Have you had these days where you are knee-deep in everyone else’s needs? When the needs feel like quicksand and you don’t know if you’ll be able to take another step?
It’s when your husband gets sick and goes from being your partner in the parenting effort to just as needy as the kids. It’s when you have ailing parents to care for or a friend who requires your attention. I bet it happens a lot when you’re a single mama with no relief or you’re husband is away for long spans of time. Whatever the case, these days are when you feel like you are nothing but a need-meeter. When you pour out everything you have and you feel like there’s nothing left. Have you been there?
I’m there right now.
My husband threw his back out (I mean, really threw it out.) He has been immobile for the last few days, so he has been working from home. My dad is getting major surgery today, one thousand miles away from me so my heart is there with him and anxious as anything. And I still have my baby and toddler to care for on a moment-by-moment basis. Three meals a day, an overflowing laundry hamper, and a dirty house. And remember how I’m not getting enough sleep? Yeah.
Every time I turn around I need to change a diaper, wipe a nose, fetch an ice pack, answer a phone call, nurse a baby, play with a toddler, help a husband sit up, wash a dish, change an outfit, prepare a meal, run an errand, clean up a mess, fold laundry, kiss a bo-bo–I mean, it’s a miracle I have found a sliver of time in the day to write about it all (editing to add that I’ve had to get up 15 times since I’ve been writing–NOT exaggerating– and it’s NAP TIME.)
For mothers–these days are not rare. And it is so easy to let the stress bury us, and then we just get bitter.
Because when we get sick and are knocked off of our feet, we don’t get to call in to work. We don’t get to sleep all day (or even all night!) Our children still need to be fed. Diapers still need to be changed. They’re usually more fussy because we haven’t given them the attention they’re used to. And, yes, I’m thankful for friends who bring dinner and grandmas who babysit and husbands who come home early, but we just don’t get days off. There is no such thing as a day off for a mom. And sometimes, we sure could use one.
So you’re knee-deep in other people’s needs and you’re exhausted because of it, you realize that no one in the world is really meeting your needs. And it is so, so easy to let that bitterness build a monster inside of you.
I don’t have all the answers because I am speaking from current personal experience. But here are some truths that I am clinging to, and maybe you could use them as well:
Dwelling on your problems isn’t healthy.
And it won’t help anything. When you list every negative thing in your life in your head or out loud, you’re just letting your struggles defeat you. Instead, dwell on what you’re thankful for. List your blessings. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you cannot possibly be bitter about something and thankful for it at the same time. You can’t.
Comparing is not helpful.
When I was growing up, we called this “keeping score.” Because that’s what it is. It’s saying “I do this, this, and this and YOU only do THAT.” I do this to my husband way too much. And you know what? There’s a reason God designed marriage the way He did–because we are both needed to make our home function, to raise our kids well, and to better each other. We have different roles and gifts, strengths and weaknesses, but that is why we’re together. (Please remind me of this, like, daily.)
Serving in bitterness isn’t worth it.
No one wants to be served by someone who hates serving. Need an example? If I clean the whole house and grumble under my breath about my toddler throwing his toy here and my husband leaving his socks there and our family dirtying way too many dishes–then all’s I did was get angry and miss the opportunity to serve my family with a whole heart. Because I love them. Because sacrificing for them is the best thing I’ll do with my life today. And every day.
So keep serving, Mama. I know you’ll need to draw strength from somewhere: friends, maybe this blog right here, a relaxing pedicure–there is nothing wrong with any of that. But I am not ashamed to share with you that I have to draw my strength from my savior. Jesus served with His whole life–unto death–so that I could have eternal life. I absolutely cannot out-serve Him. And no one in my life can out-need MY need for Jesus. And even though I feel like no one in the world is meeting my needs, I have a God who is intricately invested in my life, He sees all the details, He works it all together for my conformation to the character of Jesus. He cares. And HE is meeting my needs. He is giving me strength and grace and hope for today. And when I serve my family, I’m reflecting our Heavenly Father’s face to them.
And that’s why I believe with my whole heart that my investment in these little souls (big souls, too) has eternal value. And I believe that it’s absolutely true for you as well. So press on, sister. Sacrifice without a second thought. It’s all worth it.
Let’s talk! If you need to vent, tell me about all of those needs you’re meeting. But I’d challenge you to match every struggle you tell me about with something you’re thankful for as well.