Lisa Leonard Designs

motherhood in extremes

July 11th | family, thoughts

I often find myself completely overwhelmed by my love for these two boys who have been given to me. I am blessed to mother them—each with their own unique personality, needs and preferences.

David is busy and independent. He roams all over the house, opening cupboards, playing with his toys and knocking things over. He loves music and I can frequently find him playing his keyboard like it’s feeding his soul.  I’ve even started to bring keyboards on vacation with us. It’s his favorite activity he seems to need music in his life. Although independent, he also leans on us to help him eat, keep him medicated and change his diapers. He is a complex mix of determination and helplessness. This dichotomy is so much a part of our lives, I hardly notice it anymore.

Matthias is changing week by week into a big kid. Although he’s affectionate and still loves to snuggle, he gets annoyed with too many reminders. He wants to be able to decide important things, like, what snack he’ll have and what time he should go to bed. He is kind, sensitive and sometimes dramatic.  He is artistic and full of imagination. He’s a picky eater and a great companion. He’s a younger brother who has turned into a bigger brother and he seems perfectly comfortable with this role.

As a mother, my heart wants to give these two boys everything. I want to cuddle and nurture and listen to each one. I want to know their likes and dislikes and show each of them how special they are by making their favorite foods, planning their favorite activities, and nurturing their hobbies and interests. I want to give them opportunities and my heart breaks when a knee is skinned or a friend is cruel. I know life’s difficulties create a softer heart, but I still wish I could protect them from pain.

And in the midst of all this loving and nurturing and wanting to be everything for them, it sometimes happens. I look inside and find myself feeling empty. I am out of energy and out steam. My patience is gone and fatigue sets in. The mundane threatens my sanity and I think, “If I have to change one more diaper or clean up one more spilled juice, I’ll lose my mind!”  I feel my throat tighten and frustration in my chest.  In my wanting to be everything I feel like nothing and I can almost hear the word ‘failure’ whispered in my ear.

I don’t come with any great words of wisdom or pat answers as to how to avoid the sheer exhaustion that accompanies motherhood. I’m learning to nurture my own heart, to let go of guilt and maybe little by little to let motherhood be imperfect. Despite my lack as a mother, these boys seem to be thriving. With a job so demanding, so incredibly important and sometimes so completely mundane I find I am prone to extremes. And while I am simultaneously overwhelmed by love for these boys and the sheer number of items on my to-do list I am thankful to be their mother.  Even at extremes, I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Do you find yourself at extremes? How do cope with the highs and lows of motherhood?

30 Responses

  1. Michelle says:

    He is a complex mix of determination and helplessness. This dichotomy is so much a part of our lives, I hardly notice it anymore

    Lisa you summed up my daughter exactly!!!! Thanks for being a kindred spirit and sharing!

  2. Lily says:

    “With a job so demanding, so incredibly important and sometimes so completely mundane I find I am prone to extremes. ”

    I think you summed up motherhood pretty well. If I ever find myself getting too low into the valleys of motherhood, a little time to myself usually helps me relax and restores my perspective :)

  3. Lisa says:

    When you figure it out, let me know? Seriously, I take it day by day…

  4. Kelley says:

    Love this blog and your words. Such an encouragement to me.

  5. Amy McKinley says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth and expressed it all so eloquently. Thank you for your honesty. :)

    My child (who appears to have a lot of the challenges as David) gives me the absolute highs in life…but in between there are often some lows that can be very discouraging.

    Your comment “He is a complex mix of determination and helplessness. This dichotomy is so much a part of our lives, I hardly notice it anymore.” DITTO! :)

  6. tiffany day says:

    Lisa, you expressed this so beautifully with your words, it brought tears to my eyes – in such a good sweet way!

    Yes, I go to extremems – and I just take a step back realize at times I cannot be all to them ALL the time!

    Sometimes just getting through a day and feeding them is all I can do – they really sometimes teach me more than I am teaching them. By Grace Alone right?

    You are wonderful – such a kind heart and spirit!
    xoTiffany

  7. Kim says:

    Thank you for sharing. I’m having one of those days (8 months pregnant with a 4 year old and almost 2 year old). Just knowing that one isn’t alone and these feelings will shift, hopefully back towards the “high” feeling, make them bearable. Thanks for your inspiration!

    • Lisa Leonard says:

      I feel like the days were even harder when my kids were toddlers–so you are in the thick of it. Hugs to you sweet girl!

  8. Wow, I REALLY needed to read this today. My husband has been on the road a TON, and some days I wonder if I’m going to make it.

    • Lisa Leonard says:

      Thanks for your sweet words elizabeth. With your husband traveling, I can image it would be lonely and even more draining. You are not alone! I hope you can find a few minutes to nurture your own soul today. xx

  9. kelli says:

    Thank you for putting it all into words so beautifully. Being a mom is way harder than I thought it’d be. It’s so bittersweet, and that alone makes me feel guilty.

    Lately, I find myself searching for even just a little something in my day that is just mine, something to look forward to. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s a square of my fave chocolate, sometimes it’s 40 minutes on Pinterest late at night. Those little things that may seem goofy to others really press my re-set button and help me feel somewhat ready to do it all again tomorrow.

    My older brother who has two teenaged daughters also helps me cope when I see how longingly and achingly he gazes at me with my girls (3 & 7 yrs). He really grieved when we turned our play room into a family room last week; I couldn’t believe it! But he reminds me that it is all so fleeting, and so I try to stay present a little harder.

    Hugs to you today, Lisa. Thank you for saying what a lot of us are thinking. xo

  10. kasey says:

    You just hit the nail on the head. I am a mother of 13 children, 1 marriage. You were able to express how I feel a lot of times. Thank you for sharing, it’s good for us moms to know we’re not alone. BTW.. it would be neat if you designed a dolphin necklace. :)

  11. Jacqui Szymanski says:

    I remind myself how blessed I am to have happy, healthy children & now grandchildren when I start to feel overwhelmed. I’m farther down the road of experience than most of those on this blog & I’ve learned that no matter how bad things seem to get, it will all be okay & I will have done my best. I have the perspective to be able to say that so far, all has worked out beautifully. I would never ask for anything different than what I have…
    Just have faith in yourself – you are doing a beautiful job!

  12. Nicole says:

    Thank you, Lisa. Tonight, just 5 minutes ago, I told my husband how guilty I feel when, one minute, I’m tearing up at the thought of my oldest starting preschool and the time he will be gone, and the next minute I’m wishing he would play by himself for 5 minutes so I can get something done. Thank you for your words that tell me I’m not alone.

  13. nicole i says:

    I appreciate your candor and your willingness to share your mama heart.

  14. Aloha says:

    I love your honesty and your heartfelt words. Motherhood can be hard, just trying to figure everything out, how to do the best by our children. Special needs kids add another element to motherhood that I know nothing about. You sound like an amazing person!!! I would so love to meet you.

  15. Jen says:

    Goodness, you hit the nail on the head! I literally was at the end of my rope, out of gas and on the verge of complete meltdown last night, Lisa. I cleaned the kitchen up, asked my husband to put the kids to bed for me and I went to my room and closed the door. It was 7:30pm! I feel refreshed and rarin’ to go today. Be blessed.

  16. Suzanne says:

    I also get very overwhelmed by my vast love for my two kids and the sense of total responsibility I have for them since I’m raising them alone. I have also learned that being ‘perfectly imperfect’ is ok. I give myself a little wiggle room when I allow myself to recognize that they are healthy, happy and wonderful young people. I also pray a lot – for the strength, patience and resources I need to do this incredibly important job of raising kids.
    Your kids look very happy and loved. You are doing a good job, Lisa.

  17. Lisa C. says:

    What a breath of fresh air. I am a stay at home Mom with a 4 year old, 2 year old, and 3 month old. I give all the credit in the world to the Mommies out there who juggle work and motherhood. It is hard to balance being the best for your kids and for yourself… Thank you for the inspirational words. It lets me know that I am not alone in the world of crazy! At the end of everyday whether good or not so good, my kids make me smile and I know that I have done the very best that I could for that day. That is all you can do is your best.

  18. jill says:

    Beautifully said. Someone once told me that the in “mother time” the days are long, but the years are short. As I spend my summer enjoying (and struggling with) my soon-to-be college bound daughter, I feel blindsided by the extremes of motherhood. Some moments it’s difficult to remember that each day is a gift, and at other moments it’s difficult to hold all the joy in your heart for fear it will burst. My mother tells me that that never goes away – even when your daughter is sending her daughter off to college! :-)

  19. Kelly H-Y says:

    Absolutely! You summed it up so beautifully!

  20. Carol says:

    I have two kids still at home. I’ve also had cancer twice, so I have had plenty of moments of exhaustion and frustration. When I am overwhelmed, I simply stop and breathe. Then I whisper my thanks that I am still here, in the midst of the exquisite and fragile chaos that is my life.

  21. Deb says:

    Lisa: Once again you have succinctly said what so many mothers feel and just can’t find the words to say. I know that taking time for yourself is a good idea but often it’s just not possible. When this happens I try and remind myself that even in the mundane tasks I am doing what God set before me. In His infinite wisdom and love for me He gave me a son with many disabilities. I don’t often understand it when I feel I fall short,but I know that HIS ways are greater than my ways. Two of my favorite passages come from Isaiah . Is. 41: 10 and Is. 43:1 – 3.
    You are a blessing to many Lisa!

  22. maria says:

    Wow!! This was so well put! You’ve captured the essence of motherhood for all of us! Good article to keep handy, to handout to others! And to remind the self because we all need that as moms (and dads)! We realize how much we really do need to lean on the Lord. Thank you for this!

  23. Anne says:

    You said it well…and as a mom with a special needs child…your job is on a whole different level than mine was…but
    I used to tell myself a couple of things…
    one- when my younger daughter was hanging on to me (people wondered if she could walk …haha) and I would think some day she’s going to be running out the door, barely looking back… so even though I would give anything for a moment of time alone…I knew that in no time at all….. I would have more than enough!
    two- I figured being a mom (full time) was just like any job… there were days when I wished I was doing ANYTHING besides what I was doing…but reality was most of the time I LOVED what I was doing…and that got me through the bad days.
    Hang in there…………..you seem to be doing just fine!

  24. Kendra says:

    I have been feeling like a failure myself lately….with my boys. It’s almost like you reached into my head and put *my* thoughts into words thru this post. I wish I could write this eloquently. It almost brings me to tears knowing others feel this way. Thank you.

  25. Sarah says:

    today I was feeling like my cup was quite empty, I sent the boys with their father for dinner because I knew I needed to regroup – and here I am. Thanks for this post, it is exactly what I wanted and needed to read.

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