‘Survival-mode’ is a very real season of parenting that my husband and I have found ourselves in.
Survival-mode is that space between here and there, now and then, promising and doing, preparing and executing. It’s that space between when I said I’d do something, and me doing it. And most often, that space is so filled with parenting these three kiddos of ours, that nothing else ever gets done. Which, more often than I’d like to admit, also means that what I committed to doesn’t happen, or if it does, it’s only because someone called to remind me at the very last minute! (which is always greatly appreciated!)
I’m convinced that survival-mode is why time seems to speed up so quickly when you have kids. When all you can do is merely survive the sleepless nights with a nursing infant, the constant on-alertness of having a mobile and climbing toddler, the lack of mental break due to answering ‘why’ for the 1000th time each day, the endless number of grocery trips and hours of food prep per day for the growing kids, helping with homework, taking them to and from after-school activities, church activities, playdates, birthday parties, etc. etc. it’s no wonder that time speeds up while parenting. And with 3 kids, each 3 years apart, we are finding ourselves in all of these stages at the same time. The exhaustion is 24/7, because we are on-call 24/7. And that is all on a good day. Add in illness, school or social struggles, and lets not forget, adulting… time-speed mystery solved.
I’m also convinced that survival-mode must be categorized in the same mental area in our brain as labor and delivery. It’s been said that the pain of labor and delivery is eventually forgotten (although lets be honest, no one forgets all.of.that.pain…), and that seems to be the case with survival-mode as well, since you never hear about it as a whole. I mean come on, no one ever says ‘oh it wasn’t so bad’, no, instead they say ‘enjoy the time with your kids because it goes by so quick.’ It must be because the brain forgets the complete and utter exhaustion that is survival-mode. Years worth of it.
Sometimes it can feel like you are living in a mental fog. In fact, we recently had someone ask us ‘What do you guys do for fun?’ and we both felt stumped. Fun? When is the last time we did something fun without the kids? We actually looked at one another and both said something to the affect that we just try to survive from one day to the next. That’s how deep in survival-mode we are.
So how do you survive survival-mode? I’ve got a few ideas, although my kids are testing them every day and I’m constantly having to adapt and figure out something new!
- Recognize it for what it is. If the first step to change is actually acknowledging what needs to change, the first step to surviving survival-mode is recognizing that you are surviving. Realize that you don’t suck at parenting, or at life, and that you are simply in a state of survival. If you find yourself questioned about why you haven’t visited lately or why you didn’t offer to host yet another holiday, and all you can think is how frustrating the 15 minute drive to church is with all three kids is let alone hours in the car… or how spending hours planning a meal and then grocery shopping for it (with all.3.kids.in.the.grocery.store…picture.it…) and then cooking it for hours and hours might make you want to lock yourself in your pantry and eat the bag of Dove chocolates you stashed there while drinking the whole bottle of dinner wine you bought for the meal… Recognize that you are in a state of survival-mode and others might not (obviously) realize that! Look at it as a season of life, one that will change as time goes on, just as seasons do. Sometimes it will be easier, sometimes more challenging, but either way, it’s not forever!
- Find reminders that work for you. If you find that you are forgetting your commitments, missing appointments, or making several trips to the grocery store only to realize that you have still forgotten something, find a reminder for yourself that works for you. For me, I like to use apps on my phone. I always have my phone with me, so its convenient for me to use apps. Cozi is my go-to app for scheduling appointments and keeping my grocery lists. You can choose a color for each family member and set it to sound an alarm or send you email reminders. I also use the Recipe Keeper app as my recipe book and to keep my son’s dietary restriction lists in. I use the paid version of this app but have found that I the lists so often when I’m grocery shopping that it is worth it for me. I also like having my recipe book with me all the time in case I decide to add to my meal plan while shopping.
- Breathe. Honestly, when you find yourself overwhelmed with kids who always have their hands in the fridge, and you can’t seem to find that beacon that announces you have left the room (seriously, where is that darn thing and why can only the kids seem to see it?!?!!) signaling that it is time to either follow and find mom in the bathroom or start a fight with their sister, just stop and take a breath. Get a good dose of oxygen to your brain and give yourself a chance to reset before returning to parenting.
- Pray. God made you for this role. He chose you as parents for these kids. He knew you could handle the difficult times, and that you’d flourish in the times of wellness and abundance. You were chosen for this role, and you are enough for your kids. When you reflect on your day and see a day of stress, and frustration, and maybe even yelling, it’s more likely than not that your kids see the day completely differently, and will only remember the smiles they received when they woke up that morning, the kisses they got when they had a boo-boo, the meals mom made them to fill their bellies, and the hugs they got as they went to bed that evening. Pray for guidance for the next day, pray for change if you need to change, pray for your little ones all tucked in their beds. Pray for whatever is on your heart, and remember that you were made for this role, and you will make it through this season of life.
- Remember your intent. I’ve written posts on living with intent and parenting with intent, which you can find by following the links provided. I truly believe that intent changes everything. Both remembering your intent, and looking at the intent of others are vital to surviving survival-mode. When my husband and I find ourselves overwhelmed with parenting, one of us usually recognizes our state of survival and will strike up a conversation with the other on remembering our intent. When God granted our prayers and we became parents, we never intended to live in a state of survival. We wanted children to enjoy them, to love them, to teach them, to learn from even. When we take a step back and remember that we want to live with intent and parent with intent, we mentally start to change how we are approaching life, and we remember our priorities, and to slow down to get what we want out of life. This can make all the difference when you find yourself in a state of parenting survival-mode.
- Remember the gift of grace. Accepting God’s grace after each day of struggle and praying for strength for the next is sometimes the only thing that helps me get to sleep at night. God loves each of us, and His grace and forgiveness are some of His greatest gifts to us. Us giving grace and forgiveness is also an extremely important part of life. It frees us from feeling guilt and carrying that with us.