It can happen all too easily.
First, I wake-up way too early to an inconsolable infant. I use the term ‘wake-up’ loosely, since really, I’ve been awake on and off since 3am. The four-year-old is yelling from his toddler bed to be allowed to wake up, which of course, wakes up the two-year-old. There’s no time to brush my hair or try to look presentable. Even if the older boys weren’t up yet, my arms are full with the baby. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and wince a little. Bad wife. Poor husband. What happened to the pretty wife he once married….?
I make it to the kitchen, where yesterday’s dishes await me. Oh, yeah… I run an organizing blog. What happened to my tried-and-true evening routine? I was exhausted, that’s what. I just wanted to nurse my baby and watch Netflix with my husband. Funnily enough, pretending the dishes weren’t there didn’t make them go away. Dried cheese bits and chip pieces from yesterday’s nachos crunch under my feet, reminding me that I didn’t sweep the floor after dinner either. Oh, and the laundry’s still in the hamper. All wrinkled and cold. Bad housekeeper. Poor family. Why can’t I just get my act together?
All the children are up now, tangling around my legs and asking for breakfast while I try to unload the dishwasher. They want cereal for breakfast. Just kidding, now they want toast. They cry at me because I already poured the cereal. I snap at them (though honestly, I feel like throwing them out the window) and force them into their chairs to eat their cereal, or else. I think of that friend of mine who always cooks hot, fresh breakfasts and feel convicted. I should have made hot eggs or French toast. I should definitely have menu planned a healthier breakfast with yogurt and fresh fruit too. But that would take way too much effort and the kids would tangle up my feet the entire time. Bad cook. Poor children. They’re eating way too many cheerios in their life right now.
My husband wakes up, groggy and frowning. He’s even more allergic to mornings than I am. I try to give him his space, but we collide eventually. I remind him about something on his to-do-list (bad timing, I admit). I hear some resentment in his voice and bristle. Really, in the morning, his resentment is directed at the world in its entirety. I shouldn’t take it personally. But right now, it feels aimed at me. Bad husband. Doesn’t he realize how hard I work? The least I deserve for my trials is a morning smile.
I slam the kitchen cabinets closed a little too hard, recognizing the resentment building up in my own chest. The children have the gall to ask to watch a movie. They know that’s not allowed until after naptimes. After I say no, they ask for a cookie. I threaten them with what might happen if they dare ask me for something stupid again. I take a deep breath and try to lower my voice a little. Am I yelling too much? Where is my usual calm? It must be because I didn’t read my Bible today. I slept in because the baby kept me up. The reason I’m having such a rough morning is probably because I have my priorities all messed up. I chose sleep over prayer. No Bible time. Bad Christian. God hasn’t heard from me for days.
I escape onto the internet for a few moments. I laugh at a meme or two, read a couple blogs about shiny, clean homes and better mothers, and then realize my entire morning has gotten away from me. I’ve been awake for too long and accomplished far too little. The baby is screaming now and the toddlers are fighting. I wanted to do some preschool lessons, but those dishes should really be done first. Now I feel guilty for ignoring my children for housework. But then, they do need dishes to eat off of for lunch. Also, my husband would probably appreciate something besides frozen pizza this evening. I really should cook for him more. I stink at this job. Why do I even try?
I realize that I want to be anywhere but here. I seriously consider running off to Mexico. Not that I’d know what to do once I get there. My high-school Spanish is pretty rough.
Bad wife. Bad mother. Bad housekeeper. (Bad husband.) Bad Christian.
My life is too hard. I suffer too much. Nobody understands. Perhaps I’ll bury my head in self pity and wallow there for a little bit. Maybe shed a tear or two. Woe is me.
Yes, that’ll help things get better.
Stop it. Deep breath. Do you see what just happened here? Do you see how quickly life can seem overwhelming and hopeless and terrible?
Let me speak frankly.
We women are really good at self-pity. Seriously, I think we’ve got it down to an art form. All too easily, our gifts from God (our children, husband, and home) can feel like curses to us.
I’ve had a couple days like this lately. They happen more often when there’s a newborn in the house and I’m not getting enough sleep. Especially since we’re still unpacking the moving boxes and everything is topsy-turvy inside the cabinets and closets. I’ve had to sit down and take a few deep breaths and regain my perspective on a daily basis. The guilt, the condemnation, the pity… it can hurt physically. It can make your head ache, it can make your chest hurt, it can make your heart bleed…
But that is NOT what we are called to.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
THAT is God’s will for us. Oh, and there’s this one…
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)
The weapon we use to fight self-pity is THANKFULNESS.
Recognize your blessings.
Did your baby (or toddler) keep you up last night? Give thanks that you have a child, a gift and heritage from God. There are many women who battle with infertility. Their arms and hearts are empty. They would switch places with you in a heartbeat. Give thanks for the cute, little culprits who like to argue and deprive you of sleep. They are a blessing. And they won’t always be this little. Thank God for their squishy cheeks, and needy cries, and complete satisfaction while nursing (even if it’s for the millionth time that night).
Is your home a battle to keep up with? Thank God you have a home. Thank God for the dishes to eat on and wash, the food to prepare and clean-up after, and for the sticky fingers that leave peanut-butter-and-jelly handprints on your French door windows. They mean you are blessed. Thank God for the washing machines and the refrigerators, for the dishwashers and microwaves. Not everyone throughout time has had these convenience. Thank God for the milk that comes in gallons (instead of the cow that kicks, moos, and needs milking outside). Thank God for heating, air conditioning, and other modern mercies. Thank God for the internet, that can give you cooking inspiration or show your child what a puffer-fish looks like at the click of a button.
Thank God for your husband, even if he does wake up grumpy in the mornings. Does he say rude things on occasion? Does he not appreciate everything you do?
Well, I have news for you. He’s a sinner. And so are you. You’re not so perfect either. Look past what you can, confront him with what you must, and give him a lot of grace as you would like him to do back to you.
Is he faithful to you? Do you worry about him running off with another woman? Does he play video games from morning till night and let you support his lazy bum? Does he beat you and your children? No? There are many wives in the world who have husbands that do.
Give thanks for your husband, even in his rougher days. Give thanks for his work ethic, his gentleness with your children, even when he makes a mistake and criticizes your cooking or the state of the kitchen. Even when he doesn’t understand how hard you work. Stop and ask yourself… Do you really understand and appreciate him for all he does do?
Do you have some aches and pains? That sciatic pain driving you crazy?
Are you dying of kidney failure? Do you have a loved one suffering from cancer? There are people with worse aches and pains than you.
Battle self-pity with gratefulness. Rid yourself of that broken spirit that dries up your very bones. A cheerful heart is good medicine, especially on the hard days.