Life has been crazy of late. If we could travel back eighteen months in time, you would find me burnout and in the process of enrolling children for school in 2012.
Zoe and Reuben started school in February. Then, in the second week of school, we found out I was pregnant.
We had appointments for occupational therapy, counseling, speech therapy, neurology, psychology, general practitioner, prenatal midwifery, ultrasound, blood tests, and probably other things that have since faded into the haze.
In October we welcomed Ariadne into our family.
In November we mourned the sudden and unexpected death of my father, and our children’s Grandpa.
In December Zoe and Reuben finished up at school.
In January we began homeschooling again.
We’ve had a lot on our plate. Life is always going to be messy with seven people living in an average 3 bedroom house. Life is always going to be crazy with five children. Life is always going to be crazy when you have children with special needs and disabilities.
And in it all, I feel like I’ve been swept under a wave and I haven’t found which direction the sun is yet, to be able to resurface. A wave made of clean, unfolded clothes and concerns over multiple-diagnoses and new stages of parenting and sleep-deprived nights and dirty dishes and a mental list of jobs to be done that exceeds available time for the next few months…
As I previously posted, for the benefit of all, we are taking a more relaxed approach to home education at present. We are focusing on relationships and working on diligence. We are stripping back to basics. The basics that our family need, and not what “basics” might look like in any other family. For us, that includes regular heavy exercise for me. Going for a walk doesn’t cut it. I need to sweat it out and have moments when I wonder if I can finish this workout and the ecstatic sense of achievement when I make it to the other end… That exercise is essential to my mental health. I am going to classes and lifting weights. I do at least three classes a week and two weights sessions. I try to fit in a bit more if I can, but it varies. Life with five children is crazy, remember?
I need to learn to take better care of myself. I need to allow myself time out each day – maybe that’s ten minutes having an uninterrupted shower, or ten minutes in the solitude of the master bedroom, reading and studying the Bible, maybe that’s reading a book while the children have quiet rest time, or maybe that’s getting out to the gym (or Spanish class) in the evening. On a good day, it would mean all of those things. Looking after myself means not filling up my few almost-child-free hours a week with errands. Looking after myself means letting go of the shoulds and coulds and holding on to the needs and a few wants (on a good day). Looking after myself means eating well, drinking plenty and getting to bed at a decent hour.
Looking after our family means time to play games together, time to work together (on projects like the garden or on housework like folding the mountain of clean, unfolded clothes we have… Looking after our family means leaving time for downtime, or a day out if we’re up to it. Looking after our family means being not so busy, and having time to listen and watch and just pause.
Focusing on relationships means not seeing playing games as something to tick off the to do list. My children are not a to do list. They may provide me with more things to do, but they are not just another thing to tick off the to do list. My morning devotions and Bible reading is not something to tick off the to do list – it is part of a relationship. I am task focused and introverted. Focusing on relationships is a challenge for me. I need to build those relationships while still finding time to recharge so that I am not running on empty; so that I actually have something to give our children.
Focusing on diligence is making sure the work is done. And done properly. And if it’s not, consequences are enforced. Those consequences are outlined ahead of time, and are clear. Focusing on diligence means praise and rewards for a job well done. It means inspecting work, properly. It means that sometimes we miss out on something nice, because the work is not done.
In all of this, I need to make sure that Mark and I are continuing to build our strong marriage. Without regular maintenance it will start to deteriorate. We need time together, especially time when we are not busy or desperately needing to go to sleep.
As a family, we need to work out how our lives need to look in order to get and stay in a healthy place. Life will still be crazy, it will always be crazy, but life with a little less overwhelm would be good.
Overwhelmed doesn’t equal burnt out. Overwhelmed doesn’t mean depressed. Overwhelmed is actually a pretty normal response to the numerous things that have gone on in our lives over the last eighteen months or so.
Getting out from overwhelmed means working out what help we need, accepting it when it is offered and actually asking for it when it is needed and no one is offering. Getting out from overwhelmed means finding the surface and working out what we can do before the next wave (which will come) forces us back under. And when it does force us back under, it is having the skills and knowledge to find the surface and get back up to the air as quickly as possible. It’s signalling a life guard, grabbing a floatation device or swimming back to land (or at least somewhere we can stand). Getting out from overwhelmed means dropping all the things that are weighing me down. It’s putting down the duckie.
So, my friends, we need help. We need your prayers. If you’re local, we could do with some practical help. An hour or two of babysitting so I can run some errands (and not fill up my precious Friday afternoons with errands) or go to the gym. An hour or two of washing the dishes while I wipe and put them away or clean up the kitchen or sitting with me, chatting, while we fold that mountain of washing. A meal or two. Or an errand run for me.
Overwhelmed needs to be a temporary state. We need your help to make sure that happens.