Friday, November 18, 2011

Forever stuck in survival mode?

"This is survival mode at its best.  It's temporary.  You will get through this," I repeated anxiously to myself, while rocking two extremely overtired, cranky 10 week old babies.

That was over 4 years ago with the little twins and I'm still repeating that same damn phrase to myself when life gets challenging.

Will I ever graduate out of survival mode?  Right now, it's truly hard to imagine.

Today, I found myself locked in the bathroom upstairs, sitting on the floor with my knees pressed to my chest, muttering, "Good Lord, please give me strength to deal with all this noise!"

Yes, I was on noise overload.  But that's nothing new around here.  With 4 children who have booming voices, constantly trying to yell above one another, I was quickly crumbling.

Every 2 seconds, it was...

"Moooommmmyyyyy, he won't let me have the Wii controller"
"Moooommmmyyyyy, I need a snack"
"Moooommmmyyyyy, I want a different pair of socks"
"Moooommmmyyyyy, I need you to wipe my butt"

I found myself running around as if I was their personal servant.

"What can I get you, Master?  Shall I shine your shoes with my clean shirt?  Wipe your ass with my bare hands?  My life means nothing if I can't satisfy your every need."

Please.  What bullshit.

Since when did the responsibility of Mommy mean I had to be at their beck and call every minute of the day?  If I had realized 7 years ago that I would basically be signing my life away as I knew it, would I still have tried so desperately to become a mother?

I know, shame on me for not actually deleting that last sentence.  But it's true.  And if I'm anything on this blog, it's raw and honest.

Rest assured that I realize when my kids are older, they may stumble upon this blog post.  And my reaction will be, "When you have kids, you'll understand.  It doesn't mean I don't love you.  It doesn't mean I didn't enjoy being your mother.  It just means I wasn't very good at balancing motherhood with...well, ME".

I've completely lost myself in this whole motherhood gig.  Even when I should be sitting down force feeding myself a healthy meal, I'm standing up...anticipating yet another interruption because the kids might need something.  Why bother sitting down?

Oh I know...I'm the pot calling the kettle black.  I'm the first one to preach, "You need to take care of yourself because if you crumble, the entire family crumbles."

Yet, when it comes to myself and my family, I tend to forget that phrase.  I just yell, cry and hide.  A total wimp in Mother's clothing, trying to pull off the grand charade on a daily basis and failing miserably, I might add.

I allow my kids to suck the life out of me.  I use the word "allow" because I know there's an ability within me to throw my hands in the air and say, "You guys fend for yourself...being more self-sufficient will be good for you."

But I don't do it.  I haven't figured out why as of yet.

Oh, wait...I'm pretty sure it stems back to unresolved childhood issues but I don't want to dive into that heavy shit right now.

I've poured my heart and soul into being a mother to these 4 little gifts which God has bestowed upon me.  Yes, they are blessings.  Yes, I am grateful.

But. they. are. completely. sucking. the. life. out. of. me.  

Crap, I already said that, didn't I?   Well, then, I'll just leave it in here for emphasis.  

You want to hear my real fear?

I fear that, for me, survival mode may not be temporary.  I fear I may be stuck in this mode until the last of my kids leaves the house to begin their own lives apart from me.  

You want me to be even more truthful?  To give you my God's honest truth?

I fear I won't ever be able to recover.  Will I even recognize myself in the mirror once this home is void of young children?  What ever will I do with myself when I don't have 4 children hanging on me, whining at me, arguing over me?

Well, I certainly don't have the answers to those questions.  At least not yet.  And perhaps I never will.

For now, I'll just continue to survive.  To cope with the stress and exhaustion the best I can.  To say no more often.  To encourage my kids to be more self-reliant when appropriate.   To not burden myself with guilt if I can't call a friend back immediately.  To just be the best mother, wife and friend I can be and pray that it's enough.

Because, really....what other choice do I have?

What do you fear? Registered & Protected


Merri Ann said...

Oh, I fear the same thing.

Everyone always says, take care of you first ... that is such BS. Every time I do that I know how much I've neglected everything else ... I know how long it will take me to get back to where I was ... not caught up ... just not so far behind. UGH

I totally get where you're coming from ... but

I see the kids in our school who have moms who are all about "Putting themselves first" .. I want to hug their kids or give them a pat on the back and tell them their doing a good job.

I know my kids are happy and thriving and despite the occasional "episode" they are absolutely sure they are loved.

The bottom line for me? I'm willing to put myself last for now ... but I'm not willing to sacrifice my long term health. So, I exercise and try hard to eat well and keep up on doctors appointments ... that's about it.

When they are all in school full time next year, I hope to add back blogging.

Sorry for your bad day ... hang in their baby !!!

Kmama said...

I wont' get into what I fear, but I just wanted to say that I relate. This morning, my SEVEN YEAR OLD yelled to me, just 15 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, because he had to go to the bathroom. Infuriated doesn't even begin to describe how I felt as I sat on his bed and waited for him to come back so that I could tuck him in.

This weekend, I WILL be spending some time teaching him how to cover himself up.

Singedwingangel said...

Momma you HAVE to make time for yourself, even if it is to just lock yourself in your room and scream into your pillow for 30 minutes. Yes they are old enough to do some things on their own. Perhaps investing in the wet wipes for the bathroom would encourage them to self clean. Retrain yourself and them with alloted time slots where they are self sufficient and allow you 15 minutes of quiet an hour. It is doable and yes you will find yourself. You write, hanging onto that part of you..

Samantha said...

I fear the exact things you have talked about here. I feel like you. When I hear about a newlywed couple getting pregnant...I just want to scream at them and be like, "WHY?!!! WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELF?!" That's not to say that I don't love mine with everything in me...but you know, sometimes I feel like a prisoner.

Barbara said...

I feel like our 2 year old has figured out that we are at his beck and call and has turned into quite the dictator. I agree that you have to make time for yourself, however you can. Even 20 minutes can make a world of difference!

Eva Gallant said...

It will get a little easier once they are all four in school all day. Hang on...that day is coming!

Mamma Sol said...

I hear you, sister! But I have started trying to make the effort... Paying through the nose for babysitters is worth it if momma gets ONE. FULL. WEEKEND. TO. HERSELF. I am working hard to practise feeling entitled to alone time. To a pretty dress. To drinking wine after the kids are in bed. To bond with other overwhelmed mothers to have someone to talk to that do understand.

I pray you find the strength to prioritize yourself

Nezzy said...

Ya young moms out there take it from an old chick. It will get better. I can hear my sweet hubby sayin' when I was on my last nerve..."This too shall pass." ....and it does.

I remember the days that I'd retreat to my bath, my moment when all the sudden I'd hear, "Bombs away". The snowballs or icicles would come flyin' over the top of the closed tub doors.

Now they are grown with children of their own. The eight I get to send back! Heeehehehe!

Hang in there truly will get better...I promise.

God bless and have a delightful day sweetie! :o)

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

I don't so much fear them leaving - I fear I'm going to screw them up and they'll spent the first few years of adult life talking about me in therapy. Hopefully not.

Krystal said...

This was a really powerful post, and really spoke to me! I love your blog, and you may remember commenting on a blog entry I was a completely overwhelmed twin mom.. your comment really helped me. I think we all could blog this post (although not as well-written ;) at least a few times a month. I must say I don't know how you bake all those cakes, cook healthy and take care of your brood.. I am not to that point. But isn't it amazing how much we moms can do and still feel guilty??

The only thing I have found to keep myself sane is BABYSITTERS! I also work once a week, and that helps my sanity... Remember you don't get that time away that working moms Treat yourself to a date night OR just an evening of vegging while someone watches your kids. Give yourself time to miss them. And even getting babysitters makes me feel guilty, BUT it's good for the kids AND momma! I fear the same thing as you... completely losing myself and not knowing what to do when they grow up. That time away really helps and makes me want to come back and cuddle with them.. even if they are not interested in cuddling ;)


HoneyDame said...

Awww....dear Helen! I think the previous commenters already said it all.
I know your kids will make it worth the whole while at the end.
The end will justify the means....just make sure the means is not at the detriment of your health.

Heather said...

I feel the same way and fear the same things! You are not alone. I had a person tell me that being a mother is not all it's cracked up to be when I was doing infertility treatments, and I do understand why she said it. It isn't that you don't love your kids; it's just that it is WAY harder than expected. You are right...why even bother to sit down??? I have to hope that survival mode does end at some point, and I think it will. Just not sure when! :) I know you love your kids and you know I love mine too. I'm sure you're doubly exhausted!

Shelly - Tropical Mum said...

Sometimes I think that I'm not cut out to be a parent, that I should have been one to opt out.

I don't have the patience for the noise, the bickering or the back-chat. I lose my temper and yell. Often, I count the minutes until they go to bed.

I know that I love them fiercely, and given the chance to do it all again, I would never choose a different path, but I just wish I could be a better parent to them.

Now that my boys are both in school, I can say that those 5 hours of alone time are wonderful. Unfortunately, the time that I spend with them after school is full of stressful homework, breaking up fights and nagging them to do chores.

This was a great post Helene. I'm sure every mother feels this way at one point or another, but you were brave enough to put it out there. Thanks.

Sarah said...

From what I've been told..these are "The Busy Years" you will be in this whirlwind..and all of the sudden..silence! What the? When they are all out you will probably travel, take some time for yourself..then slowly grandkids will be creeping into your home haha. Keep on truckin, you're doing the hardest job on earth (times 4 for you). It will pay off 10 fold. I don't think you ever need to explain yourself or why you type certain sentences! Those words are all going through our brains too, hang in there!!

Jenny said...

I'm sure it's very difficult to have 4 kids, especially since they are so close in age.

You'll get through it! I've heard God only gives you what you can handle and I've questioned that many times myself. However, I think there's some truth to it.

Just think, someday you will be all chilled and ready for the grandkids to come over. :)

Amy said...

Right there with ya!

I need to get back into the routine of scheduling time away from the kids and letting Daddy have some time at the helm. I'm heading to Bunco tonight. I'm sure that will help. :)

Hang in there! And I'll try to do the same. said...

***"What can I get you, Master? Shall I shine your shoes with my clean shirt? Wipe your ass with my bare hands? My life means nothing if I can't satisfy your every need."***

Yes. Raw & Honest.

I love it. :))

Tiffany said...

Been there. For sure. For me I fear screwing them up. I fear that when I lose my patience I'm teaching them that they're not valuable or that it is the right way to approach the situation. I fear that Miss P doesn't truly understand how much I love her b/c by the end of the night her masterful stalling bedtime skills are on my last nerve and I lose it a lot.

I've had to learn to be very frank with my hubby. He MUST take bedtime once in awhile. I MUST escape once in awhile. We have a weekly bible study - not the whole year but on and off through the year. Where it's not work and I am with adults and my hubby hearing his heart and learning.

And I plan girls night or coffee or lunch. I used to be HORRIBLE at this but slowly I'm getting better.

Nobodys Nothings said...

i think that's a fear all of us moms have. i was thrust into motherhood before i even knew who i was, and i'm terrified i'll never find my sense of self, let alone re-gain it.

Journey on! by Kelleye said...

Awesome post. The only thing that usually tops it for me is to get advice from someone whom has zero children or that one that planned the perfect Only child. For them to look at me as though to say, good grief, you have four children- what do you expect-Survivor mode I know all too well as well=)

Marcia (123 blog) said...

Great post!

(I also can't stand the noise - I escape for 5 minutes, they scream outside the door for about 10 seconds and then usually they leave me be just to catch my breath)

My fear is letting go - what if I can't???

but for you, why don't you start writing your book (if you haven't already), 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there, just to keep focused on the you (without kids)?

thanks for that pin!!! off to have a look

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

Since you are being honest, I will be too. If you don't change the kids respect and perspective on who you are in their lives, they will always see you as the person that will do, clean, wipe, take, give. I am now living this same *ahem* nightmare with my bonus kids. Their mom and dad didn't enforce respect or boundaries. They catered to whatever they asked for and LOUDLY. I now live in a house with what I call the kids, the Tug and Pulls. They are constantly tugging and pulling and I watch J, exhausted and stressed. You have little ones at the tug and pull stage...we are dealing with 11, 14, and 17. Not pretty at all.

If you can find time to read...(I know...when???) pick up the book, Boundaries - Kids. (I think that's the title.) You can set the boundaries for making the next 14 years pleasant and surprisingly good. Hang in there!!

Debby@Just Breathe said...

What a well written post. I know that I felt this way years ago yet you have it times 2! I cannot imagine that. The day will come when your house is empty and you will want these days back. Not necessarily under these same terms but you will certainly wonder where the years went! In the meantime I will pray for your strength to forge forward....

January Dawn said...

Helene - we're all in this together...only some of us with less (or more) kids. I don't know how I do it, you do it or the mother next door does it somedays. Survival mode it is. Whatever works. Sitting, locked in the bathroom, crying into your pillow, standing outside of your car as your children freak out on the inside. We've all been there. This Motherhood thing is SO HARD. But I believe we'll all come out the other end still alive...our kids completely clueless as to how deranged they made us feel...until they spawn their own!

Kristen said...

Well, I'm writing you from a hospital room. Every single word you say - I am nodding my head at. this life has completely consumed me. and I'm drowning over here. Want a life vest? Let's hop a raft and sail away into our best advice to others. I was going to write the post of my heart - but I was worried that it might come off as too... "much" - so I stopped over to read some of my favorites. And - thanks... for giving me permission to be honest again. Love ya! Kristen

Twins Squared said...

Love your honesty. I think it would be good to see if you can get them to be more self-reliant. I'm trying but some things just aren't going as well as they should. It would help if Mackenzie would just brush her stupid teeth. 2nd grade and I still have to brush her teeth because she will just lie and tell me she did it. And I don't want her consequence to be cavities! So I do it. She hates it either way. I am desperately trying to get them to bathe themselves (including washing their hair). That would take such a load off me. Kaitlyn won't try and again I think Mackenzie lies. I was just thinking over the weekend WHEN am I not going to have to do some of these things any more? But...I don't feel like I'm in survival mode anymore. That does not mean that I feel like I'm thriving yet. Somewhere in between.

I know what you mean about losing yourself. When people ask me what my hobbies or interests are I just sit there, blank. I don't have any anymore. I've finally decided that "blogging" is a worthy answer to that question. But now that I feel like I'm not in total survival mode anymore, in the back of my head I want to rediscover myself, but I also know it's still not really the time to do that.

This whole girl scout leader thing, while not exactly my life long dream, kind of makes me feel good to be really doing something other than just feeding, bathing, cooking, wiping butts! At the same time, it's taking all the spare time I thought I would have to finally get things back in order. It's maybe a year too soon. But can't go back now. But I've always been so capable of doing great things but I've been reduced to the mundane mom tasks.

And I'm like you - I did not picture motherhood just doing all this stuff. I guess because in our own lives our memories don't really begin much until we are older, so we don't know or don't remember our moms doing this for us. I remember the older stuff which I've always looked forward to. I like running them around to all their activities. Or at least I would if the little girls could behave better. When are they going to be able to sit through an hour of the big girls activities!!

In many ways I so know how you feel. And your phrase, sucking the life out of me, well, I don't usually think that about my kids but I have thought it many times about my husband. So there. Things have gotten better lately but I'm irritated with him this morning over something stupid.

Anyway, this has been long enough to be my own blog post.

Oh, and the noise! I'd say it started getting really bad about a year ago. The older everyone gets the noisier it is and now we are all yelling what seems all the time. It makes me want to pull my hair out!

Hope you have a NONstressful week! Do you have any kids in school this week? My older girls have school M and T but that's it. Still it helps. I'm at least looking forward to not making lunches! I hate that too! :)

Kimberly said...

I could have written this post myself. Thank you for being so open and honest, with yourself and us. I sure does help me to feel 'normal' knowing I am not alone in feeling this way.

Sela Toki said...

Dear Helene, I feel you here. Every single word. Take it from one with 7 children, it gets easier once they're enroll in school. Then you'll have some down time. In the mean time, stay strong. Find a distraction. Mine has always been books. I bury myself so deeply in them that my kids get irritated with me. Other then that, go for a quick run. It's amazing what that can do in refueling your energy. When there's no one to watch the kids, run in the house. I always run around my house. LOL. It works for me. God bless Helene and know, you're not alone in this.

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

survival mode sucks. i just wrote an email to a friend at her husband's request. he thought she was stressed out and wasn't giving herself enough time. she wrote back...called me wise and said something about motherhood not completing her like she thought it would. i nearly laughed out did we expect this shit to be so "fulfilling" when it does nothing but suck the life out of us??? we're all in this boat...i just hope it keeps afloat!

Brooke said...


Karen Peterson said...

I'm afraid survival mode isn't limited to motherhood. I've been in survival mode for the last couple of years because I have this habit of over-committing myself and then I have to just survive from one event, activity, or duty to the next.

Sounds like we BOTH need to find a way to get ourselves out of this or we'll be in a lot of trouble down the road.

MiMi said...

This is such a beautiful, honest post. I wonder that about myself sometimes, but I keep the faith that this is God changing us, sometimes gently and sometimes not so gently, to be more like what He wants us to be.
We will come out the other side more beautiful.
Also. For reals, my littlest said to me one day, "Mommy, you can come wipe my butt now!" like I should have been excited.
I was like,"Oh yes, let me wipe your shitty's my pleasure." Gah.

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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