Working With My Weakness

Last week included a higher-than-average number of meltdowns at our house. Not my boys’, mind you – my own.

One day I informed Facebook of my misery by announcing that I was researching au pair programs. (I was about 95% joking, but the remaining 5% was engaged in some serious fantasizing about how amazing life would be with live-in help.) Later that night I ushered in the boys’ early bedtime with a plea for cocktail recipes. I was tempted to follow one friend’s advice and just take a swig of each bottle:

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Another day I ran around in a serious (and probably very scary) frenzy, shouting and shooing the boys out the door to an appointment. I was nearly wild from the pressure of getting everybody dressed, feeding lunch, brushing teeth, loading bags, wiping bottoms, and pinning down a certain (screaming, thrashing) baby in order to change his poopy diaper. In my mind, I screamed “I DO NOT UNDERSTAND PEOPLE WHO ARE ABLE TO ARRIVE ON TIME!” In the car, I forbade the boys from speaking for the first few minutes of our trip so I could focus on calming my bad self down.

Yesterday evening, I put an end to hours of (my own) agitation by plopping the baby in the stroller, taking the boys over to my husband (who was working in the garage), yelling “I’M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND!” and running back to the house empty-handed. (I literally ran, waving my arms and jumping around like some sort of madwoman.)

They deserve better.

They deserve better.

I’m not cut out for this.

It’s all I could think as I came back inside from the garage: I’m not cut out for this. I love my boys. I love being a mother. I love taking care of my home and my family. I believe that I’m the right one for the job. But I am not cut out to do it every hour of every day.

My brain can’t handle that constant stimulation. There comes a point in any given day around here, on any given task, when I just shut down. I sit surrounded by my work and by others’ needs and I fail to see a single thing I could do to make the situation any better.

I feel paralyzed.

I’ve already said it about a million times on this blog, but I am very easily overwhelmed. For heaven’s sake, I can hardly function in Target – let alone a shopping mall – I’m so affected by the overabundance of sights and sounds. So a day’s worth of demands and arguments and diapers and meals and chores and interruptions and interruptions and interruptions… they often put me on what feels like the brink of sanity.

Like this. And this. And this.

Thank goodness for sweet boys.

Thank goodness for sweet boys who bring flowers to their mama.

Goofballs

Goofballs.

Not that it really matters, but I’m beginning to think that this thing about me is maybe an actual, diagnosable thing. (Lately I keep hearing about adult ADD. Could that be it? I’m honestly not inclined to find out.)

Why doesn’t it matter? Because whether or not anyone else views my thing as a thing, I have finally accepted it as a part of who I am – just as inseparable from my personality as my love for people or my inclination to broadcast my opinions. And after years of being frustrated with myself for my highly-distracted, easily-overwhelmed ways, I’ve finally (mostly) stopped beating myself up over them.

I’ve stopped telling myself that my personality is my fault. I’ve stopped convincing myself that I can just get over an elemental part of who I am.

I’ve started to figure out how to work with my weakness.

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How? I’m giving it – them (I have many) – a lot of thought. I’m trying to understand how my weaknesses interact with my experiences and responsibilities. I’m strategizing ways to minimize their effects.

I’m paying attention to my triggers – the things that shut me down or heat me up. I’m doing little things to address the little ones. I’m chewing on how I should resolve the big ones.

I’m recognizing that clutter and unfinished tasks are deadly powerful (and harmful) stimuli to me.

I’m acknowledging that when I don’t take care of myself, I’m ill-equipped to handle not only the stimuli, but also the people I love.

And (after my week of meltdowns) I’m finally accepting that I indeed need help in caring for my children. I don’t need a lot of it, but I do need a few reliable daytime hours a week when I’m not ‘on.’

So I’m working on it.

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Tomorrow, I’ll provide some examples of how I’m going about this work. (You know – in case any of you happen to share my particular weaknesses – or enjoy watching the sideshow that is the frazzled, overwhelmed, procrastinating, perfectionist, impatient, stay-at-home mommy trying to deal with herself.)

But until then, I’ll ask you this: Is there a part of you that trips you up? If there is, do you face it head-on, or do you wish it away?

10 thoughts on “Working With My Weakness

  1. I think we are twins! Except that I am older and my boys are grown and out of the house. I’m just now starting to learn that being easily overwhelmed is just part of my make-up and not some terrible character flaw. I don’t think I quite believe it yet though. I, too have many little “tricks” that allow me to function and reduce melt-downs.

  2. Erm, this exactly. I am testing out sitters this week! I finally figured out I needed this time and started having a regular sitter about a year ago – sad day when she was done!! (baby on the way)

  3. Julie, I have been there (and still exist there in some ways). I remember being completely overwhelmed when I had a baby and toddler, so much that occasionally I had to call my husband and have him come home in the middle of the afternoon because I just couldn’t do it for.one.more.minute! Everything you wrote I thought, me too! It is a great idea for you to look into ways to have a few hours a week to yourself. My way was preschool/mom’s morning out at our church. I had one morning where they both stayed (baby had to be 18 months) and I could run errands alone (my favorite thing) or just read a book uninterrupted with a cup of coffee! As for the unfinished tasks/clutter are still my big trigger for losing it on my family! I don’t always handle it well….looking forward to your suggestions 🙂 It seems like a never ending cycle of taking care of little people with no end in sight, I know, but it does eventually end (as with all stages of kids), I promise!!!

  4. yes! I’m hugging you & high-giving you from my couch in Missouri! I’m also easily overwhelmed & overstimulated. It’s like this. Someone else sees a painting & think it looks pretty. I FEEL the painting & I CARRY it all day. And so it is with all things. Can I give you a little secret? I give myself a ton of me time. I get up early. I enforce bedtimes. I say no to play dates because they about make me crack from all the stress. I feel shame no more about being overwhelmed. There’s a reason God has for giving me 3 boys AND making me feel so deeply…just not sure I’ll ever figure it out but I’m more than willing to work with it! Go you!!! You are in such a great place bouncing back & looking forward!

  5. Great Post! In an ideal world I would do yoga, take a daily power nap, get 8 hours of sleep, and have time to write every day – that is how I would stay sane. Um. Ideal world. I live in real life. So when I don’t ANY of those (like when all the kids are home for spring break), I can’t expect myself to be amazing and perfect. During those times, I adapt ahead of time. I don’t turn on the news while I cook for instance because I know it will make me crazy not being able to hear it in all the chaos. I throw together a simple dinner instead of something delicious. And the rest of the time, I try to get something (like a 7 min nap) every day that will help me be the best I can be.

  6. Oh, Julie…I think you and I should get together for coffee (and apparently Ashley and Mary Ruth, too!) just so we can tell each other we aren’t alone. This could be my post…right down to the madwoman arm-waving. I’m so glad you are working on strategies. I need to do that. Right now, I often just feel guilty.

  7. Finding my triggers has been HUGE in helping me avoid my own meltdowns… Like, I MUST EAT or I become a crazy CRAZY madwoman. And if I don’t get enough caffeine in the morning, same thing. Or staying hydrated. And if I start yelling or getting exasperated about things, it’s all downhill from there. Even if I’m acting calm on the outside but inwardly seething – I start thinking, WHY is this day going so horribly??? And it’s usually because I’m acting crazy. Trying to maintain an attitude focused on being thankful helps me a lot when I actually manage to do it – I stay a lot calmer, everyone’s happier, and I’m a lot less stressed! But it absolutely doesn’t happen 100% of the time…

  8. Oh boy. Walking into Walmart (by myself! Without corralling small yungins) is a trigger because of all the noise, lights, people, and above all – choices! I totally get you on the weariness from stimuli. I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself though. Remember that traditionally it’s unusual to have one woman responsible for kids all day every day. In other cultures – and in our own decades ago – children are raised around extended family, often with neighbors involved too. This isolated existence of not seeing other adults all day is highly unusual.

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