Motherhood & Parenting

When Darkness Creeps In

It’s been incredibly difficult over the last few months to navigate these uncharted waters of no piano lessons, no Chess Clubs, no Moms’ Nights Out, or no anything.  One would think that with the Government Lock-Down and cessation of all social activities that stay-at-home mothers wouldn’t be affected, for they stay at home after all.  But I know that they are.

Even as restaurants and other stores begin opening up, nothing is the same.  And sometimes, it’s just downright difficult.  Sometimes darkness comes creeping in, whether or not we invite it.

By darkness, I suppose I mean feelings of loneliness, sadness, helplessness, or hopelessness.  Depression maybe.  Anxiety.  Feelings of worthlessness or incompetency–a whole host of dark sentiments.

These things are difficult, and mothers are suffering.  If you’re one of them, today I want to encourage you and offer a few things that have helped me out from time-to-time.  Maybe you’ll find one or two helpful.

Have a Daily Schedule

If life is feeling dark right now, take a look at your day.  Is chaos reigning?  Do your children not know what to expect from day-to-day?  If you’ve never had a daily schedule, it might seem daunting or restrictive to do so, but I can only say from experience that it’s freeing.  For I know at all times what I ought to be doing, and so do my children.  Children thrive in routine, and I find that I do too.

Ah, but it’s not easy when the alarm goes off at 6am…

If this is something new to you, I highly recommend Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life.  I’ve said it before, this book literally changed my life.

Set Aside Time For Prayer Every Day

I probably should have put this one first.  Don’t let any feelings of darkness take time away that would be normally spent with Jesus.  He is the Light, even if you don’t feel anything.  He is always with you.  Don’t listen to any lie saying that He doesn’t care; He does.

Prayer is so important that it needs to be a fixed thing in your day.  Pick the same time every single day to pray.  Lauds or morning prayer and a family rosary are great places to start.  And let me tell you, Satan loathes families that pray every day.  You will be attacked and tempted to cease your daily prayer, but don’t give in–no matter how loud or raucous the children may be, or how low you may feel.

Go For a Walk

Go for a walk or get some form of exercise every day, if you can.  And without your phone or any other technology, if possible.  Disconnect.

It’s amazing what 20 minutes will do for a gal who’s down in the dumps.  I personally prefer to do this in the evening after supper while the children are (loudly) cleaning up. It’s a perfect time for me to escape, even if it’s 90 degrees outside.  I’ve never regretted a walk or a run, have you?

And no, exercise is not about having the “perfect” body or any other such worldly nonsense.  Our culture takes exercise to the extreme–one must always look young and beautiful!  Garbage.  No, going for a brisk walk gives a body life.  It clears the mind.  Just do it.

Are You Getting Time To Yourself?

I mean, are you getting any time to yourself during the day?  Not prayer time, but just time doing whatever it is that recharges you?  A nap, a cup of coffee, twenty minutes of rereading a Jane Austen novel…anything.  Make it happen, if you can.  There’s a reason why at a 8-5 job there are two mini-breaks and a lunch break.  How much more does a stay-at-home mother need a few minutes to herself?

When I put the toddler down for a nap, I require the older children to stay in the basement for about 45 minutes of “Quiet Time.”  I lie down myself for the first 20 or so minutes, and then I drink a cup of coffee or tea.  By myself.  The children are not allowed to come upstairs, and that’s it.

When this doesn’t happen, I notice that I’m grouchier.  Touchier.  Maybe frazzled.  I know sometimes it can’t be helped like when the toddler wakes up early or another kid chops her fingers off, but most days, this can be done, if you’re children are old enough to follow directions.

Are Your Children Whiners?

Ah, this is a difficult one, and something that always requires work.  Indeed, if you’re in a really dark place, this is the one thing that absolutely must be fixed.  It will take a lot of effort and support from your husband, if possible.  But it needs to be done.  Now.

Truly, whining is about the worst thing in the world.  I’d institute Black Out for it.  One whine from little Charity, and its, “I’m sorry, Honey, but now you will have to go to your room for Black Out.  That means no books, no toys, no anything until I come and get you.”  If your children can’t resister the temptation to play with their things, just remove their “things” from their room.

A Word About Black Out

I’ve been asked, how long should Black Out last?

It depends on the situation, the age of the child, your family life…

Just the other day, The Eldest said something incredibly sassy, so she was in Black Out the rest of the afternoon.  After an hour or so, she was incredibly bored.  And I knew it, so I went in there and said, “My kitchen and dining room floors need scrubbing.  If you want, you may come out of Black Out and do that.  Or just sit here until supper time…”  She came out and washed away, very slowly and meticulously, so as to enjoy her time out of Prison.  For she had to return to Black Out when she was finished.

The point is, all families are different, but human nature isn’t.  The Bible is replete with verses warning parents about the dangers about “sparing the rod.”

My favorite?  Proverbs 13:24:

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

And, oh, it’s hard, especially when you’re down, for one must keep a clear head and not yell.

Lastly

Lastly, dear Reader, Jesus loves you so much.  If you’re in a dark place and you need further help, consider reading two things:

  1. The Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriary.
  2. The Gospel of St. John.

“In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

I always want to put an exclamation point at the end of that John 16:33 verse.  “…but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!