As a young mom, I thought I could do it all. In fact, I thought I was supposed to do it all, and be a boss at it. I love kids and have always worked with kids, but once it turned into a 24 hours a day/7 days a week gig, my perspective began to change. I could handle a whole classroom full of kids; surely I’d be able to handle a few kids of my own. I started out with one, as most do, but three more joined the ranks in what feels like a relatively short amount of time.
The problem for me wasn’t that I had four kids to raise. It was that I offered to volunteer to run the Children’s Ministry at my church, worked part-time and then some for a local CSA, and home-schooled my kids. You could say that my plate was full, and that doesn’t even include being a good wife and the best mom too, which is a never ending constant. If you’ve read some of my posts about my mom, you’ll know she wasn’t very present. (Click here for more My Glass Castle) This was a major driver for me to be the best mom – even if that meant in unhealthy ways.
Saying yes had become kind of like an addiction. If you haven’t guessed yet, I loved being needed, and boy was I ever needed. As moms, sometimes we find our validation in how much others need us, and let me tell you – that is a recipe for burn out and disappointment for sure!
During this time, my husband got a new job that required quite a bit of travel. I got a real taste of what it is like being a single parent. I absolutely do not understand completely, but it is hard! You single parents have my utmost respect.
So let’s see here… I was juggling working, volunteering, homeschooling, and parenting alone way more often than I was used to. Want to guess how long I was able to keep that up? I tried my darnedest until I found out I was pregnant with number five. Then it all kind of came crashing down. I tried removing things one by one as the joy was being sucked out of me. The first thing to go was volunteering. It was taking the hardest toll on my family. Sunday was our only family day and I was stressed out most of the day, which led to me not being very fun to be around at all. Getting a text early on Sunday morning that one or more of my volunteers couldn’t make it could set the whole day on a downward spiral.
Next to go was working for the CSA that I loved so dearly. It was hard physical labor, and even though I loved it so much, I didn’t think it was safe to continue at seven or eight months pregnant. That was a hard one to let go of because of the relationships that were built there with staff as well as the many customers I loved.
Everyone told me, “You already have four; what’s one more?” While I wanted to believe that would be the case, let me tell you the truth. Five broke me. Going from four to five was one of the hardest transitions I’ve made. I will say I did the whole “three kids, three and under” thing, and that was difficult too, but in a much different way – specifically in the “there’s two less kids” kind of way.
Avi Justice was born two days before Thanksgiving. His birth was amazing, which maybe I’ll share sometime in the future, but time didn’t stop for him, or for us. Thanksgiving couldn’t and wouldn’t be missed; it’s my favorite! Then came birthdays and Christmas and New Years and more birthdays! At our house we celebrate four birthdays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, not to mention the actual holidays. It gets pretty crazy around here. By January, I was spent with all the fast-paced living of the holidays, hosting family from out of town, and, well, adjusting to life with five kids, one of whom needed me pretty much every second of every day.
Each year, during the second week of January, the company my husband worked for at the time would take him away for a week, usually to some exotic location, for work. I’m not going to sugarcoat this – that’s pretty much when the shit hit the fan. Sometimes we have to hit the bottom before we look for a hand to pull us up. I thought I was doing okay. I mean, I know I wasn’t thriving, but surely since I’m supposed to be able to “do it all”, I’ll get through this and be fine… right?!
Sometimes we have to hit the bottom before we look for a hand to pull us up.
Nope. It was during that week of Justin being gone and me alone with five kids, one of whom was barely two months old, that I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. Family is the most important thing to me, and I knew our connection was suffering hugely. It was finally then and there I said, “Okay, God. I need help. I cannot do this on my own anymore.” That’s it. It wasn’t a long eloquent prayer, because Lord knows I didn’t have that in me! It was a desperate plea that let God know I was tired of trying and struggling because of pride and the idea that I should be able to do it all and do it well!
It was that moment of surrender that changed everything. I had to finally admit that I needed help. God was there the whole time, waiting for me to ask. He immediately gave me peace and whispered the name of someone I should get in touch with.
I love sharing this part of the story. After discussing my needs with Justin, we decided to rework our budget to include help for the kids. He asked me if I had anyone in mind, and even though I mentioned I was considering a handful of people, I really only had one. I was really hoping to avoid having to go through a whole interview process, so I sent Katie Harmon a message to let her know what we were looking for. Katie had never watched our kids before, but I had heard good things about her and trusted God when he so sweetly passed along her name. She wrote back pretty quickly: “Actually, I just turned down a promotion at my job because I felt like God wanted me to be a nanny. So, yes, I am interested.” God is so kind, in that He never forces His help, but was already orchestrating this before I finally gave in and asked Him. We met that week, and it was literally a match made in heaven.
Honestly, I was still having a few doubts after we came to an agreement on hours and compensation. At church on Sunday morning, I told God, “I feel like maybe this is too much. I should be able to do this myself, and can we really afford it?” After the service ended, my lovely friend Roberta called me over. She said, “Jess, I have a check for you. God has told me over the last few weeks to give this to you, and now I finally have the opportunity.” Guess how much the check was for? The exact amount we agreed to pay Katie per week. She had no idea! What a perfect timing of God’s provision. I wanted to include the part about my friend because that was also the last time I saw her. She ended up getting very sick within the next weeks and passed away. I feel so thankful that God used her to show me His love and faithfulness and will always be thankful for her friendship.
If you can’t tell by now, Katie has been such a Godsend. She balances me perfectly and is more patient with my kids than I probably ever will be. Katie listens to me endlessly verbal process without judgement, and we teamwork the best strategies of tackling what needs doing each day. Katie has certainly become a best friend-turned-family. We have absorbed Katie, her husband Cole, and, more recently, their baby Ember into our family and couldn’t be more thankful for them! In my stubbornness, I could have missed this rich relationship God had in store.
What are you struggling through that you could use help with? I challenge you to seek God and accept the help He has been orchestrating for you. It might not look like my story, but I know He has something for you, and it is something good.