My sweet “Clay-Bay-Bay” just turned one.
It seems so cliche to say that this year has gone fast but it also feels wrong to not say it. We have officially completed an entire year with three kids, 5 and under. I get tired even thinking about it.
To be completely honest with you all, this has been the hardest year of my life. It’s not just the baby’s fault. It has been more of an accumulation effect. Yes, having an infant that didn’t sleep well was a big part of it. But on top of that we had a three-year-old who pretty much had a year long tantrum. Oh, and I have a good idea. Let’s land a cookbook deal and create and test 75 recipes in 5 months. Not stressful at all.
Truth be told, I feel as though I am just now coming up for air and being able to look back at the year with some perspective.
And, because I’m a blogger and writing is therapy for me, I thought it’d be fun to expand on some things I’ve learned in the most challenging year of my life.
Mom Brain is a Real Thing
I remember being a kid and my mom could never keep our names straight. I simply could not understand how she could not call her own flesh and blood by their god-given name. How hard could it be, mom? Just call me POLLY.
Well, I am now eating my humble sandwich and licking up the crumbs. I’m sorry for judging you mom. I now have the same problem. I have this file folder of immediate family members’ names that are all exchanged for one another. The dog names are no exception. They are all in this folder that tosses up one of the names at any point. Everyone’s name is pretty much exchangeable.
BUT, it’s not just the names. I have learned to simply not trust my memory. Everything must be written down or it is at risk at being lost in the unorganized card catalogue system currently known as my brain. It’s IN there–it just may not surface at the appropriate time.
I know there is a smart person somewhere in there but with each kid, a layer of fog enters rolls in that takes a few more additional years to burn off.
Stress Relief is Vital
With 3 kids ages 5 and under, simply doing the day-to-day tasks can be quite stressful. If there isn’t a break, or a way to relieve the stress, things get messy.
I think this year more than any, I have seen the messy effects of stress that isn’t dealt with.
I kind of see myself as this volcano. On the surface, everything is calm. But underneath, without me even realizing it, lava is building up. It isn’t until lava is exploding in every direction in the sky that I realize there is a problem. Unfortunately it has taken me a few explosive moments to realize I need to address the problematic buildup prior to the explosion.
Enter the stress relievers.
I used to feel needy or even silly saying I need some “me time.” But I am now learning (the hard way) that when I don’t get that, I can quickly get explosive. For me, that “me time” is a walk, a few hours in a coffee shop, some kid-free exercise, writing, uninterrupted cooking, or simply time alone in my house. I’ve learned that I am simply a better mom if I get moments of refreshment every once in a while and that it’s not selfish to make that a priority.
Marriage Looks Different
I actually remember Rachel telling me at one point that it was hard to get a conversation in with her husband when her three kids were around. With only one kid at the time, I didn’t quite understand this. I mean, can’t the kids just go off a play while you talk? Can’t you tell them to be quiet?
Why yes, in theory you can. But dear reader, kids don’t really care what you want. Their needs and desires feel urgent and simply cannot wait in their opinion. Quiet doesn’t happen much in our house.
It’s not just that we can hardly get an uninterrupted conversation in, but marriage just looks pretty different than it did five years ago. Different is not necessarily bad, though. If anything, the challenges of raising children has forced us to operate as a team more than ever. We’ve seen the best and worst sides of each other, especially this year.
We are in a stage where we really appreciate any kid-free time we get together. Even if it’s a car ride. Seriously. We’ve had to be really intentional to schedule date nights, spend a little extra money on babysitters, and be ok with not feeling super connected all the time. We’ve learned to allow for some marriage and parenting mistakes and give lots of grace.
And in this stage we find ourselves in, loving each other well means being the one who gets up at night to comfort the crying kid.
This year has been hard on us but GOOD for us, too.
Let Go of the Little Things
A few days ago, I took my two big kids to Target, dressed in Christmas onesies… in March. We got lots of looks, chuckles, and even some understanding smiles from fellow moms. But, I honestly did not care. We needed milk, so we got milk the only way we do around here…loudly.
With the addition of each kid, I’ve had to learn to let go more of little things that don’t really matter at the end of the day. Little things that the average person does but that a mom with little people might temporarily let go of.
My kids’ socks rarely match, the floor of my car could feed a small animal, bathrooms are pretty much only cleaned when I know someone is coming to our house, sippy cups are shared by all, flip flops are worn to church in the winter, various toys and books accompany my kids to bed, and we now literally PAY our kids money to stay in bed until 6:15am.
But you know what? Mama don’t care. Because some things just won’t matter in the end. And experience is a child’s best teacher so if their toes get cold in the winter, they will remember to wear boots next time without me fighting that battle.
This ties into the mom-brain thing but with the addition of each kid, I am remembering less and less about each of their years as a baby or toddler. It’s so sad but can be understood since you are in this flurry of keeping three little kids alive, fed, clean, and clothed (sometimes) all while teaching them to be a decent human being…all while operating on very little sleep.
It’s no wonder the past 5 years are a bit of a blur for me. BUT, I’m beginning to embrace the limits of my memory and document as much as I can. This year, I started a little journal that I keep by my bedside. I try to jot down funny little stories, milestones or memories in it. I’m not great at keeping up with it but I already love looking back at the memories recorded. You really do forget!!
In short, the past year has been one for the record books. I’m sure at some point I will look back at this stage with fondness but right now it is pretty intense and taking most of my energy to keep the ship afloat.
In conclusion this little text exchange with my friend Molly sums up how most moms feel at some point in this stage. I’m sure you can relate 🙂