I’ve snapped. I’ve yelled. I’ve pretty much made everyone miserable. Sure, I have a mountain of work to do, a house to clean up from having company and a party over the weekend, and pile of laundry so tall it rivals Mt. Everest, but it probably doesn’t give me the right to go around snapping at my family, especially knowing that I probably have to spend the next week with them.
As much as I know it’s wrong, though, I’m having the worst time pulling myself out of it. Truthfully, I just want one day where everything goes like I planned it. I just want to finish a single task without being interrupted. I would really like to go to the bathroom without hearing a child ask “Where’s mom?” and then come looking for me.
I know I’m stressed. I know I’m cranky. I also know that I’m not alone.
No one can be a mom — not a working mom or a stay-at-home one — and not sometimes long for a day when they’re not the one in charge, a day where they don’t have to pick up after anyone else, help with anyone’s homework, sweep the kitchen floor or meet another deadline. And I’m convinced that’s healthy. No one can be “on” all the time.
But when we need that break, snapping at our families and taking our frustrations out on them isn’t a fabulous way to express that. Finding a few minutes to take that break before we explode is. Telling our kids we need a few minutes. Asking our spouses to pitch in so we can have a few minutes to ourselves is a better choice.
As I groused my way through my morning, I kept hearing that Francesca Battistelli song in my head, the one that says “In the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I’m blessed.” And you know what, that’s true. In the grand scheme of things, this morning, this week, is a little mess. I’m blessed. I have a family, a warm house, food in my refrigerator and people who love me — even when I’m snapping their heads off. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need a break. It doesn’t mean I’m not stretched too thin. It doesn’t mean I can’t take a few minutes off.
As moms, we too often buy into the lie that we have to love every minute of motherhood. We’re supposed to bask in the joy of changing diapers, dealing with lippy teens, and making almost weekly runs to the urgent care. That’s a lie. There’s nothing joyful about your fourth trip in five weeks to the urgent care (I know, I’ve been there). There’s little joy to be found in the rolling eyes and miserable attitude of a teenager in the throes of self-pity. There’s nothing fun in a screaming toddler while you’re trying to grocery shop.
No, the joy in this motherhood thing comes from knowing that we’re called to be moms. The joy comes from knowing that Jesus is walking every step with us, even the miserable ones. The joy comes in shepherding a child’s heart for the long term.
We can better tolerate the joyless days, though, when we can step back and gain some perspective, when we can realize that this, too, shall pass. When we can take just a five minute break and pull our brains out of our “little mess” and focus on the big picture, when we can refocus our hearts on God, we can take a crummy morning and turn it into a better afternoon. Sometimes, a five-minute break is really all that’s standing between us and a disaster of a day.
So, sweet moms, if you need a break from your “little mess” today, take it. Take a time-out. Drop your kids in front of the TV for 15 minutes (you’re not a bad mom, I promise) or require everyone to take 30 minutes of quiet time in their rooms. Take your break. Bask in the quiet. Refocus on the long-term picture and rediscover your joy. And if you’re frustrated and worn beyond the normal, plan for a bigger break. Put something on your calendar that you can look forward to, an outing just for you, then take that time to refresh and restore your joy. And don’t feel guilty while you’re doing it. It will make you a better mom.