Finding Joy in the Mess

Upon exiting the library yesterday morning with 4 kids in tow, I almost did a leap of joy in celebration of an uneventful trip.  This was my second trip to the library where I felt it was a “normal” experience.  It involved browsing the aisles while the kids played in the children’s area.  I’m not always in sight, but the twins now know I’m not far away and they have settled into the routine of going to the library to pick out books, movies, CD’s, and toys.  Sigh.  Finally.

To inflate my sense of success even more, a lovely woman commented as we exited about the lovely crew I had.  It is nice to feel the admiration of strangers. All this basking in our success came to a screeching halt on our walk back to the van when Ethan says, “Mommy, there’s puke coming out of my bum.” Oh my.  There it was.  Diarrhea dripping down the left leg.

Okay. Back into stress mode.  First step was to find a baby wipe to clean off his leg and assess the situation.  He assured me he didn’t need to go to the toilet, so instead of going back inside to the washroom ( I didn’t really want to meet that nice lady again), I decided to clean him up with new underwear and pants in the van. These are the times where my van assumes its role as “place of refuge.” “Alright, kids, ” I hear myself say, “let’s just get back to the van and everything will be ok!” (For those of my friends sitting on the fence about a van, think about the diaper changes and clothing changes you can do when these situations arise!)

Meanwhile, Cor has eyed the crackers in the diaper bag he wasn’t allowed to finish in the library because it was time to go.  He decides to throw a hissy fit because I zipped up the diaper bag, keeping him out of reach of the desired snack.  So, Ethan has to wait in the dirty pants while I deal with Cor’s outburst of anger.  I did end up giving him the crackers.  We just needed to get to the van without causing anymore attention to ourselves.

So, crisis was resolved in the van with clean pants and cracker snacks.  Another job well done by this mama.  Stress was elevated, but not over-the-top this time. I did have to laugh at myself.

Who am I kidding?  Drama will follow me wherever I go for a long, long time.

Recently,  some of my new mom friends and I were swapping book recommendations on breastfeeding and sleeping and parenting.  I was able to give some suggestions on the books I read before the birth of all my kids, but I find myself reading less and less about babies and more about different kinds of issues.

Lately, I’ve taken books out on discipline, emotional health, and a play-based approach to stress and anxiety in children.  I feel like I should be awarded a psychology degree with all the reading and practicum I will have completed after the raising of these kids. I’m realizing that the issues get bigger as the kids get bigger.  It begins with feeding and pooping and sleeping.  When we’ve tackled those BIG issues, we move on to harder ones: bullying, anxiety, self-worth, faith and academic success.  My situations in public involving poop are relatively insignificant in terms of problems that can happen in the life of a child.

I do admit, I’m a book reader.  If I have questions about a topic that interests me, I find a book about it.  I try my best to put the advice of doctors and counselors I resonate with into action, but more often than not, I feel like I’m failing my kids because I can’t quite remember all the steps.  And, more often than not, I let my own emotions take over any logical and sensible advice I’ve received from the professionals.  All too often my frustrations and weaknesses and feelings of inadequacy take over and the principles from the book go out the window.

This week I found myself crying in the kitchen while the kids were having quiet time.  I was feeling overwhelmed because I wasn’t feeling well and the kids weren’t feeling well.  The house was a disaster.  Again.  I just tidied the day before, vacuumed floors, mopped the kitchen floor and as I looked around, the evidence of all that was gone.  Long gone.  I wondered how a person was to stay sane when their surroundings were in utter chaos all the time.  Often in these moments, I remember the advice I got from my aunt Wilma after my first baby shower.  She said, “and don’t worry about the house.”

I try very, very hard not to worry about it.  But I do worry about it.  All the time.  There’s never enough time or energy to keep it the way I think is decent, even for a family of 7.   I know I have 5 kids, but I don’t like living in a mess.  Yes, I do get everyone to pitch in and clean up the mess, but we are living with 2 toddlers who leave a path of destruction wherever they go.  They get into everything: toothbrushes, flossing picks, combs, hair elastics, CD’s, Tupperware, all toys of all kinds, puzzles, laundry, clean diapers, clean clothes from drawers, books, etc.P1120685 So, as I’m sitting in the kitchen feeling miserable, I stumbled across a blog that makes me break down and cry.  Her blog is called Finding Joy and her post is: 10 Things Happy Moms Don’t Do. The part that hit me like a ton bricks was this:

4. Base success on the state of the home. So tough, really, but true. When you have kids in your home your home will probably look like you have kids living in your home. You can have it spotless at 8am only to look like you never clean ever by 8:15am. Kids do that. Do what you can. Keep it clean. But, you know, kids like to dump stuff out, mix paints, color on things, and create things. And that? That means a mess often. Your success isn’t based on the throw pillows always on the couch, nor is your happiness.

I feel I was basing my success on the state of my home. I think I was raised that way.  Clean home equals successful wife and mother.  I struggle with letting things go a bit so I can spend more moments enjoying the kids instead of cleaning up after them.  I wish I could sit in a messy house with the kids around and I am perfectly happy. I know I can’t let everything go, or it would be really bad around here.  But I do need to be more patient in the messy moments.  Because as my husband reminds me, I will get it cleaned up eventually.

There will be moments of mess. Whether it is puke, poop, toys or toothbrushes.  I’m pretty good at dealing with the immediate crisis of body fluids in public, but not so good at the mess of life behind closed doors.  I’m working on that.

Life is a work in progress.  I won’t get everything perfect. I can’t find all the answers in a book.   And I should stop counting on perfect trips to the library. Most importantly, I’m being reminded daily I can’t do this mom job on my own strength.  Sometimes a crack in my “I’ve got it all together” is a healthy reminder that I don’t have it all together.  Not without God’s hand in my life.

For God’s hand is what gives me strength when I need it most and God’s word comforts me when I struggle to feel at peace in the midst of my mess.

 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9


One thought on “Finding Joy in the Mess

  1. I’m a book reader too. Sometimes I find it causes me more stress though because instead of relying on my common sense in the moment, I get all caught up trying to remember what I “should” be doing. And then feeling guilty for doing something differently than “they” say. I’ve learned to pick and choice techniques that work for us. It’s hard though.

    Great post. I’m impressed that you actually had a spare change of clothing, as whenever something like that happens to me, I never seem to have anything I need. 🙂


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