Monday, December 12, 2011

I really hope this is rock bottom.

It might be the dreary weather. It could be the early onset of nighttime (4:00). It's probably just me. My choice. My attitude. Whatever it is, I've been having a rough time. Not quite sure how long it's been going on. It feels like forever. Like maybe since Wes was born. I just feel consistently overwhelmed. Never quite caught up. I'll get really close to under control, and then, suddenly, the next day, I'll walk past my laundry "hall" and see this:

Yeah. I have no shame. Just keepin' it real, peeps.

And then somewhere along the way I became a yeller. My poor children. Every night I pray that they know I love them. Because I'm not sure my behavior is good evidence.

I've been unloading things from my responsibility plate in an effort to cope. Grace (for many reasons, in addition to this one) is now in a charter school where she dons snappy uniforms and has tested at a fourth grade language arts/spelling level. I've started calling in to my cub scout committee meetings (where I am currently serving as the primary counselor, cub scout master, and webelos den leader) because I can't seem to get my trash out of the door on a Sunday to actually physically be at the meeting.

Anyway. In a nutshell, I feel like a failure as a mother/homeschooler/housekeeper/church person.

Yesterday I was sitting alone on a bench in our church building. Brad had taken Weston out of the meeting during the administration of the sacrament because he was whining. Our meeting buildings don't really have crying rooms behind the rest of the seats. If they did, we would probably start out sitting there from the beginning.

If you recall, my daughters don't know how to whisper. So, as they quietly chattered, I  constantly reminded them to whisper so we could avoid disturbing the sweet middle-aged couple in front of us and the dear single woman behind us. I told Claire she'd have to wait for just a few more minutes to go to the bathroom. I was trying to think about Jesus. And put on a happy face. And set an example for my munchkins. Because sometimes it feels like that's the only reason I'm there: to establish a pattern.

That's when I saw a woman rise from the front row and begin to leave the chapel. She came toward us on her way out. She stopped at the bench in front of us where the Smith couple sat. She said (rather loudly) to Sister Smith, "I feel so sorry for you." When Sister Smith (shocked) asked why, she nodded at me. And my children. Then she smiled at the Smiths and sauntered on out.

It seemed like a good moment to take Claire to the bathroom. And that's where I spent the rest of the meeting. Bawling my eyes out.

For a few minutes it didn't really feel like going to church was worth it. Not if we were ruining people's Sunday experience. And it confirmed my fears of failing as a mother.

Sister Smith called me that evening and told me her heart felt heavy. That she hadn't even heard my children. (I'm sure she meant that she was used to tuning children out. Otherwise she'd have had to be hard of hearing. Which she is not.) That when she joined the church her children were young and she struggled to keep them quiet. That she knew from experience that I was making valiant efforts as a mother. That Heavenly Father loves me and appreciates my taking children to church even when they aren't grasping it.

I cried again. And thanked her. And felt a little better.

But I still haven't felt any less overwhelmed. I am still struggling with inadequacy and discouragement. And the nightmare of failing. Is this something I struggle with alone? How do you get happy? How do you convince yourself in your success as parents?


  1. Oh my goodness, Elise. I'm shocked about that lady's reaction. I'm sorry you're feeling so overwhelmed. I've felt the same since my last one was born, I used to be able to wake up in the morning and make a list and accomplish everything on it, now I just don't make a list because it discourages me. I guess I just choose my battles, I tell myself all the time, my most important job is being a mom and everything else is on the back burner. I kind of just let things go, because I have just accepted the fact that I won't EVER be caught up until my kids move away and that's YEARS away. I hope this helps and I hope things go better for you. Just so you know I think you're great and we miss having you around here.

  2. After my baby was born (just over a year ago) I went through many of the same thoughts and actions... I wondered to myself if that was what it felt like for somebody with depression, except even worse. Know that you're not alone, and it will get better. You just have to keep an eternal perspective. :)

  3. There are things that matter and things that don't. Fir the next few years you will probably live your life in "survival mode". Thats okay. There is tine to catch up. Later. Just use your time wisely, pray for balance, be careful about taking on extra projects and recognize that your kids could care less what the laundry room looks like. I'm finally at the stage in my life when I can be on top of things and my kids PREFER to where the same jeans and jammies - even if they are dirty - because they are their favorites.

    As for your experience at church. Choose to not br offended, recognize that it happens atleast once to every young mom, and press on! You'll get there. Eventually. It's a marathon. Not a sprint.

    I like your blog because you don't sugar coat everything. Your real. I think the ones that makes everything look perfect all the time make for lots of discouraged young mommies.

  4. Who's the bitch who complained?

  5. Hang in there, Elise. Sounds like a slog, and I'm sorry about all of it. I think, nay, I'm sure, you're doing about a million times better than you think. Three kids cannot be easy. For anyone. In what little time you can carve out for yourself, maybe do things that you know alter your mood: making phone calls to people who get it, writing, reading, meditating, painting your nails, yoga--you have your own list, I am sure. But it's worth it to make those things priorities. Above laundry even, I think. But I am the same way: I realized yesterday that my dirty car actually hurt my feelings--like, I looked at it, and it was as if it had said to me, straight up: "You are worthless." But it DOESN'T say that, you know? It says I have a car and use it and I am a busy person who actually doesn't care much about having a clean car. And your laundry doesn't condemn you either. It says you have three kids and you love them and they wear clothes, the end. Am I even making sense?

    Okay this is really what I have to say: Prayer has been saving my life lately.

    (Also, Skee's comment is my favorite ...)

  6. Also, my hat's off to Sister Smith for following up. We need more of her.

    Also plus too, maybe a book that might help? Byron Katie's Loving What Is.

  7. 1. that is a GOOD day in my laundry room.

    2. you take them to church! regularly! I don't even want to talk about our family's church attendance. for years we listened from the lobby. when we made it... :)

    3. I'm with Skee. That lady was out of line. Kids are loud! If we were supposed to care, they'd have a sacrament-meeting nursery or a cry room. Also, what nerve!

    4. The greek translation of mother is "someone who yells a lot." It's true. I heard it in church or something.

    5. I think rock bottom involves five different body fluids, vodka, CPS, a dog, a handfull of pills, and a bloody visit to the emergency room. Oh wait, no, that's just last Tuesday.

  8. Girl, I love you. When I was having a similarly hard time my sister in law reminded me that god wants me to be a good mother and as such I qualify for his divine help and inspiration. That made me feel better. Now I try and figure out how to access all that.

  9. Elise I don't know a less cheesy way to say this, but this is why I love you and am so glad to still have you in my life. You are so real and I appreciate your struggles and your triumphs and overall find myself better because of you sharing your life with me through the blog. I am sorry about church yesterday. I want to send you a big virtual hug!

    The only advice I sorta have is that it ain't over 'til it's over. Your children are a work in progress and so are you. Don't be too hard on yourself.

  10. I frequently felt like this after #3 and I've heard many women say the same. It can be a lonely time, and I can't think of a better way to put it than that.

    3 things helped me.

    Lowered expectations. Of myself and my kids. I am just me and they are just them. No need to impress anyone - I yell, they fight, but we all go to bed alive and loved even if it didn't seem that way most of the day.


    Praise from Kyle and I had to remind him it helped and he then he said it more and promised he was always thinking it. Because it always helped to be told I was doing a good job. Even on the days when I knew in my heart I wasn't.

    Hugs to you!!!

  11. Hi Elise. I was going to write the same blog post, but I don't have the energy. Thanks for saving me the trouble.

    You should read Cheiko Okazaki's Lighten Up. I don't really remember what it's about, but I remember I felt better about myself afterwards.

    Big deal for me right now: I keep asking the Lord to help me be the best mom I can. Then I realized that's what I've already got--I need to be the best mom He and I can be together. Does that make sense? Never mind. The purpose of your prayer and scripture study right now should be feeling Heavenly Father's love for you so you can (try to) project that to your children, through the reality of being a person who sometimes loses it and yells.

    And finally, sorry to be blunt, but you need some Zoloft, honey. It doesn't turn off the sad, just makes it so the prayer/positive self talk/exercise/getting enough sleep has some chance of working. Being depressed, which it sounds like you are (along with half the young moms I know) is not good for your body or soul or those of your children.

    And yay for charter school! And ignoring the psychopath lady in your ward! You really should send her a nice letter forgiving her for bringing a spirit of unkindness, rudeness, disunity, and general non-Zion-ness into the Lord's chapel. And anyway, what was she doing getting up in the middle of the meeting and disrupting poor Sister Smith?

    I love you. And as I tell my children (every day, because with a crazy lady for a mother, they might forget) I keep on loving you, no matter what you do or what I do, there is nothing that can happen that can make me not love you.

  12. Dear Elise, hang in there. My very favorite coping strategy is "this too shall pass..." I'm sending you lots of love and prayers-- And just a few :) mean thoughts towards that rude sister....did she think she was helping anyone? Way to ruin the spirit.

  13. I have no advice, but Sweet, Stunning Elise, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Love and prayers to you and all the young mommies just like us. :)

  14. That is a terrible story and obviously that lady never had kids. So really, she should have said sorry to herself that she was never able to experience the joys of keeping kids quiet at church. We practice tons with our kids and we are not nice parents, that is why my kids behave, some of the time~it will get better with time.

    With each baby, it has taken me longer and longer to get back to "normal" life and all the expectations I had set for myself. It was the most frustration thing. I was always down on myself that I couldn't do the simplest things, like clean the bathroom or do the dishes or fold the laundry. This will get better too. You are just learning a new normal and setting new expectations for yourself. This takes months or years and it is OK!

    About the homeschooling thing; I read your post about the schools in your area and I wouldn't have sent my kids there either. But why do we always lable it as failure if something we planned doesn't work out? Why can't we just say it wasn't the right time? Or we did the best we could and it is time for another solution. Or God was teaching us something and now it is time to learn something else. You did NOT fail because Grace is in a charter school. You are simpling doing what is best for your family. There is no shame or failure in that.

    And, at least you are praying that your children know you love them inspite of the yelling. I just yell; they don't seem to hear me otherwise.

    I think you are amazing. Even from far away, I feel strength in my friends from college who I know are striving and struggling to be the best moms/housekeepers/church members/etc that they can be. It gives me strength to know that other families are trying to live the gospel the same way we are. We are all going through something, be it big or small. It is the strive part we are getting credit for and the struggle part we are learning from. Keep learning Elise, and God will fill in for all that you lack. We must believe we are doing the best we can and that is what keeps us going.

    Sorry I wrote a book. I hope something I said helps lift you up when you need it. Love you!

  15. seriously, Elise. who's the Bitch? And I will also require her phone number. That woman clearly has ZERO understanding of the gospel or why she's at church at all. And yay for Sister Smith. Hmph. I'm still pissed.

  16. When I think of all the things that I am NOT doing for my kids, I realize that giving them siblings is worth more than the time/energy I could spend on an only child. A huge pile of dirty laundry is a sign of a mother with her priorities straight.

    I think that Sister Front-row should have spent the rest of the meeting sobbing in the bathroom. Maybe the rest of the day. Maybe she did.

  17. I love you. Seriously. Don't know what I would do without you.

  18. Oh my....
    Reminds me so much of our decades trying to sit in church. Our kids (many now respectable adults) were notorious for needing to leave the meeting due to behavior difficulties, and since we sat in the front...well, our exits were well known! One person even said--over the pulpit, mind you--that he was grateful for his family and that he didn't need to take them out of church! Now perhaps he didn't mean the Ellsworth family in particular, but the plain old facts were that we WERE the ones making regular exits at that time. Dear heaven!!!

    We seem to define ourselves by how clean the house is, how well the kiddos behave or excel in school, what job our spouse has, how nice our cars and clothes are or the amount of education we've had. The reality is--and it smacks us in the head until we learn it--we are priceless in and of ourselves and our best effort for the day (sometimes stellar, sometimes way below poor) is a WORTHY offering.

    Some things will pass as time goes by and sometimes you will find yourself wishing for days of diapers and toddlers---believe me! Seems like challenges come at every stage; it's just that the little kid stage is so noticeable and time consuming...sigh...

    Hugs to you all; wish you were still out my back door.

  19. Thanks to Skee and your sister, that chick is going down in history as 'the bitch'. Sometimes, French is necessary. She earned it.

    Elise, you are amazing. And, if you need to move to Prosper so that you can hear me say it all the time, then you just gotta do what you gotta do. ;)

    ps- I suffered from post pardum (not saying that is what this is, but some of the same feelings were there). If you ever want to sit and talk and let you kids roam my house and backyard, PLEASE come over. I love you. Always have!!! xoxo.

  20. my favorite therapy books of all therapy books i have read... is an incredible book called, "The Gifts of Imperfect" by Brene Brown. I always carry it with me because its not a client that needs it that day, its me, feeling like how the crap can i help these people, i suck. haha! I would strongly recommend it. Its short, witty, and sincere. I think you'll love it. Thanks for being so authentic and real on your blog. We all have those days. Sharing yours helps us all feel more human. You're amazing!