Friday was our Annual Tea & Testimony. At PBF MOPS, this special meeting takes the form of beautifully decorated tables, extra yummy food and a special speaker. This year, our host church Peninsula Bible Fellowship, brought in author and speaker Susan Yates to bless us.
Susan Yates has been through the stage where the MOPS mom is currently. She started her talk by sharing how she had five kids in seven years, resulting in ten years without a full night's sleep. She might be an empty-nester now, but she remembers what it was like to be in the throws of raising littles. She remembers how hard it is the face the mundane everyday and question if you are really making a difference.
Using the gift of perspective, she shared four principles to help us flourish as mothers of preschoolers.
Principle 1: Look at life in seasons.
Life is made up of season: childhood, grade school, high school, college, young adulthood, the newlywed years, the not-so-newlywed years, babies, bigger kids, teenagers, empty nest and the golden years. Each of these seasons has a beginning and an end. Each has specific blessings and challenges.
The trick is to recognize whatever stage we are in as a season. It is a limited period of time where we will deal with specific challenges. Two of the biggest challenges during Susan faced during her own MOPS season were:
- Frustration over lack of accomplishment
Ask most moms in the throws of the preschool years what they did today and they will tell you "not much." Yes, they probably changed 5-20 diapers, made 3 meals, comforted many boo-boos and worked on laundry but it still doesn't feel like they accomplished anything. Mostly because tomorrow, they will get up and do the exact same thing again: diapers, boo-boos, laundry
The lack of accomplishing anything that lasts more than 24 hours can be draining. It can lead to questions like, "What's the point?" and the feeling of purposelessness as you go through your day. To help overcome this frustration, Susan encouraged us to pick one thing a day to accomplish. The one thing can be as simple as cleaning out one drawer or making a phone call. It just has to be something that isn't immediately consumed or undone by little hands in less than 10 minutes. It has to be something that lasts, something that you can look back at the end of the day and say, "Yeah, I did that!"
Most parents are fully aware of the fatigue resulting form lack of sleep brought on by caring for new and not-so-new babies. However, when Susan talked about fatigue she also talked about two other kinds of fatigue: 1) euphoric fatigue and 2) depressive fatigue.
Euphoric fatigue is the tiered feeling you have after putting in a long days work. Your body and mind are exhausted by you are happy because you accomplished something. Depressive fatigue occurs when you are tiered even though you don't have anything to show for your work. Moms of preschoolers often suffer from depressive fatigue. The daily requirements of raising littles takes up so much time and energy that there is little to pour into much else (see issue number 1 above), leaving us tiered even if we happen to get enough sleep.
Help for fatigue can be found in two main places: 1)adequate self-care through good nutrition, exercise and sleep and 2) taking a break.
Each season of life also has its own blessings. We truly thrive when we can learn to focus on the blessings of each stage. Two the of the unique blessing of being a mom of preschooler kids Susan pointed out are 1) that kids remind us of our need to wonder and love and 2) they say funny things. Both of these are trademarks of the innocence of early childhood that will soon pass. Notice these blessings, enjoy them, remember them.
Principle 2: Invest in your marriage.
The marriage relationship is the foundation of the home. However, with babies, jobs, extra curricular actives and all the other things life throw at us, we get busy and put our marriages on the back burner. We say we are just putting it on hold until life calms down. However, Susan says, "life doesn't calm down."
In other words, that day in the future when you think you will have time for our spouse will never come. We need to make time now. We need to make our marriages our first earthly priority for the sake of the relationship and for the stability of the family we have built upon it. Our children will find comfort in the example of a flourishing, healthy marriage.
We can invest in our marriage by being intentional about our time and actions. Susan encouraged us to make time for our husbands by prioritizing date nights. She encouraged us to be intentional in our actions by forgiving out of conviction not feeling. Granting grace, love and respect to our spouse because they are our spouse.
Principle 3: Focus on character development.
Our western culture and modern times worship accomplishment. Grades, skills, possessions, status beckon us to work harder, push our children more. We worry about our children not reading young enough or not being skilled enough in a number of diversified extra curricular activities.
Before we worry, Susan encouraged us to ask ourselves, "Will this matter to my children in 10 years?" If it doesn't let it go. The temporary accomplishments of life are too often not worth the stress, worry and time they cost.
What matters in the long term is our children's character. Are they kind? Do they treat others with respect? Are they honest and trustworthy? Teaching and growing these traits is where our energy as mothers should be focused. One way to encourage these traits is by praising children for their good characters and not their accomplishments. Say things like:
"You are growing in respect."
"I'm so proud of you for sharing your toy with your little sister."
"I appreciated your positive attitude during today's game."
Principle 4: Remember that God has chosen your family.
God has given you your kids, in this specific order, with these specific personalities for a reason. They belong to you because you are the person best suited to raise them. God is using your family's specific situation and challenges to mold you into the person He wants you to become. When you are struggling with your children, pray, "God, what are you teaching me in this moment?"
At the end of her talk, Susan said, "Being a mom is a hard job. It has such high stakes." Some of us worry that we've already made mistakes with our children that are already too big to fix. However, Susan pointed out, that our ability to screw up our children is no match to God's ability to redeem them.
Our children are God's first. He loves and cares for them. Susan quoted Hebrews 7:25:
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for themJesus is interceding for us as we mother our children. He is granting us grace and giving us help. The raising of our children is not all on our shoulders. It is in God's hands.