Fill Up Your Tank Little Mama!

When my four, now adult offspring were babies and young children, I struggled. Loving, kissing booboos, doing laundry, feeding, cuddling, entertaining, picking up the mess, resolving quarrels, teaching them – these constant needs, demands, and responsibilities left me depleted. Frankly, my husband got worn out with my complaining and weariness and lack of energy for him. I wanted to enjoy my family, but I never seemed to find a chance to recharge my self.

It came to a head one day as I was whining about how house was a wreck and the kids seemed constantly clingy and needy to the point that I had no time for myself and not enough time to get everything done in a day.

After a long day of work, while Randy was sitting listening to my normal litany of failure and disappointment with life, he offered some unsolicited advice – which we all know is never appreciated in the moment. He said, “Deb, I think if you’d get down in the floor and play with them for 30 minutes or so first thing in the morning, they’d go play on their own and leave you alone for a bit.” I don’t remember my response (I’m probably blocking it out because it wasn’t pretty), but at a minimum I’m sure I huffed off thinking he was insensitive and just didn’t understand.

As often happens, God worked on me with Randy’s words after the fact. As I mulled them over in my thoughts, his idea sounded more and more plausible. Our family always talked about filling up our “love tanks,” wasn’t this just another way to do that? We even had a little hand signal that meant “hug alert.” (In other words, I’m feeling down and need a hug!) I knew my main job as mom was to love and nurture my kids and raise them to love God and others. But why did it seem like all the duties of the home trumped my willingness to just sit and play and love on them and fill up their little love tanks?

A couple of mornings later I tried my husband’s suggestion. After breakfast I parked myself in the floor with my 4 kids with Barney and Baby Bop blaring in the background.

I vividly remember that morning – we played with the 4-year-old’s Barney’s Tree House, moving the characters around and singing their songs. She was happy. The 10-year-old sat building amazing things with his legos and explaining all the intricacies of them to me. He felt I was interested in him. The baby lay gurgling on his blanket beside us slinging and chewing on toys and trying to “talk” to us, while the 7-year-old played mama to him and ended up bringing nearly every baby toy we owned to him. Those 2 were content. It was a joyous morning.

It was actually less than an hour before the eldest took to his room to complete his lego fantasy and the two girls headed to play with the Barbie house, Barney being long forgotten. I fed the baby and put him down for a nap. As I sat back down I realized the house was quietly running with just the babble of happy children in the background. I put on blinders to the housework that needed to be done and spent almost the baby’s entire nap contently reading. Lesson learned. My husband did know something about mothering!

Not every morning afterwards went perfectly smoothly like that one, but a new way of thinking and behaving was born out of that experience. What were my take-aways?

  1. Listen to the wisdom of my husband.
  2. Children are a treasure from the Lord – even when it doesn’t feel like it.
  3. Savor the moments / engage with my children. That moment – that day – will never be available to me for a redo.
  4. There is grace and a fresh start and hope for every thing I felt I have failed on.
  5. Don’t feel any mama-guilt over taking some healthy downtime.
  6. Spend time with the Lord.
  7. And last but not least – I am not always right, contrary to what I like to believe. I still have lots to learn.

Sweet mommies out there, give yourself grace. Kids learn even from, or maybe especially from, our mistakes. Take time to sit and love on and play with the little ones even when the house is a wreck. Take time for yourself – Bible reading, listening to good music, enjoying a workout, sitting on the back porch with lemonade – when your tank is full and your spirit and body are nourished you are more energized to pour into your kids and to nourish your family. Treasure your children and husband. And for heaven’s sake listen to that man God gave you, he may have the winning idea after all!

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