Last week there was a day at work that went something like this: Both children (one 4 year old and one 11 month old) were sick with colds and ear infections, there were dishes to be washed, the laundry was piled up to the sky, toys were strewn everywhere, the cat was complaining because she wanted to be fed, the fish was drowning in its own waste, it was time for S. to have her ear drops again- which required that she stay laying down and still for at least 15 minutes afterwards, which required that I sit with her and read to her, the baby needed to be coaxed to eat something (anything), it was pouring rain outside, the doorbell was ringing periodically as delivery men made holiday deliveries, cookies needed to be baked for the holiday party at S.’s preschool the next day, both children were cranky and competing for my attention, the baby’s diaper needed to be changed again, and on and on. I was feeling tired, overwhelmed, and frazzled. Not at all like Mary Poppins.Of course Mary Poppins had magic at her disposal, and I- well- I don’t.
So I really understood when my friend Amy, who is a stay at home Mom, called and related a similar tale of woe and desperation. ” I feel like I’m drowning and I don’t know what to do first.”
It’s days like this – which can sometimes turn into weeks- that can make you question your sanity and ask yourself why you ever thought you wanted to become a parent (or in my case, a caregiver), in the first place.It’s the little day to day challenges that can wear us out and wear us down.
It’s days like this that Magda’s Gerber’s words, “this too shall pass” come to mind. The challenge is to take a deep breath and stay focused as much as possible in the present moment, while trusting that soon – tomorrow or the next day, or maybe even 10 minutes from now (if a miracle occurs), things will feel and be better.
It helps me to start by saying to myself, “This is what is happening right now. How will I accept and make the best of it?” Because really, the idea that we have any control is an illusion, and I sometimes think that children were put on this earth to help teach some of us (me) this lesson!
It also helps to ask myself – sometimes moment to moment- “What is most important to do right now and what can wait?” Usually, by first calming myself, and then bringing full focus to each child in turn, I can find the way to proceed, and little by little, we move forward through the day together, in a more peaceful way than we might otherwise have.
A few other things that can help are: talking even briefly to someone who understands, and cultivating the ability to find and savor the small moments of joy and laughter that can occur on the worst of days.
For instance, we couldn’t go outside because of sickness and the rain on the day I described, but S. was restless, so I popped in a half hour kids yoga dvd, and we practiced the poses together while her brother watched us from his near by safe play area . The yoga dvd helped S. to burn off restless energy, and for some reason, the baby thought that we were just hilarious as we moved through the yoga poses, and was giggling away, which then made S. laugh, and me smile too.
It turns out while you can’t always control the circumstances, you can adjust your attitude and expectations and this can set a tone for the day- whatever it may bring. This may be one of the biggest challenges you face in caring for your children, but it may also bring the greatest rewards.