Choosing joy

A mom holds a young newborn baby girl in her arms that is upset and crying.

                  Raising children is hard. Much harder than anyone tells us when we are in those happy months of planning for baby’s arrival. Rarely does anyone expound upon how all of the sleepless nights leave you feeling sick, exhausted, and a zombie-like version of your former self. No one really bothers to explain how a toddler can be so strong-willed and make you wish they were in school already just so you could send them to someone else to train. Even less do people talk about raising tweens and teens. And even if they did, we probably wouldn’t listen anyway. After all, they are our children and it’s not going to be all that bad.

                  I’m not saying that children aren’t wonderful. They absolutely are! However, I do wish that raising children wasn’t so daunting a task. (I also wish we could be guaranteed that they will turn out how we want them to. Sigh.)

                  I have multiple children in multiple stages of life, and I constantly feel pulled in a hundred different directions trying to make sure that I give everyone what they need. I sometimes get so caught up with changing diapers, checking schoolwork, monitoring cell phone usage, and trying to get dinner on the table that I forget who I am.

                  New and experienced mothers alike get overwhelmed and frustrated. Before we know it, our joy has been stripped down to exhaustion and resentment. I speak from experience. However, with the exception of postpartum and other forms of depression, I’d like to say that our joy is often a choice that we have to make.

                  Please don’t misunderstand. I have suffered from postpartum, and I know that many people do. I think that is something that needs to be treated differently than just the normal overwhelmed mom situation. What I mean is the negativity that comes from the day in and day out struggles of motherhood. For me, sometimes life is just hard and I get tired and if I’m not paying attention my attitude becomes routinely downtrodden.

                  Friends, I don’t want to go through life like Eeyore. I want to be positive, hopeful, and energetic. I want to be a person that others, especially my family, want to be around. After all, moments of joy are fleeting, but they are not rare. We just don’t often take the time to notice. For example, last night at bedtime my son was being rambunctious and getting the toddler all wound up. I was tired, so I was irritated and almost snapped at him to calm down. Then I took a closer look. Reed was playing with Sadie-Rae and she was squealing with delight. They both had huge grins on their faces and that realization made my heart swell with joy. Yes, I did redirect my son to a calmer activity for he and Sadie-Rae right before bed, but for a moment I just enjoyed the joy of play between two of my most precious possessions.

                  This mindset isn’t always easy, especially for someone like me who tends to veer toward the negative first. However, I’m learning to make mental notes to look for the positive. I’m learning to slow down every now and then to enjoy my family. I’m learning that sometimes even the hard things disguise a blessing.

                  If you are struggling with the daily drudgeries of life and mommy-hood, you are not alone. I think we have all been there at some point. Here are some things that helped me when I have been in those persistent funks.

                  1. Do my best to take care of myself; exercise and get plenty of rest.

                  2. Do something for me; such as a hobby that I can spend a little time doing.

                  3. Pray. There is no greater comfort than my God.

                  4. Make a mental choice to look for the positive.

                  (I would also like to say to find someone to talk to, but I, personally, am not very good at this because I’m afraid of being a burden to someone else. However, I think if I did this more often it would help.)

                  I’m not saying that it’s easy or that there is some magical switch that I can flip on. For me, it takes real effort to be consistent and begin to find joy in everyday life, but it does get easier the more I practice.

                  Choosing joy isn’t always easy, especially when you’re covered in vomit and poop and you’re sleep deprived beyond belief. Maybe you are in a different stage of life and you’re just worried about how you are going to pay the next bill, not to mention the last three bills of the month. It’s not always easy and sometimes you have to almost force yourself to be happy. “Fake it till you make it” until you can figure out how to let go and have faith to see the joy that is right there – if we just allow ourselves to see it. Today, I choose joy. I hope you will too.

-by Kari Carr

About the Author: Kari doesn’t claim to be a parenting expert, just a mom to her four wonderful children and wife to the love of her life, Mike. Together they move through the ups and downs of raising kids in this crazy world. She struggles through the trials and joys of raising children from the ages of toddler to 12. Kari received her degree at WKU and taught public middle school music and choir for seven years before opening her own business, Sound Beginnings Musikgarten & Vocal Studio. She lives and works in Bowling Green.

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