I’ve been inspired to goal set this year in a way unlike any other year in the past. To be honest, I’m not much of a goal setter. I’ve had a few concrete goals for school in my life, but other than that, I’ve just kind of moved through life and dealt with it as it hit me. I would have once proudly told you that attitude made me a flexible person, but I’ve come to realize what it really means is that I end up drifting through life reacting to the current instead of living in my purpose.
Why I Was Drifting
When I look back now, I can see that I was a little bit more of a goal setter/achiever in my early 20’s. Then I had a child…and moved states…and started a business…and started a new career. ALL IN THE SAME YEAR. It was too much. And with a baby that didn’t sleep I lived existed solely in survival mode.
What Survival Mode Looked Like
Survival mode felt like there was scarcity in every important aspect of my life. There was for sure scarcity of sleep at night, which meant that I woke up still tired and spent most of the day searching for any pocket of time long enough to sleep. This meant that important business tasks, my house, and relationships weren’t even on my radar to tend to. Anything that didn’t have a major, immediate, negative consequence attached to not doing it—just didn’t get done.
What It Cost Me
Existing in this anxious and often angry fog caused me ever increasing anxiety. This anxiety made my nights more restless and my days more tired. The higher my anxiety, the more I retreated from important things I needed to be tending to. The fog was so thick I couldn’t even see what the root causes were. Even if I had, I was too tired to spend energy fixing anything (see the last sentence from the previous paragraph). This meant that I often used coping strategies that felt good in the moment, but ultimately reinforced the fog.
How I Got Out of the Fog
Honestly there was no magic in this. Vivi started sleeping better and better and eventually through the night at 18 months old. (It’s funny that it took me yet another year and another baby to realize that just sleeping in longer than 25-45 minute stretches at night could so positively impact my mental and emotional state.) I stopped breastfeeding and got pregnant again, which shifted me into friendlier hormones. It was because of these two shifts—that were somewhat out of my control—I was able to come up for air long enough to realize I could not do another first year of a baby like that again.
My Action Plan
I knew I had to do something different. For me, that was changing jobs. As a 7 on the Enneagram, giving up the freedom of making my own schedule was tough, but worth it. Just taking that one step took tremendous stress off of me. Being employed meant that I could leave work at work, and no one was calling me in off hours. Having a set (and increased) income also took tremendous financial stress off of us.
I also asked a lady in our church to mentor me. This gave me accountability to immerse myself back into Scripture. Moving states and having a child so radically changed my schedule so quickly that it had been a long time since I had been in God’s Word with anything resembling consistency. This also gave me someone to talk with about the stresses of being a mom. She knew what it was like and so gracefully reminded me of the big picture view of raising kids. The thing I appreciated most was that I never felt patronized for my feelings about motherhood. So many times young moms hear pithy one liners from older moms and I think, “Clearly they don’t actually remember what this phase is like.”
Life lesson with Phoebe: Empathize before you lay your wisdom on a younger mom. She’s insecure enough about how she’s mothering, she doesn’t need you, with your good intentions and bad memory of how hard it was, to reinforce her feel shame over not enjoying every single moment of mothering littles.
I started talking about how I was feeling not only with a mentor, but other moms. I realized that I was not alone in feeling completely overwhelmed by motherhood. Unfortunately, this made me think that feeling overwhelmed by little ones was not only normal, but also the only way through motherhood. It helped me keep my head above water, but it wasn’t until the end of 2018 that I was able to really feel like I was doing more than just getting by and waiting for the kids to get older.
So, if you feel like you are just drifting through life with littles in a sea, or a fog, or a forest that feels like it could overtake you at any minute, you are not alone. But please, do not stay there another minute. It might mean a drastic change, like the one I made, or it could be a series of smaller changes (like the ones I’ll talk about next week) that add up to bigger and better things for you.
Life lesson with Phoebe: Reach out when you are feeling overwhelmed: it could be a good friend, a mentor, a counselor, or even your doctor. God gave us the gift of being relational beings—use it.