Sister, I see you. I see you nodding off...at the PTA event, during Bible study, at the stoplight in the car next to me, at the movie theater, at the mall playground as you sit and "watch" your child play, during the Sunday morning sermon...I see you. And I know you. And I feel you. And I get you. And I am with you.
I see you fighting to stay awake, but falling asleep, or fighting with every fiber of your being to remain calm, and I'm sorry that you're so exhausted. I see you trying to wrangle your toddler into his winter coat in the midst of his tantrum, and I want you to know that was me today too. Several times.
I see how tired you are when your preschooler finally sleeps through the night, but then you potty train him and he decides to wake you up every single night just to tell you he went pee.
(WHY??? JUST LET THE MAMA SLEEP!!!)
I see how hard you are working to make ends meet for your family. I see you at Target doing your family's shopping at 10:30pm because I am here too...and I see how tired you are as you wander the aisles, but our fridges are empty and little tummies will need breakfast soon so we had better do some shopping during our few quiet hours of the night.
We are a tired generation of mamas, aren't we? I've obviously never been a mama in any other generation, but I'd be surprised if many generations of mamas have been so tired. Although physical labor used to be a thousand times harder, life in general moved at a slower, more sane pace. Now, we're just plain crazy with our schedules, and we all know it, but the demands of the world are increasingly intense.
I'm not convinced our exhaustion actually has as much with our sleep-time schedules as it does with our awake-time schedules.
All day today I heard that old Alabama song running through my head, "I'm in a hurry to get things done; I rush and rush until life's no fun." (Isn't it fascinating that that song came out before the internet...imagine how much faster life has gotten since then!)
We get up in the wee dark hours of the morning just to make sure our children get on the bus at the right time for school...that's hard enough already, but even harder when our nights are interrupted at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 by the needs of little children who are one hundred percent dependent on us. And then we go go go until we crash and it starts again.
And the technology that is such a sweet gift also steals us of sleep far too often (ahem...Shutterfly, anyone?) Many of us who are "stay at home" moms (although we don't actually ever "stay home") have other businesses on the side that we attend to from 8pm-midnight so we can spend our days with our children. These late night hours are when I actually get to write or read or research or prepare for speaking events or perhaps even respond to an email or two. Many of my girlfriends who are professionally employed during the day spend their 8pm-midnights catching up on things they didn't get done at the office or trying to get a few things done at home.
At 9:30pm instead of crawling into bed most of us are trying to decide what to start next...throw laundry in the wash, fold laundry, wash dishes, unload the dishwasher, pay bills, respond to emails, try to finish that shutterfly project before the midnight coupon deadline, order a few Christmas presents, make a Thanksgiving grocery list (still undone at my house), order online groceries to be delivered tomorrow, call a girlfriend, meet a girlfriend at Perkins for a much needed heart to heart...or a hundred other things.
Sleep? Say what? Do we really have time for that?
So whether we are employed professionally or not, we are swamped and dog tired. All. the. time.
From what I hear from older women, we also spend less time together. We may see each other at events, and we tell each other everything on facebook (at least I do...not good), but how much time do we really spend together? Even though for most of us, time with girlfriends refreshes our souls, energizes us, and we desperately need it? But we can't do it because we are so busy running our kids to preschool and piano lessons and art lessons and skating lessons and gymnastics and dance and hockey and scouts and, and, and.
It does us well to remember that our God isn't a mad shepherd who runs our schedules crazy...rather he is a good shepherd who makes us lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, and restores our souls. (Psalm 103:2-3)
I was listening to a recent sermon from Bill Hybels (Willow Creek Church, Chicago). In it, he said that the average teen today struggles with anxiety levels that are equal to the anxiety levels of psychiatric patients in the 1950's. I didn't check his research on this, but I trust him as a leader and preacher enough to assume he did his research. And, I know enough young people that it's quite believable for me. We are a stressed and anxious people. It's chronic.
And we're tired. Really tired. And we're falling asleep at embarrassing times (or dangerous times if we're driving or caring for babies and toddlers). And even if we get enough sleep, we're still tired from everything else. The running around, the schedules, the stress of trying to keep up, the feeling like you'll never catch up, the preschool boy who jumps off your furniture as a ninja all the live long day scaring the daylights out of his siblings, the unpredictable mood swings and emotions of a house full of kids.
Yes. We're exhausted. Blessed beyond belief of course, and yet exhausted. We love our kids to death and wouldn't trade it for the world, obviously. But we. are. so. tired.
And we're also lonely on top of it, despite of social media, because we don't have time in our days to spend quality time face to face and re-energize one another.
So then, what? What do we do?
I'm not interested in writing about schedule choices or child-sleep-training, and I'm certainly not going to try to tell you to sign off facebook by 9pm every night because that would be completely hypocritical (although perhaps a good idea).
I'm certainly not going to try to offer any expertise. I'm not a doctor, nurse, therapist, pastor, counselor, anybody with professional knowledge on these things. But I'm a mom and a wife and a homemaker. I'm a Bible teacher and a blogger and I have zero credentials. I have no letters to put behind my name.
But I have encouragement to give, friend. And I want to encourage you.
I've been talking to God about this and perhaps His encouragement to me can help you to. Here are some little ways I'm trying to un-rush myself and allow God's rest to cover over me.
1. Start my day with my Bible, not Facebook. I think most people find my blog via facebook, so truth be told, I'm glad you're on facebook:) But I know how easy it is, as soon as your alarm rings, to roll over, grab your phone, and click on the facebook icon to see if you have any new notifications. Your eyes have been open for two full seconds and already the noise of social media is flooding your sleepy brain. I do it too. And God has told me I must stop. Not altogether, but stop starting my day like that. Social media is noisy...it fills my brain with "I should do...I should be..." and makes me tired.
Instead, I need to start my day with the Bible. If I get twenty minutes before the girlies need me to get them breakfast, awesome. If I sleep in and only get two minutes of Bible time...well, I'll take it. Two minutes of God's living Word is better than none. His Word brings refreshment and rejuvenation and life rather than the noise of social media.
2 Give God authority over my credit cards and my calendar. Does anything stress us out as much as our schedules or credit cards? I doubt it. I heard a great sermon a few years ago about making sure that both your credit card statements and your calendars are pointing you to Christ...how do you spend your time and money? And it applies to stress and exhaustion too. Our stress makes us tired, so asking God to take over leadership of the two biggest stressors in our lives ought to bring rest and peace.
3. Breathe and Pray. It's actually a little embarrassing for me to admit how much I have to do this everyday. I mean, not the praying part, that's good. But the breathing part. It seems like a better, calmer, wiser mom wouldn't have to take so many "breathing breaks" as I do. When I'm about to yell at a child or totally lose all composure....I just try to breathe deep and quickly tell Jesus, "Jesus, I'm exhausted and I have no idea how to handle this minute. Help me." Or "Jesus, I'm tired. I want to sleep. Help me." It helps me to remember that Jesus was exhausted too. He's fully human as well as fully God, and he didn't just have four young children who needed him, but he had thousands that followed him around needing his wisdom and miracles. He was tired. We see it clearly in the Gospels. So he's been where I am and he knows how I feel. And he doesn't condemn us when we're tired. He invites us to holy rest:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
4. Take a nap. Turn on Disney, throw out the screen-time rules, and take a sweet nap, sister. (Make sure it's the longest kid movie you own!)
Or tell your children to play in their rooms for 30 minutes so mama can nap. Crawl into bed with your two-year-old and nap with him. Whatever, however, just do it.
Psalm 127:2 "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."
He gives sleep to his beloved. Best. Gift. Ever!
And all we eat when we are up at midnight is anxious toil. I mean, and ice cream, but that's not great for us either. We should just go to bed...save the calories and the anxious toil.
Going to bed can be an act of humility...o admit that the world will indeed continue turning even if mama goes to sleep. I don't hold the world in my hand. I don't even hold my kids in my hand. God holds us in HIS hands, so I may as well just go to bed.
If God chooses to give me breath in my lungs tomorrow, then I can rest assured that the laundry can be folded then and the errands that I'm running at 11PM can be run then, and, and, and. Tomorrow comes with new mercy so I don't need to worry. I can just take a nap. Or go to bed. Because he gives me sleep.
So with that, my dear friend who fell asleep in public today, I understand. I get you. I want to have coffee with you. (Unless you just want to come over, let me watch your kids, and take a nap).
And I'm praying for you. I'm praying peace, rest for your soul and for your body, joy, strength, energy, vitality. I'm praying that you accept our Good Shepherd's invitation to walk with Him beside still waters and lie down in green pastures.
Now go to sleep, friend.