Thirteen years ago as a new mom, I thought I was pretty much invincible. After nearly losing my first son at birth (he later died at 9 months of age), I vowed to plunge head-first into motherhood with nary a complaint escaping from my lips. I’d feed my little 5-pound-preemie ‘round the clock and hold him every waking (and sleeping) moment. Seriously, I never put that child down unless I was in the shower, driving my car or carrying a pan of boiling water.
I’m really not exaggerating.
I lived far away from my family, and I refused to let anyone else watch my baby. Because of germs in the church nursery, Jon and I took turns standing with Noah in the hallway during service. If someone did manage to pry the child from my arms (which wasn’t often), I hovered over them like a mommy-copter, making sure they positioned his head just right. Cuz no one could hold him like Mommy could hold him.
Being a brand-spanking-new mom who had recently left the workforce to raise my family, I had no earthly clue how to balance my time or ask anyone for help. I was so used to pushing myself to complete and utter exhaustion during the work week and catching up on my sleep over the weekends, I knew no other way of existence.
Funny thing about 5-pound-preemie babies: they don’t much sleep in on Saturdays…or ever. And my little preemie never took a nap longer than 45-minutes a pop, neither did he sleep through the night until 6-months of age. The grocery store (THE GROCERY STORE!!!!!) was my “happy place,” because it was the only time I left Noah with his Daddy. Though I don’t regret one second I held my precious son, I became severely off balance. My sleep, my socialization and my sanity were nothing but a distant memory.
I vaguely remember Jon coming home one Friday, taking one look at his blurry-eyed-unshowered wife and saying something like, “Get out of the house, Crazed Woman-who-bears-a-slight-resemblance-to-the one I married.” I think I may have stumbled into Barnes and Noble and collapsed into a chair somewhere near the Parenting section. I’m not really sure.
That was then. This is now.
Thirteen years and four kids later, I have determined that I am far from invincible. And I am totally okay with that. I have discovered and identified my limits, and *NEWS FLASH* they are not the same limits as my husband, my sister-in-law or my bestest girl friends.
Accommodating fiercely protecting these limits has been one of the most refreshing, liberating and well-balanced things I have ever done for myself and my family.
You see, cultivating a peaceful atmosphere in my home is a high priority for me. And I’ve learned, whether I like it or not, I set the tone in my home. I cannot create a peaceful environment if I am walking around stressed out and burned out. I cannot model a well-balanced life for my children if they never see me taking a break.
If I ever want to be a well-balanced woman of God, who hears His voice and thrives in the fullness of her calling, then I must, must, must know and protect my physical, emotional and social limitations.
What does that mean for me?
1. A regular babysitter. Once a week I have someone watch my children so I can do something—anything—alone for a few hours. Over the years, I’ve swapped sitting with other moms, and that works well, too. But other times I just book someone every week to give me a break. In fact, my sitter will be here tomorrow at 10 am, thankyouverymuch.
2. Date night. Long gone are the days where Jon and I were content to bond over an episode of Veggie Tales with our toddler nestled between us. I need time to be a wife, not just a mommy. I need to dress up, put on some make up and eat at a restaurant that doesn’t serve Kraft Mac and Cheese and/or smiley fries. I need to be able to finish a sentence or a thought. I need to see the man I married as my husband and friend, not just a co-parent. For the last 10 years or so, Jon and I have been doing date night every other weekend. It’s a life-line for my marriage. Money well-spent, my friend.
3. Naps/Quiet time. If you are Cooper Kid and you are not yet in school, you will escape to your room for at least one hour every day, preferably to nap, but always to be quiet. It’s for your own good and the good of your flawed mother.
4. The word “no.” Though I am quite capable, NO, I will not lead any committees until further notice. Though it sounds like a lot of fun, NO, I will not attend every social function to which I am invited. And though I run the risk of putting my children at some sort of competitive disadvantage, NO, I will not allow my kids to participate in every sport and club simply because it’s available or in season.
Have you identified YOUR limitations? How do you protect them? Let’s chat about this.