To me one of life’s greatest mysteries is why this incredibly special time while my children are still little must be so hectic. Have you ever thought of this? It’s running from the one thing to the next, never completing anything properly. It’s like this special time has been slipping through my fingers and I haven’t been able to stop for even a moment to take any of it in.

The truth is, whether you have one child or six, we’re all overwhelmed most of the time and while it sounds romantic to leave the laundry undone and spend time with our children, “because they’re only little once” it just isn’t practical much of the time. And then the guilt follows because we chose laundry over children. Seriously?!?!?!

Amanda Conquers says it well:

“Like you are constantly being pulled out and apart at your very core: the tension between the pull of your great love against all your shortcomings and selfish longings. The way you feel buried, suffocating even, under the mundane tasks and the weight of the little souls you are nurturing: the string of errands that govern your day, the endless stacks of dishes and laundry, and the ever evolving needs of your kids that always seem to leave you stumped. The way your dreams look laid aside. The way your work feels useless. The yelling you thought you’d never do. The way you never seem to be able to do it all or do it as well as you think you should. Motherhood touches right up against the cracks in our own souls.”

Ann Voskamp‘s book One Thousand Gifts changed my life. And I’ll take advice from her any time… the woman is raising seven children! She says:

“I don’t really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done-yesterday.”

And then…

“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing…. Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.”

She writes about when she was doing the dishes and she noticed the soap suds reflecting the light. She says that when we stop and pay attention and when we’re fully present in the moment, we slow down time.

“When I fully enter time’s swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here.”

Ann writes about thankfulness and making the most of each moment. I remember reading this: LIFE IS NOT AN EMERGENCY. It struck me hard and I have been taking steps to stop the hurry and be more present in my own life. In the process I’ve been able to enjoy the special moments with my children more. We need to do this consciously in the hectic times because it is what keeps us together. In his book Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls, Gary Thomas writes:

“Families start to break down—and marriages often break down, for that matter—when we stop enjoying each other.”

The very first thing I had to do was LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS AND BE MORE FLEXIBLE. Perhaps you’ve already discovered this, but life with little people is unpredictable. They are not always going to behave like you would like them to. They are going to get dirty just before you have to leave, they are going to spill something on the clean floor. They are going to tell the neighbour something totally embarrassing you didn’t even know they heard you saying.

I remember once planning something really special with my son. I gave it much thought and put a lot of effort into it. Guess what… he hated it and behaved badly as a result. I was disappointed, embarrassed, frustrated and exhausted. There will be those moments with children. More often than I would like to admit. But if we know that it’s normal and remain flexible, it doesn’t get us down.

Gary Thomas also says:

“When God does not supply our motivation, we tend to major in the minors and minor in the majors.”

When we keep our eyes on God and the work that He is doing, not only in our children, but also in us, we gain a greater perspective and the little things matter less.

I’ve learned that this crazy season is a season of GRACE:

  • I TAKE GRACE wherever possible. This means that I don’t cook during this season – I order affordable freezer meals and simply heat them up in the evening so that my hands are free to wipe bums and pour juice and clean messes… you know, the stuff that keeps you busy all day, but you’ve got nothing to show for it. I do online shopping as much as possible or opt for the click-and-collect option in order to save time and stay sane.
  • I ACCEPT GRACE. If someone offers help I will not say no and if there is an opportunity to go to the salon or take a bath before the kids’ bedtime, I will take it.
  • I HAVE GRACE with myself. I don’t sweat the small stuff. If the beds aren’t made or if the laundry isn’t up to date it’s ok. If my jeans don’t quite fit like they used to yet, I’m patient and I’ll give it time. I am working towards that at a slow pace and I will get there.
  • I GIVE GRACE. During this season both my husband and I are maxed out. We give 100% at work and 100% at home. If he forgets to throw away his yoghurt tub or leaves something out of place, I am not going to be on his case for it. Heck, I probably do those things more than him! We’re trying our best and some things slip through the cracks and it’s ok. There is grace for all of it.
  • I LOOK FOR GRACE even when it feels like the schedules and to-do lists are relentless. The sound of the children playing in the bath… grace. When my husband comes home earlier than expected… grace. When nobody argues about the colour of their sippy cup… grace. Grace, grace, grace! I notice. I am thankful for grace.

Amanda Conquers writes on her blog:

“And I’m just saying, dear heart, no matter how you feel—how exhausted or inadequate or overwhelmed or even uprooted and laid bare—God is doing a work in your soul. He is suring you up, growing you in steadfastness. Maybe you’d like some kind of magic formula to get you through these small years. Like maybe there would be this one technique to parenting that once implemented would cause your child to immediately know how to behave. But it’s in the quiet enduring—the small faithfulness of daily watering, replanting if necessary, and a faith set deep in your heart that God loves you and His grace is sufficient for you. It’s the cleaning and recleaning, the never ending laundry cycle, and all the things for which it seems there is no end in sight.  It’s the slow work, the steady work, the do-my-best-and-hope-it-all-works-out work. It’s failing and trying again. It’s knowing your need for a Saviour and binding {and rebinding} your ever-wandering heart to Him.”

When your kids are little and you feel completely overwhelmed… and the days are long! Remember that the years will go fast. They will grow up and things will somehow get easier. You will have more time for yourself again. You will have a tidy house again. Your jeans may even fit again! Right now in all of the craziness, focus on the grace moments and make an effort to enjoy them because they are what makes the craziness beautiful. They are what keeps us together.