Night Shift

Neil has been on out of town on night shift at the power plant outage all week. Of course this means I’m on day and night shifts here, which is just another way of saying I’m the mom, but it’s definitely harder with no co-workers! On day 4 Simon is starting to enrage me. He isn’t listening to me, and it usually takes threats or time-out, yelling, or me dragging him to time-out (while feeding Jane) to bring about obedience. He’s also whiny, and I’m trying to keep in mind that he misses Neil too. This isn’t too hard to forget because every time I try to get him to do something, he cries, “I want Daddy!” Thank God it has been nice out so at least we can play outside and go to the playground.

So I was thinking during naptime, the only time I have uninterrupted thoughts, why am I getting so mad? I don’t want to yell at him all the time. It works once in a while, but we need to save that once in a while for when he’s about to run into the street. Growing up, my family yelled, slammed, and threw (soft) objects, but that’s not how I want our family to work. Yet I’m finding myself drawn to these tactics more and more as Simon’s will clashes with mine.


Also, parents represent God to their kids, and largely shape their children’s view of God, not so much by what we say about God as how we treat our children. We are the visible authority led by the invisible Authority. Since my wrath is selfish and controlling, I certainly don’t want Simon getting the impression God is this way.

Plus yelling scares Jane. And Simon just laughs, yells “Obey!” or “Don’s scream, Mom!” Sometimes I use this scary weird voice when I’m trying to not yell, which Simon just finds hilarious (luckily).

So why am I getting so mad? Because I’m trying to control him. Because I want to get something done. Like the laundry, or dishes, or getting Jane to sleep, or getting ready to go somewhere.  In the moment I’m baffled about why Simon won’t cooperate so we can go to the playground. But of course he doesn’t get it; he’s only two.


My big naptime epiphany was this: my job is to teach Simon to listen. Calmly, patiently, creatively coming up with consequences for not listening, or motivation to listen. This is more important than getting the housework done, or getting to the playground five minutes faster, or even getting Jane to sleep at that exact moment. In the long run it will make all of those things easier, although I’m guessing this is going to be a long process. But I can’t lose this battle. Allowing him to be out of control and not follow our authority is not an option; that would just set him up for a lifetime of rebellion and unhappiness.


The truth is, there are no shifts on motherhood. Your only hope for a “break” is nap time (or a babysitter), and that is a hard-won battle every day! The battles are gruesome but the victories are sweet. Playing “this little piggy” with Simon and Jane today made it all feel worthwhile because we were all laughing and snuggling together. Motherhood is brutal and beautiful.

Stuck Deluxe

So I’m feeling kind of stuck, mentally, as a mom. Basically I hate not being able to control my children. Which is not to say they’re out of control. They just have free will and I can’t make Jane sleep through the night, and I can’t make Simon clean up his blocks without lots of supervision, help, time-outs, and getting the blocks taken away. Consciously I don’t think the goal of parenting is to control my children or even to produce well-behaved children. But when Simon’s non-compliance or Jane waking up at 2 a.m. makes me so mad, I know I’m being controlling.

I love them and I’m enjoying them; I know they won’t be 5 months and 2 years old forever. And I’m sure I’ll miss these years of chubby cheeks, snuggling, and reading Clifford’s Birthday Party for the millionth time. But I still find myself wondering, When will this be over? And will I ever sleep again?

I feel very unproductive. All I do is wipe butts, do laundry, do dishes, and then do it all over again. I’m always cleaning yet my house is never clean. I’m mostly okay with this, but something deep inside of me nags that I should be trying to accomplish something more profound than daily survival. In fact producing dinner feels like the crowning accomplishment of each day, though it’s usually some lame variation on spaghetti or tacos. Which I promptly devour in five minutes between giving Simon a time-out for extreme whining, and putting Jane down for a nap.

Who cares about getting stuff done when I've got these 2 cuties around?

Who cares about getting stuff done when I’ve got these 2 cuties around?

On some level I still think there’s merit in trying to have a life of my own. And I suppose there is; it’s good for everyone that we get babysitters, go on dates, and lead Bible studies. There’s some space beyond living for yourself or living for your kids, and that’s where I’m trying to live. It’s laying down your life for others, and I’m not very good at it. But laying down your life for your kids is the ultimate training camp, because they require the most sacrifice. My friends don’t call me in the middle of the night almost every night, but kids do.

I’m stuck on the idea that baby sleep is a moral issue, and if my baby or toddler is waking me up all the time then I must be a bad mom with no boundaries. I think if I’m laying down my life a little too much, I must not be disciplining or training or teaching them right. I hate when people ask if she’s sleeping through the night because I interpret it as, “So are you one of those bad moms that won’t sleep train?”

So that’s where I’m stuck. Part of me wants to say, we’re gonna do our best with the baby sleep and toddler obedience, without expecting too much, and it’s going to take a lot of sacrifice and patience. Then the other part of me is like, don’t give up too much control, or your kids will be totally out of control. I know sleep is not actually a moral issue; I know teaching Simon to obey us is; I also know both are going to take a while and I didn’t have kids because I wanted to sleep well, relax, have a clean house, or otherwise accomplish anything productive.


But isn’t raising children the most profound accomplishment? To create beings in our image, like God did, and to hopefully shape them to be servant-leaders, as He is— nothing could be more significant or refining. So when I think, when will I get my life back? I keep telling myself, this is life. All this diaper-changing, binky-ing, and time-out-giving is life because I am nurturing life. I am giving room & board & my best to God’s stewardship of life. And if I give up control & let God change me through the process then it will produce abundant life.

I also feel quite blessed to have a strong-willed toddler and a non-sleeping-through-the-night baby because otherwise I’d probably judge the shit out of other parents. I learned a lot about not passing judgment from having Simon and it’s round two, level two with Jane. I’m also quite blessed to have generally very happy, charming children who are, if I may say so, excessively and exceedingly cute!