at this screen, and force the tangle of my thoughts onto paper.
And I need to not feel guilty about it.
Raising my children is my most important work right now. And it’s work that I love, truly love (despite how much I also miss my other and previous works!) and it’s work that I cherish every day.
But it’s too easy for this work to become all consuming, and too easy for me to run out of steam for the other things. And I need to keep those things in my life so that I can be the best mom and wife and friend that I can be. I need time to order the diapers and buy the groceries and plan the meals – YES of course – but I also need to do whatever it takes to make the time to run and practice the viola, time to pray and to read and to engage with other smart adults (without the kids!).
And I need to make the time to come here, too. To write, and to work on my writing. To reach out to all of you who have reached back to me – all of you who have said “me too!” and “thank you” and “I thought it was just me!” – to give you something so that you know you aren’t alone. That we’re all in it together.
So this is what I’ve learned in my last two months of not-writing: do what it takes. Do what it takes to keep the important things in your life. Don’t assume they will work themselves out or that they will happen on their own.
If you are feeling short-tempered or too-exhausted (I know, I know. Who isn’t?) or frustrated with your kids or your husband or your house – figure out what you need to do for yourself.
It might not look like what others are doing.
Maybe your husband is around more or around less. Maybe you need to pay someone to help you with things that you know you can do alone, dammit – but that you don’t actually enjoy. Maybe you need to get rid of the grass in your yard and replace it with gravel because you hate moving the lawn. Maybe you need someone else to do your grocery shopping. Maybe you need someone else to teach your kids to read or to play soccer or to practice the piano. Maybe you need to stop leading a Bible study or maybe you need to start going to one.
Whatever it is, do what it takes so that you can enjoy the life you have before you. It’s all we’ve got, people.