When all of this started several weeks ago, I kept hearing people say, “Find joy.” Absolutely. I’m on board. There’s joy in Dylan’s giggle when I tickle him, joy in the way that Rose chases him around so she can kiss his belly, joy in the beautiful roses blooming in the garden, and joy in the way the kids yell “Daddy” and run up to him for hugs when Jon comes out of the office to take a break from work.
Lately though, my joy meter has been running low. To be honest, I had been wanting to write about this topic for days now, but every time I sat down, I just wasn’t feeling joy. No joy in that moment and no joy for days prior.
It turns out I had hit another Covid-19 wall. Yep, full on at the beginning of week 8 my tank was EMPTY. Empty, like when the needle goes way past the “E,” and you’re running on nothing but fumes and praying you can make it to your destination.
I had become cranky, and honestly, tough to be around. Every toy on the floor, dirty dish, and request for glass of milk number 3,658 for the day was driving me up the wall. I was getting upset over little things that would typically never bother me, and my poor, sweet family was tip-toeing around me like I was Mt. St. Helens and could blow at any second.
We are thankfully healthy. We have a lovely roof over our heads and enough CostCo food to make it through the next ice age. We have toilet paper, paper towels, and the biggest bag of flour I’ve ever seen in my life! We are doing fine, more than fine, WE’RE DOING GREAT! But despite knowing that we’re doing great, I just didn’t “feel” great or joyful, I felt sad: sad for what’s going on in the world, sad that we can’t see our friends and family, and sad for the people who are struggling with much more real and much deeper pain, loss, and heartache right now.
To the mamas out there: I don’t know if you know this, mama, but you have more power and sway than you may realize you have over the emotional well-being of everyone under your roof. You are the lighthouse, the beacon, the canary in the coal mine. You set the tone for how this time is going to go and what your children are going to remember about it. No pressure, right? 🙂
I realized this back on Easter Sunday (which feels like ten years ago now) when in my head I had decided we were all going to get dressed up to eat a nice Easter dinner because that’s what we would do in a pre-Covid world. After spending a lovely day hunting for eggs, BBQing, and playing in the yard, getting into dress clothes was not high on anyone else’s priority list. So, I went back to my room, put on the Easter dress I would have worn, did my hair and makeup, and put on special jewelry. When I emerged, you would have thought my family had seen a ghost! Their jaws dropped! Rose absolutely lit up and ran towards me to give me a big hug. Jon was smiling ear-to-ear, and even Dylan, (you guys even the BABY looked at me with smiles in his eyes.) Everyone was immediately excited to get their dress clothes on, and we made a lovely night out of it. If I had given up, if I had just said, sure, let’s stay in pjs, none of those special memories ever would have happened. We even set up the camera and got a quarantine family photo! 🙂
So, while hitting that Covid-19 wall I had to stop and check myself. In a moment of clarity, I realized I’m not going to give up that easily. If I can’t just find the joy right now, then I’m damn sure going to fight for it! Because joy and happiness are worth fighting for. Because my children’s smiles and laughter are worth fighting for. Because my relationship with Jon is worth fighting for. I asked myself, “What was I doing?” Why was I allowing the feelings of overwhelm to creep in and affect my state of mind so dramatically?
So, I got up, forced a smile on my face, and Rose and I made Rice Krispies Treats. Full on ooey-gooey marshmellowy goodness from when I was a child. And we put sprinkles on top, lots and lots of sprinkles. I don’t know if you know this, but it’s impossible not to feel joy when your four-year-old tries their first bite of something you loved when you were their age. Her eyes were huge, and she said, “These are AMAZING!!!”
We have the power every day to fight for our family’s joy. And guess what? In this crazy, mixed-up world that is EXACTLY what we’re going to have to do. Joy is not just going to find us the way it might have in our normal lives. We have to will it into existence. We have to create the joyful environment. We have to do the fun things even when we don’t feel like it. That is fighting for joy, and that is going to look like something different every day.
Some days fighting for joy is about doing something extra-special with the kids like making a box fort, getting dressed up for a tea party, or going camping in the backyard.
Some days fighting for joy is about movie nights and popcorn (okay, lots of days look like this for us right now).
Some days fighting for joy is about creating an environment of fun, turning on a bubble machine and some music, and having an outdoor dance party.
Some days fighting for joy is about lifting up the family member who needs an extra boost, like when Rose was sad because she couldn’t go to the Jelly Belly Factory. We ate jelly beans anyway while playing with her Barbie dolls.
Some days fighting for joy is about breaking all the rules and doing what you need to do to stay sane. For example, Jon and I had to sign documents with a notary in the front yard to close on our refinance. Yes, a table in the FRONT YARD is where we do business now. And the kids each got not one, but TWO popsicles before 9:30 a.m. because that bought us a solid 30 minutes to take care of it.
Some days fighting for joy is even about putting everything else aside and TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES. When I realized how badly I had hit a wall, I knew I needed a break. So, when Dylan was napping, I set Rose up with her favorite show, sat next to her on the bed, turned on the lavender diffuser, drank a glass of wine at 2 p.m. and watched something I wanted to watch on my phone. (No Daniel Tiger, or Sesame Street, something totally and wonderfully adult and just for me.) We were both happy, and I had about an hour to just RELAX.
I’m not going to lie: I heard that nagging mom voice in my head, “You should be working with her on writing numbers right now or playing with her outside.” But you know what? We’ve done that, and we’ll do that again. And that day at THAT moment what she needed more than anything was for me to get centered again so I could show up for her and Dylan in the best way possible. I emerged from my “break day” like I had just spent a week at the spa. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I felt like I was back.
You have to arm yourself to fight for joy: a warrior wouldn’t go into battle without his or her weapons. You have to load up on the specific things your family needs during this time to help you get through it. Might I suggest a stack of construction paper, a bubble machine, a good quality portable speaker you can stream music to, and, of course, sprinkles… everything should be covered in sprinkles right now… 🙂
So, in these long days which can feel overwhelming, find ways to fight for joy. Your family needs you, mama.
Here are a few ideas that have helped me fight for joy:
-Putting sprinkles on everything (pancakes, Rice Krispies Treats, oatmeal, cereal) anything that needs a little extra boost of fun.
-Dressing the kids in their brightest colored, happiest clothes.
-Runing a diffuser in almost every room of the house. (p.s. It also helps the kids nap better.)
-Posting inspirational messages around the house. I have one next to the kitchen sink that says “Think Happy Be Happy” which is an excellent reminder to me several times a day.
-Making time every day for an afternoon treat for the kids. We’ve been doing popsicles and we all look forward to it. They’re excited for the popsicle, I’m excited for the break it gives me while they eat the popsicles. 🙂
-Taking a shower every day and putting on makeup. Even though I may be in yoga pants, I make sure to make time to do my makeup. This has made a huge difference in how I feel.
-Putting something in my Instacart order that I’m EXCITED to cook every week.
-Taking deep breaths when the kids are crying/fighting/screaming and I feel my anxiety rising.
-Scheduling regular Zoom calls with friends.
-Taking roses around to all of the neighbors on our street with a sweet note when our rose bushes bloomed.
-Wearing perfume every day, even though I’m not going anywhere.
-Giving myself grace and understanding that this is not a normal situation and I shouldn’t just have it all figured out.
-Getting dressed up for a fancy dinner once in a while.
-Not watching the news. It was affecting me too emotionally, and I wasn’t in a good headspace to take care of the kiddos. Now Jon watches it and gives me the highlights.
-Waking up early every morning and doing something for myself.
-Cutting roses and putting bouquets all around the house.
-Not giving a damn that I have 1,000 hampers of laundry to fold.
-Letting the kids just play.
-Running the bubble machine outside every day.
-Playing music all the time.
-Going on walks with the family.
-Taking the kids to the field to run around.
-Listening to inspiring podcasts.
-Buying a $15 kiddie pool from Target and splashing around in it with the kids.
-Doing arts and crafts with the gigundous stack of construction paper we bought when this whole thing started.
-Dancing – lots and lots…and lots of dance parties.
I hope these ideas help you keep your gorgeous chin up and fight for joy!
Until next time,
Keep raising extraordinary kids,