Dear Maxed Out Mama…
I hope this letter finds you at a moment of peace, perhaps in the bathroom, maybe hiding somewhere in your home, or even in the preschool parking lot where you showed up 20 minutes early because you knew the kids would watch a movie quietly in the van while you just sat in the parked car and did, well, nothing. I don’t know, but I truly am hoping you’re in one of those places, able to take in the sound of hopefully very little. Chances are, though, you’re smack in the middle of one child riding his balance bike down the hallway yelling, “Look out!”—and another, she is somewhere in the house, but you were looking down at your phone to read this and she saw an opportunity to take a Sharpie pen to the couch. In that case, I’ll try to make this quick, so you can go find her. (White vinegar works wonders, FYI.)
You see, I resonate with your life and thoughts about motherhood, and the profound desire to crawl out of your skin and stress-rub your temples with a sharp object sometimes (my paraphrase of course, not your words). In fact, when you ask if anyone has considered buying noise canceling headphones, I want you to know, Maxed Out Mama, that I did, in fact, buy them. They hang proudly on a nail in a bulletin board on our kitchen wall, where I pull them down and put them on two, perhaps three times a day. This is mama guarding her peace, I say to my children, when they wonder why they had to pull on the hem of my sweatshirt to get my attention. And I have absolutely no doubt you love being with your kids. Trust me, I know a mama can think her children are truly the most delightful and funny and amazing people on the planet and want nothing more than a day away from them at the same time. Motherhood, man. So many paradoxes.
But to your questions—the first one in particular—as I think it is at the heartbeat of everything: do active, loud children require more from their mothers? I think this is a fair question, and one I have absolutely asked myself. I have three beautiful children, and with every single pregnancy and birth, with each new baby I have held in my arms to savor the delight of their newborn squeaks, I have done my darndest to prophetically declare, You, little one, you will be my quiet, compliant child!
So yes friend, I see you—I really see you—in the chaos that is your home. I often wish my kids had an inside voice, but they must have been absent that day in preschool. At the time of this writing, my two-year-old is showing off his newfound words and chanting “Go! Go! Go” as he stomps along the wood floors in boots (I swear he enjoys the extra noise from the boots) and his five-year-old brother chasing and yelling at him, so basically they are just one-upping each other with noise at the moment. My life is loud from 6:00am (often earlier) to 8:00pm every day, too, and it is exhausting. Sensory overload is a real thing and can cause all kinds of intrusive thoughts and impatient reactions we don’t want to be known for.
But do our kids require more from us? Here friend, this thought, this is where I want to urge a bit of caution. Every family has a different temperature, so to speak. And every family has different limits in their lives, certainly. But may I give a gentle admonition to keep our hearts from going too far down this rabbit hole, this question of “do I have it harder?” Because it’s sliding toward a comparison game that nobody, ever, no matter what, wins.
Some kids struggle to reign it in outwardly, some kids struggle on the inside. Some, both. But every child makes their mother realize the only thing that qualified us for this job in the first place is a whole lot of grace.
So Maxed Out Mama, I want to remind you today that you are the mom your children need. And in this season, they need someone with both a real sense of humor and supernatural patience, who is also in possession of noise canceling headphones. And when you don’t have that patience—like I don’t one or two or ten times a day—they need a mama who asks forgiveness. Rinse and repeat.
And yes, friend, your needs count, too. Your daily life will siphon the energy right out of you, so you have to find a way to be the woman you are when you are most alive, in spite of the absence of peace and quiet to do that. I don’t know what that is for you. Waking up before the kids to experience some semblance of solitude before the day begins? Taking a long, hot shower after you put them in bed? I, myself, am not above having Bluey babysit my children while I take a moment to breath. But whatever it is, ask for what you need, fight for what you need if necessary, then re-enter this good work in front of you knowing it matters for eternity.
And remember, while it may not be permissible to leave your children home alone at this juncture, it’s perfectly fine to step out on the front porch and lock the door behind you for just a minute. Or five.
You really are the mama they need.
No go find your toddler.
The Mama Who Already Bought the Headphone
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