I asked for ideas on blog topics the other day and one of the first suggestions was dealing with being a mom when hubby is gone most of the time working.
The funny thing is I have been struggling the last few months with this same thing. My husband often works late and has been often called away with other duties. And then, as if my anxiety level wasn't high enough, he got sick and was stuck on the couch for a few weeks. (He was then HOME but, to put it nicely, useless. I always thought it was mean when women referred to their husbands as another child to care for, but in this instance, it kind of felt like that.)
So, this is not a subject that I feel I have a lot of wisdom on but I will try to throw together a simple ingredient list of things that can help a mama trying to do it alone a lot of the time.
Ingredient 1- Gratitude!-
I remind myself that though dad might be gone often and busy and maybe not helping, I am lucky that my children have a father who is part of their life and is willing and able to work in order to support them. Step one for me in remaining positive is NOT focusing on the fact that I am getting a bunch of kids ready by myself and nobody helps me with the laundry.
I am simply so very grateful for a husband who tries, has stuck around, and shares my desire to have mama at home while the kids are young. There are so many single mothers out there who not only get to do all the child rearing alone, but also must do the providing alone. Having a husband who is gone a lot is a blessing when he is a good father and provider. So- Kudos and blessings to single mothers and their work.
Ingredient 2- Don't Complain-
In full disclosure, I have a really HARD time with this. I have spent many a bitter moment not wanting to handle another day alone.
That being said, keeping our complaints to ourselves, at least from our children (sometimes you just need to talk to a girlfriend though), is really important. For one thing, the more we talk about something, the more it becomes us. So, if I don't want to be an unhappy complainer, then I probably shouldn't act like one.
I always think of my mother when I think about going through difficult situations without complaint. Growing up my father seriously worked long hours away, like 6-8 months at a time with hardly a telephone call. Now that I have had a few children like she did and have had my spouse gone for even a few days at a time, I have no idea how she did it. I can honestly say though that NEVER once the whole time I was growing up did I ever hear her complain. Not once.
When people would tell me how "hard that must be" with my dad gone all the time, I honestly had no idea what they meant. It just had always been my life and mom never complained about it so it seemed just normal to me. So step two, fake it till you make it!
Ingredient 3- Accept Help-
Sometimes, it takes a village, especially when you are practically raising a village. When I go out in public, to the store, or to church, people think I have my hands full, and often, they offer to help. Yea for nice people!
I would like very much to be totally self reliant, self sufficient and basically awesome at wrangling toddlers, nursing babies, and breaking up scuffles between the older ones all at the same time. But alas, I suck at that. So, when I go to the grocery store, sometimes some random person helps me put a kid in the grocery cart or opens a door for me. Sometimes a friend or family member offers to take a child for an hour or two. When I go to church, people help me hold a baby or distract a two year old or sit with a child. And if they don't offer, I ask. Or I just hand some poor unsuspecting soul a baby.
The reality is when there are many (or even one or two) children of a certain age, help is, well, helpful. One of the many lessons of motherhood is learning humility and the need for others. And, in a few years, maybe I will be more aware of the needs of some other young mother and she won't need to ask, because I or you have already been there and know what it feels like.
Ingredient 4- Hard Isn't Necessarily BAD-
Many a time in the years of schooling, stress, new business, not enough cash, illness, the unexpected and everything else that makes up normal life, I have found myself just wishing that it would all be easier! This may be a lame emotion, but I am pretty sure that I am not lonely in feeling that life sometimes is just beyond my ability to handle it well.
Sometimes it is helpful though to step back and realize that having things easy is not always the best way in the long term. This story really helped me remember that:
"I remember a young couple just out of college. One parent gave them a home; the other parent gave them furnishings and a new car. They had everything in the world given to them. Within three years they were divorced. They hadn’t worked and sacrificed. They had leaned on each other and on their parents as a crutch, had crippled themselves, and hadn’t grown. They hadn’t learned the hard part. They hadn’t worried about making their marriage work. Make sure you sacrifice, share, and grow together." Robert D Hales
It probably sounds somewhat cliche- but sometimes what doesn't kill you DOES in fact make you stronger. Hard things in life and marriage have the ability to bind us closer together as we find a way to make it through together. Admittedly, sometimes those hard times pull people apart- but I really don't want to let that happen in my relationship. Looking back, I can see how the difficulties taught us (and me) lessons that I needed to handle the next part of life.
So hard, is sometimes a GOOD thing.
Ingredient 5- Don't Give Up-
The more I hear from other mothers and women, the more I realize how much we have in common and how familiar the struggles I have are to others. So, maybe I am not alone when sometimes as an overwhelmed, over hormoned, mama, I just feel like I can't take any more.
But hope is important and so is hanging in there. We don't have to be perfect every day when we are mothers. We have to try- really try- but perfection is not going to happen very often. And when it does, somebody will start a fun new "phase" to change things up for our learning and growth.
I genuinely believe though that when mom is mom alone much of the time that this whole concept of hanging in there is harder. It is harder to always be patient and kind when you never get a break and every shower ends with a neighbor bringing some escape artist kid to the front door. (Excuse me for having to take a pee!)
But when we are mom alone, we really need to hang in there. Our family depends on us, maybe more than ever. I love the imagery in this description:
" ...marriage is like climbing a mountain. You tie yourself to an eternal companion, and you start up the mountain. As children come along, you tie into them as well and continue your journey. The ropes will hold all of the mountain climbers together, but the wind, rain, snow, and ice—challenges of the world—will tear at you to pull you off that mountain.
If Mom or Dad gives up and cuts the rope that binds them to each other and their children, chances are that one or the other may fall off the mountain and perhaps pull down other family members with them. The whole family could fall off that mountain and not reach the eternal summit. We can’t take that chance. Let us always be mindful that as members of a family, we are tied to a mountain team...
A popular proverb says, “Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee, and we will ascend together.”"
Robert D Hales
Staying hopeful, joyful, and lifting each other- not just in our relationships with our family but together as women, is so important in doing the amazing job of mothering. This is one of the reasons why I go on and on about the importance of women simply being nice to each other. Many of us just need each others support.
Good luck to all of you who through work, divorce, death or life circumstances find yourselves alone as you mother. May you never feel alone and may we lift one another.
(The quotes were pulled from this source.)