Our family is officially in survival mode. With just a few weeks left in my pregnancy, everyone is feeling a little extra excited and anxious, and the household routines I usually maintain have either gone by the wayside or have been delegated to less-than-enthusiastic domestic apprentices.
This has all led to an interruption of our family’s peace, especially during the after-school hours. There’s been a little too much yelling, a few too many sarcastic remarks, and more tears than usual. It’s tempting to just throw my hands up and tell my six children to “deal with it” until this baby is born and I start feeling more like myself again.
But I don’t want them to remember these survival mode seasons as times of pure chaos and frustration. There will always be some chaotic times. By reminding myself to implement the following points, I’m hoping that the busier seasons of life will be less about giving up and more about offering up our challenges, anxiety, and love for each other to God, and allowing Him to shape us in holiness.
Getting My Work Done Before They Get Home
As I’m moving slower, it’s tempting to put the kids to work on chores or watching their toddler sister as soon as they get home from school so I can catch up on unfinished housework. But this is only a recipe for disaster and resentment. They need time to decompress, and they need to know I’m not just glad they’re home so they can do chores! Prioritizing and getting the essentials done before they get home reduces my expectations for what will get accomplished in the evening — leaving more time for homework and conversation — and a less-irritable mommy!
Addressing Expectations Frequently
Once we pull into the driveway after school and before anyone gets out of the car, we briefly talk about expectations in regards to the evening routine and behavior. Gentle reminders about using kind words and tones of voices make a big difference throughout the rest of our day.
It’s so easy to forget that many of our children’s outbursts are related to a basic need not being met. Rather than having serious anger issues, maybe they are just tired or hungry. The simple step of cutting up a few apples and setting out some crackers and cheese right after school keeps my kids from raiding the pantry for chips and cookies and sets the tone for a more relaxed and rational pre-dinner time.
Just a few minutes alone with each child helps us to reconnect to each other, and helps my child to know that I am interested in their day. We talk about what they did at school that day, look at school papers they’ve brought home, and make a plan for doing their homework that night. Whether it’s at the end of a school day or anytime throughout the day, just a few minutes is all it takes for our children to refill their tank with our love.
Sometimes I really do need to catch up on some chores in the evening, or reply to an email, or sit and rest. But if one of my children comes to me, I’m trying to be better about stopping what I am doing, looking them in the eye, listening, and then telling them when I can do whatever it is they are requesting. This helps them feel heard and makes it easier for them to practice patience when necessary.
All too often, this is one of the first things to slip when we’ve had an especially busy evening, or everyone is tired and in a bad mood. “We’ll just say ‘quick prayers’ tonight before bed” or “I’ll make more of effort with their spiritual formation once this baby is born” are the excuses surfacing in our household these days. But prayer is the one thing that can sustain us during this time. Prayer is what unifies us and gives us strength especially when we are tired and overwhelmed. So we’re trying a little harder to get our family rosary decade in before bed — because everything in life runs more smoothly with Jesus and Mary by our sides!
All of these points seem so simple and obvious. They don’t take a lot of time to do and they’re easy. Still, I find they are some of the first things I let go when life gets a little crazy. There are always curveballs in life, but our children always need our presence as parents. It’s in the little things that we remember to do for our children that we see big results — like peace.
Copyright 2018 Charisse Tierney