Found My Self, Lost My Mind

Caryn: So today kicked off the 2009-2010 “speaking season” for me. Today’s talk was the one based on my book—with a smidge of the Rev thrown in—so it was all about losing ourselves, confused identities, and unrealistic expectations. All the stuff I love.

On the way home, I was feeling a big smug, thinking how after all my years of wrestling with who I was as a mom and a woman and all that, I was really doing pretty well. And I am, actually.

But then the rest of today happened. Two of the world’s crabbiest, screamiest, yelliest, fightingiest, whiniest kids stepped off the school bus and walked into my house–joining their already crabby, screamy, yelly, whiney little brother. It’s been, to be honest, the afternoon from hell. I cannot remember ever having such a wretched time with my kids.

I started out trying to remain calm, soothing moods with hearty snacks, cooler clothes, and a good rest. To no avail. Mass timeouts haven’t worked. Threats haven’t worked. It’s all descended into madness. My throat actually hurts from yelling so much.

My house is bedlam, and I seriously think I’m going to lose my mind. Have we talked about this at all, Revolutionaries? I can’t remember. But I’m dying to dig into these crazy-making moments of motherhood. To find out what sets you off and what you do to calm down. To regain sanity.

In many ways, I hate even bringing this up since it plays into a stereotype in and of itself (i.e. the crazed, frazzled mom). But these days are real. These moments when we “understand child abuse,” as one friend once told me, when we get why so many moms have turned to substances to get through the day or week or life, and why, we think we will (and sometimes do) lose our ever lovin’ minds.

(On a positive note, I escaped my crazy house to my front porch to write this. My kids followed [of course!] but are all playing quietly and nicely. Huh.)

Carla: So are you saying that the fact that I gave my 12-year-old a lecture on respect and how her leaving her lunchbox sitting out until bedtime even though it has an unopened container of yogurt in it that we now have to throw out and why do I have to keep having this conversation with her and when will she start to understand that her choices affect me and that’s why this is an issue of respect and she’d better start shaping up or I really am going to throw away everything she owns was crazy? You might have a point.

I had some time to myself last week and I had these big plans of getting my house really organized–or at least de-cluttered a bit–now that most of us are back in school. But honestly, I was so overwhelmed by the crap in my house and that no matter how often I pick up or clean or purge I am still surrounded by other people’s #$&^ that I didn’t do anything. So of course I am standing right there on the edge of losing it every time someone leaves a sock on the floor or a dish on the table. So I am totally snappy and crabby and mean.

To answer your question, I seriously think the only thing that will get me back to normalcy is to throw away everything we own.

Caryn: Yeah. That’s what I’m saying. But with that, you are on to something. The stuff makes me crazy. Actually, ever since I opened up a copy of our old friend Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Amish Peace and read about how the Amish live with what is only absolutely necessary, I’ve been on a mission to get rid of half of what we own. Except for the dishes and silverware and cups because we’re already running low. Ditto towels. And cute fall shirts for me. And money (at least right now. Someday I truly want to live on the whole reverse tithe thing). And maybe my books. I could get rid of 25% of those, probably.

But the point is, while I don’t agree with the Amish on many, many things, I do think they’re on to something with the only what’s necessary bit. Although, I’m guessing Amish mamas lose their minds too.

Deep breath. New day. Another breath. Women of the Rev (and Dude of the Rev): what do you need to do to regain your mind?


9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by April G. on September 11, 2009 at 9:09 am

    I don’t have time for a detailed post right now (can’t concentrate – son is singing at the top of his lungs). I just wanted to say – I lose my mind on a regular basis. Some days it takes all I have to stay sane.

    Carla – I am surrounded by clutter also. It often feels to overwhelming to even start. “Progress is better than perfection.”

    Great post!


  2. Posted by April G. on September 11, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Okay – “to overwhelming” should be “too overwhelming” – I hate that. I shouldn’t even read my posts after I post them.


  3. Posted by Heidi on September 12, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Today was that same day for me, Caryn. The boys (three, ages 5 and under) are all shouting, whining, and rough-housing and just generally not being nice to each other. I have ups and downs. I’ll do really well for a few weeks while the house is organized and clean, then at other times (which seems like most of the time) I’m so completely overwhelmed with taking care of these little ones and the constant, constant guiding and directing and teaching that they need that I’m comotose (sp?) towards the household chores and too tired to deal with it all. No one else ever steps up to the plate. I dream of one day someone coming in to take care of it all.

    I’m yelling at the kids and my throat is sore. I think the neighbors can hear me and now I’m self-conscious of what they think is going on inside our house. Conversations are stressful between the Hubby and I right now too so I find myself taking it out on the kids…it’s a downward spiral. When things between he and I are funky, then my reaction towards the kids is stressed, which I DON’T want to do, and that gets me even more frustrated that I do that. I’m here on your blog after the boys are in bed trying to find comfort in knowing other moms go through the same thing. Your post is so timely for me!

    My house is completely cluttered and I’m too embarrassed to even have anyone over to help me clean up. I need a major intervention on the cleaning from the basement to the garage to the school papers to the toys. I pray every day no one knocks at the door and sees the filth we live in. The house was clean just a few weeks ago, I promise! And it can all go downhill SO fast. That too makes me crazy and angry and depressed, which makes me “snappy” at the kids. If only I could get the house cleaned up, I could have a sitter over, then I could go out for a drink with a friend…then I’d be so happy. (Ha ha!) Really, by nature I’m a “neaty”, not a “messy”. I’m not happy living this way.

    GOODNESS how I love them though and wouldn’t trade this life with them for anything. There is so much inside their little heads and hearts. I’m determined to show them the best godly example of a mother I can be. It is humbling to ask forgiveness from a 5 year old. If only I would learn to not be so hard on myself, which my mother has been telling me for years….and years. One of these days I hope it sinks in.


  4. Posted by Laura S. on September 12, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Two little ones under age three. I am tongue-tied for the word, or words, to describe how overwhelming this job is – on a daily basis. For me it is just beyond what I ever could have imagined as far as physically and mentally draining. It’s all the best things too!! But, but but but…… wow. Seriously barely doable.

    I have very recently begun to pray more about this – for more of God – less of me. Because I’m not sure I have anything left beyond what’s being given… it just doesn’t seem to be enough.

    I am forty… I have watched so many friends and family raise multiple kids. Yes, it looks hard…. but the doing is so completely beyond the just watching, or the babysitting. The endurance that this job requires is truly worthy of a gold medal and a major, big bucks salary. Ha.

    I tell people that just watching a mother who is in a store holding an infant and struggling with a toddler, is one thing – yuck. But BEING the mother who is holding the infant and struggling with the toddler is light years, LIGHT YEARS away. Just watching you can’t get the full effect. You can’t feel her sweat, her tiredness, or her incredible desire just to go home alone and check her email, you don’t know that she feels frumpy, super frumpy and just gross because she really wants a shower, you can’t read her mind and know that she just wants to be ALONE so she can read another paragraph of that book that she just can’t get through, just finish cleaning the kitchen (because it will feel SO great to have a clean kitchen), or to just get to the isle in the store where she can pick up ANY bottle of shampoo (for that shower she won’t get). You can’t feel her anxiety as she’s solving the issue at hand, disciplining (in public), and that she might be questioning her method as she’s been experimenting between discipline philosophies and what might work best for her child’s temperament…….It’s so different to just watch a mother struggle with her kids than to BE the mother.

    I am now the mother; I know it’s worth it. I’m not really complaining because this is what I want and I’ll figure it out. Just being honest about this is really important to me. I’m honored to be living on the other side. Seriously. I am in love with my kids.. But oh my goodness this parenting has changed my personality – eventually I will accept it and calibrate back to my old self – but it truly brings out my best and my worst – and it’s so easy to focus on that bad stuff.

    So – what do I need to do to regain my mind.. ? It doesn’t take a lot – two hours alone to do whatever i want can go a long ways. Today I got that time – someone came to the rescue and I escaped to do a quick errand at Trader Joes. Their parking lot traffic jam was pretty scary so I ended up at a Panera and ordered a hot panini sandwich and a coffee… I sat down and inhaled the good hot food and just stared out the window….slowly refueling…. my mind awhirl. It helped SO much. This is one easy thing that I need…. I am thankful that I find it now and then. I am, however, very worried about those who have no access to even the simplest of breaks. I do hope that I can rise above this craziness soon and give back to those who need it.

    It will all go so fast (so they say) and I know it’s true. We’ve got to laugh and maintain perspective as there will always be so many who would love to be in our shoes, blessed by little ones to care for. I often come to this place to set myself straight.


  5. Posted by Emily on September 13, 2009 at 12:24 am

    Yep, a very timely post. I’ve been losing my mind the past couple of days. The baby still wakes-up a lot at night, and for some reason I can’t seem to go to bed at a normal hour because it’s my only alone time. The two year-old is sweet, but oh so chatty, and the constant chirping gets on my nerves after awhile, not to mention the meltdowns. Thank goodness it’s the weekend. I gave the kids to my husband this morning and went back to bed! That’s how I refuel—a nap! I slept for almost 3 hours this morning ( can you tell I’m sleep deprived?) and spent time on the laptop in bed with loud fans turned-on so I couldn’t hear anyone outside of my bedroom door. I do that and read. Reading under the covers in the middle of the day is my favorite thing, especially when it’s followed by a nap. =) The kids were much more bearable this afternoon. But yeah, I’ve been totally losing it lately. Sometimes I think, “Why is this so hard? It doesn’t seem like it should be, but it totally is!” And I definitely think a lot of it is me not doing it WITH God throughout the day, continually inviting Him into my experience and my moments, relying on Him to supply me with love and patience. Because as much as I love my kids, it’s just not enough for me to act completely loving all the time. I need Him, and I need to realize that more and open to Him more in that place of neediness.


  6. Posted by Robyn on September 14, 2009 at 10:23 am

    I don’t have TIME to get rid of stuff! That involves organizing, sorting, cleaning, pricing and/or boxing, holding a yard sale and/or loading up the stuff and driving to the Salvation Army to donate it. It’s a LOT OF WORK to get rid of stuff. As much as I am dying to simplify, it’s actually very difficult to do. It’s so much easier to just let the stuff sit in my garage gathering dust. Add in the exhaustion/morning sickness of this pregnancy and my full time job, and it just becomes one more chore that I lament getting around to. I feel so inadequate already because I am NOT getting done what HAS to be done.

    But the losing your mind thing, yes. And right now I just have one 3-year-old. But sometimes, sometimes… I just want to drop her off at the park and drive away. We both yell at her sometimes just for being a child. It’s totally not fair to her. It breaks my heart every time I do it, but sometimes I just want her to shut up! These are the times (when one of us is at our end) my husband and I play “pass the child.” I simply cannot imagine how much more difficult it is for single parents.


  7. Posted by Robyn on September 14, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Hey, did you mean substances for the mamas or substances for the kiddos? I had a great-aunt who (waaaay back in the day) used to give her kids “pink tea,” which was code for barbiturates. Not funny, but I can kind of relate…


  8. Posted by Angie Ward on September 16, 2009 at 9:59 am

    First, let me say that I LOVE your posts. I love the honesty, and the back-and-forth dialogue. Thank you!

    I am writing this from a quiet house, which will be invaded again in two hours. (Thank you, public school system, for the brilliant “early dismissal day” concept).) This morning, my 10-year-old reported a dream that included his 8-year-old brother…who then was offended he was in the dream, because he thought it made him sound like an idiot (his word). So we started the day in a funk, which is not to be confused with starting funky. And off we ran…

    In our family, when the tension ratchets up, we try to just tell everybody to be quiet (ok, sometimes we say Shut Up) and separate for a little awhile. There are sobs, then sniffles, then we usually talk about it and decide to “start over”. Starting over can happen any time during the day, and thankfully we have a natural “start over” every morning. (Unless, of course, the morning starts with arguments and hurt feelings about DREAMS the night before.)

    I am just thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning, and every moment, really. God must look at me many times during the day and wish he could just throw me out the door so I can go play outside for awhile.


  9. Posted by Jessica on September 18, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing honestly- today was a crazy day for me too. I had to change my newly potty-trained son’s pants & undies 4 times- though yesterday he didn’t have an accident at all. I forgot the stroller to take to the mall & for whatever reason he wanted to be carried- then I had to go to work. It just felt pretty overwhelming once I actually settled down to try and get something in addition to caring for him done. Maybe a nap would help (for all of us!)


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