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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

For the Mom Just Hanging On this Holiday Season

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I might be nearly delirious after a few weeks of single parenting, sleep deprivation, toddler torture and binge eating gingersnaps, but I'm sitting down to remind myself of the most important thing this Christmas (and the rest of the year):

We don't have to win at motherhood. We just have to show up.

A few weeks after my first daughter was born, one of my good friends looked straight through the bleary-blustery-new-mom-bravado and said firmly, "You will feel like yourself again. It doesn't feel like it now, but you will."

Through the identity shift called motherhood, I clung to that lifeline of a statement until I came to terms with mom life. I embraced it and even birthed another little person.

But this holiday season, with a toddler wearing down my boundaries, a newly-1-year-old scoffing at sleep books (and any and all weaning attempts) and a heart recovering from the trauma, guilt and aftermath of postpartum anxiety, I'm bone tired. I'm pudgy. I'm discouraged. And my confidence, in parenting and otherwise, is at an all-time low.

A little voice inside me keeps whispering, "This isn't FUN. You're not fun. You're not doing it right. You're not good at this. Your kids are missing out."

I'm not a very fun mom lately. There's been less cookie-making and dance parties and more peanut butter and jelly than lunch has ever seen. When the kids don't nap, the desperation escalating would make you think it's a hostage situation instead of 3 p.m. on a Tuesday. In the tantrums and the teething, the fevers and the feeding, in the isolation of being home alone, echoed by the sparkling lights and merriment of social media, my joy seeps away. Somewhere between the diapers and the snacks, the laundry and the meltdowns, my world feels very small and I feel very alone.

But we don't have to win at motherhood. We just have to show up.

It's not about winning at motherhood or the holidays. The kids finally settle and in the brief lull of evening silence, I hear another voice saying "Peace, be still." and the whipping winds of anxiety quiet to a cool slow breeze.

I remember that this motherhood business is not about failing at all. It's not about what I get done. It's not about the balance of duties or the job labels. It's mostly not about ME at all.

It's about waking up every morning with my hands open to the one who came down small as the greatest present at Christmas time. He calls me His precious child. It's showing up with all my weakness and watching Him gently retrieve my value from the sticky grip of my 3-year-old.

To show up and claim the promise that He is strong when we are weak. To claim it when we can't see it, can't feel it and can barely believe it. To show up until we feel like showing up again. Whether that means reaching out and asking for help from the people around us, or looking at the next hour of patience as a victory, or going to the doctor or counselor and getting the right diagnosis and assistance, that's showing up.

This Christmas, our kids don't need a Pinterest wreath or a Hatchimal, they need a mom who shows up. Your presence is truly the present, Mama.

So if you're reading this and you're nodding, I see you, friend. I see the fear that you are failing and the exhaustion and the difficulty in things that shouldn't seem hard. I'm looking you straight in your tired puffy eyes and I need you to hear this:

Buy the cookies at the store. Squeeze those kids tight and listen up.

"You will feel like yourself again. It doesn't feel like it now, but you will."

And until then, grab my hand and we'll keep showing up.

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