Wednesday, June 24, 2009

finding joy & sanity in motherhood

It seems to be a recurring theme: frustrated mothers because of the demands mothering brings. This doesn't mean that we don't love what we do. Motherhood is one of - if not the most - fulfilling calling/task/accomplishment we could ever partake of. Yet, it is extremely difficult, demanding, and emotion-draining - more than any of us ever thought possible! (FYI: Researchers have determined that stay-at-home moms work the equivalent of 4 full-time jobs and if in the work force would make over $150,000 a year.) Mothering requires being selfless all the time, and yet, we also need to find time to refill our cups in order to keep giving of ourselves. Consequently, we are in a constant tug-of-war between the giving that is always required of us, the want and need for "me time" (and the guilt that accompanies it). In sharing my thoughts, I don't wish to be self-righteous or condescending. I simply wish to share what I have learned in the hopes that one or some may benefit.

Father's Counsel
During our visit to Arizona in April, I approached my dad with what I knew was a loaded question. But, I had no idea the can of worms I was opening! I've been struggling a great deal with Laci behaviorally. Suspecting that she has ADD, I've wondered, where do I draw the line? How do I discipline a child who literally can't control her actions? She's incredibly impulsive. Her desires and intentions are good, but her ability to follow through in those desires is challenged by this disorder. How can I hold her to the same standard as a child that doesn't have that challenge? In trying to find these answers on my own, I ended up feeling helpless and confused.

Naturally, I turned to someone with more wisdom and experience than myself, my Dad. What he had to say was extremely difficult to hear! (It almost made me wonder how much he'd been bottling this up.) I have shed many tears over what he told me, which was essentially this: I am too selfish. My children don't know that they come first. I expect too much from Jason. My job is to be primary care-taker. I should have zero expectations from Jason in that department. His plate is full enough already as provider. This means that regardless of how tired and fatigued I am, my family must come first, and I must continue to give. I need to follow my mom's example of service - taking meals to families in the ward, doing laundry for a sister who just had surgery, driving people to appointments who don't have a car - basically, serve those around me, whatever, whenever, and wherever it is needed (and she does just that while raising 10 kids!).

Talk about a self-esteem downer! So, this is what my dad thinks of me? How could he be so judgemental? Yep, I left that conversation feeling pretty down on myself. I could argue with my dad and tell him why he was wrong. And, I had plenty to say! But, Dad, you don't get it! You've never been a mother. You just can't relate. Laci's activity level and Jacob's constant needing me leaves me so drained and depleted by the end of the day that I desperately need reinforcements when Jason comes home. Mom has been able to serve to that capacity because 1) she has the capacity of 10 people, and 2) your income has allowed her make extra meals and use extra water for laundry and gas in the car, and wherever else she is serving. She hasn't stood at the fridge or pantry with kids clinging at her legs because they are hungry and literally had nothing to give them! I have. How dare you tell me that I am selfish! I have been merely surviving from day to day: getting up, existing, and going to bed to start it all over again. Or I could shut up and listen, take it like an adult and make some changes. I couldn't turn back now. I had gone to him with a sincere desire for sound counsel, and he gave it to me. And, frankly, I could tell it was really hard for him to say.

Plan of Action
7 notecards. A new schedule for each day. Example 1, Monday:

5:00 Exercise
6:00 Family Scriptures, Chores - make beds, straighten rooms
6:30 Start making breakfast - put on classical/church music
7:00 Breakfast - pancakes
7:30 Kitchen clean up - dishes, counters/table, sweep, dress for the day
8:00 Cartoons, Mom's chores
- dust and vacuum upstairs (master, kids' rm, office, playroom)
- laundry (whites, bedding, Jason's work clothes)
- ironing (Jason & Jacob's white Sunday shirts)
9:00 Preschool
9-9:15 Seminary (similar to FHE lesson)
9:15-9:30 Letters (recognize)
9:30-9:45 Music (primary or fun)
9:45-10 Cooking (FHE treat)
10:00 Play Outside
10:30 Start making lunch
11:00 Lunch - mac n cheese
12:00 Craft: write letters to family members (Grandma & Grandad, etc.)
1:00 Stories & Quiet Time/ My personal scripture time
Fold clothes & ironing
If time, scrapbook, paint nails, watch TV
3:30 Play outside
4:30 Clean up time - playroom and bedrooms
Start making dinner
5:30 Dinner (look at menu plan for week)
6:00 Kitchen clean up - dishes, counters/table, sweep
6:30 FHE
7:00 Kids' baths, stories & bed
7:30 My shower, get ready for bed
8:00 Companion Study
8:30 Read 10 pages (book by general authority)
9:00 Bed/ Watch TV

Now, this may seem really excessive. I have one for every day. Each day changes a little bit, and we do have one day where we segway completely away from the daily routine for a play date, grocery shopping, and gymnastics. All my errands are packed into one day because Jason and I share a car.

I did this for two reasons: 1) it really does keep my sanity. I'm used to being crazy-busy, every hour and minute of the day allotted to something. So, this takes the guesswork out of finding things for the kids - and myself - to do throughout the day. 2) after getting Laci tested at the school district for ADD, they told me they can't diagnose but that her test scores indicate that she has ADHD. This was no surprise, but the news came about 2 weeks after I found out that I was pregnant with baby #3. Considering all the behavioral issues I was having with Laci, the thought of adding an infant to the mix (and Jacob was just starting to become more independent), was tremendously overwhelming. I cried as I asked these specialists what I could do to help her. I felt like I couldn't control her anymore, and discipline was becoming a nightmare because she could live the entire day in her room. They said, routine, routine, routine. All kids need a general routine, but ADD/ADHD kids need to know by the second what their day holds, and it needs to be switched up often enough that they don't get bored and start getting into trouble.

Also, I chose to do a preschool - just for Laci (Jacob will be there, too) - because, financially, it came down to enrolling her in a local preschool or gymnastics. After speaking to a preschool teacher about the curriculum, I thought, I could easily teach her myself and she could still get the socialization that preschool would bring through gymnastics. They mainly learn shapes, letter & number recognition, colors, so basic! I did not want to include other kids and make a business out of it because of the behavioral issues I've been having with Laci. I didn't want her to feel like she had to compete with the other kids. So, one of my summer projects is to gather materials for doing preschool in the fall. I've been doing a little everyday anyway with things I have on-hand. But, I want to create an outline for each month and have folders for each subject we'll be covering...less planning later!

Simplify and Simplicity
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this past year has been beyond difficult. We reached the bottom...emotionally, financially, in our marriage...we hit rock bottom. Moving to Utah was a huge act of faith, and staying in Utah has also taken a great deal of faith. Yes, it's where we found employment, but it's taken almost a full year to recover financially. I think we naively thought within 3-4 months, we'd be back on our feet. But, one doesn't recover from rock bottom overnight or even within a few months.

On the other hand, it has been the greatest blessing. Hitting the bottom meant that we could only go up from where we've been. It meant a fresh start. It meant rebuilding. It meant that we had to rebuild with very little. So, I took a few of my favorite scriptures and have used them as a base for rebuilding our family and home:

1) Organize yourselves...every needful thing...a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God (D&C 119:110).

On this point, I wish to share one short story - and I apologize, I know this post is very long already! When Grandad Farnsworth was in the temple presidency of the Mesa Arizona Temple, he gave us an in-depth tour of the temple. When the Lord commands us to build a house of order, He means just that. When we went to the basement, the floors in each room were painted a different color so that when directed, no one ever questioned where something was to be placed. Even the pipes were painted different colors so that when maintenance was needed for plumbing or gas, etc., there was never a question of which pipe to go to. It taught me a great lesson about order. The Lord is not the author of confusion, and if our house is in order, there will never arise an occasion of confusion.

2) ...stand ye in holy places (D&C 87:8).

3) A place where the Lord may come, [the temple] is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth. Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness (Bible Dictionary: Temple).

4) Other readings:
The Ministry of Angels, Jeffrey R. Holland, November 2008 Ensign
Daughters of God, M. Russell Ballard
A Mother's Influence, Margaret D. Nadauld
Raising Up a Family to the Lord, Gene R. Cook

We live in a world of choices. As Latter-day Saints, these choices aren't necessarily between good and bad, but good, better, best. I want my home to be a holy place, a sacred place, a refuge from the world. I want it to be a place where the Lord and ministering angels can come.

As mothers, we have been given that amazing opportunity and sacred responsibility.


Candie said...

Tiffini, you are amazing! I see a lot of your mother coming out in you. I can find strength in your example and I have much room to grow myself! Thanks for sharing such a intimate lesson with everyone!!!

Audrey said...

I really liked this post. It evoked a lot of emotions in me. When I read about how your dad spoke to you--I got a bit upset for you! It is hard for a man to understand what it means to be a woman--they never will. However, like you said, you had two options as to how to take that advice and I think you chose a very mature approach. I do hope that you do realize that I have to vary from your dad's counsel if he did indeed call you selfish. I know you decently well and I've never found that quality in your personality. Perhaps he perceived something you were doing as selfish, but I doubt that on the whole he sees you as a selfish personality. There are other things he said that I may not completely agree with either, but it was counsel for you and if you felt inspired by it, then it must've hit its mark.
One word of advice I would offer about your daily schedules is to make sure you don't beat yourself up if you can't stick to it exactly. As you very well know, the best laid plans are often interrupted by real life problems--dirty diapers that go too far, cuts and bruises, scissors left unattended, a phone call from a friend in need, etc. Schedules are extremely important and I am a big follower of them, but you can't give up because you don't accomplish everything on your list every day.
And, since I'm making this comment as long as you've probably ever seen, I have some pre-school outlines on my home computer that were given to me by Danielle Dickson when she ran her preschool from her house. If you're interested, I'll email them to you. Just let me know.
And, how's your playgroup working out? In the ASU ward, me and three other moms did a once a week preschool where we alternated being the teacher and it was great fun. I could give you more details on that too if you want to know.
Tiffini, you're a wonderful woman with incredible talents. I admire your strength and determination. I value you as a very special friend and I wish I could help you feel good about yourself and know you're special. You are WONDERFUL!

Crystal Eldredge said...


I just have to add my 2 cents! I got tired when I read your list of demands that you set for yourself. Your babies will only be babies for a little while. Hold them, love on them, laugh with them and don't beat your self up if you can't do everything on your to do list. You will always have dirty dishes, laundry and a to do list. You only have these kids for a little while before they get big! Put your family first then the rest will fall into place. The Lord does not require you to be perfect. He just requires you do your best. You are doing a great job!
The day my Son passed away my house was in perfect order not one room was out of place. In the end is that what really matters to me? NO I wish I had spent those many hours just being with my baby and not worrying about the ceiling fan dust! I feel that when you hear the scripture a house of order. I feel that the Lord means that your home needs to be spiritually in order. I brought a meal into a sister today that just had a baby. She apologized over and over because she had dishes in the sink and toys on the floor. I said "HOW DARE YOU JUST SIT AND LOVE ON THAT NEW BABY"! She laughed and said your right this baby and these kids are that really matter right know! I am not saying to let just let your house go down the tubes but let the small things go. I am so sorry to ramble and offer
unwanted advice.

Lincoln said...

Hi Jason and Tiffini, this is Lincoln Sarager. I'm glad I found your post. It's nice to see what is going on in your lives. Check out my family blog at

debrajo said...

Hey, Tiffini! That was a really long post, but I read it all b/c I know you wrote it for people like me : ). A few years ago one of my closest friends told me I was a very selfish person. That's a hard thing to respond to, because it's like the humility thing...if you think you're humble, you're not, you know? So if I thought I wasn't selfish, then I really was selfish, right? Anyway, it's good for all of us to be told that at one time or another, because maybe you'll remember it on one of those days when you need to stop in your tracks before you do or say something (or choose not to do something) that would constitute as a selfish action....

Anyway, I like your schedule idea. I'm going to make a weekly routine...I think it'll save my bacon w/staying home. : ) I may not be as detailed as you are, but a weekly routine is as important as a daily routine for sanity.

Hang in there, Tiff. You are awesome. Luv ya!

Lara said...

I'm very behind on blog reading, and I'm glad I didn't miss this one!

So much to say about it...

First of all, regarding the selfish thing. I have realized that as much as I do to serve my family, I am still very selfish with my time and am not willing to do all I really should be doing. It is really hard, especially when we have so many distractions in our lives, to give attention where it is really needed and it is something I definitely struggle with. However, it is good to fill your own vessel so you have more to give, but it is also difficult to know where to draw the line.

I read Crystal's comment and it gave me pause. She's right. I think we try to hard for perfection in our lives, and maybe that is selfish. We really should just be giving the quality time to our children first and not worrying about many of the other things we worry about.

Regarding Laci's ADD, as someone who has ADD myself and I'm pretty sure that Bria does, too. I feel for you. I know I drove my very organized mother nuts, and I still do sometimes! It is very difficult for her to understand the way I have to approach life. The best thing you can do for Laci is to teach her how to stick with a job. Stay with her and help her, and eventually, she'll get it down. Bria is 8 and she is just now starting to really complete things well. (heck, I'm almost 35 and I still have problems with that!) I don't think we have the Hyperactivity part to deal with, so I don't know. Just do all you can to read up on things and possibly change her diet. I do a lot better when I am not eating sugar or certain other foods, and so does Bria. It is all related.

You're an awesome mother! You are very inspirational to many people. Keep up the good work and don't be discouraged. We all relate 100%.

The Coons Family said...

Hi Tiff, This is Aunt Linda, Erica showed me your post because she was quite taken back concerning the advise that your dad(my brother) gave you....I just want you to know that what he said is a big "load of crock"....yes you are the the primary care-giver and Jason's primary responsibility is to provide for his family but neither justifies him to not help with his children!!!! I know you have read the Family Proclamation before, I urge you to read it again....particularly the 6th and
7th lays out our Heavenly Father's plan and design for the family unit....toward the end of the 7th paragraph it talks about the responsibilities of both father and mother but then goes on further.....In these sacred responsibiites, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal for you to help Jason as an equal partner in providing for your family is to be frugal in your budget and to not put too many monitary demands on him, and for him to help you in providing care for HIS children is to help care and play with them.....and you are NOT being selfish at all just because you may need help or even a break once in a while.....Jason gets to work, fulfill any of his church calling responsibilities, attend all and any mtgs - church or work without having the pressure of making sure his little people are taken care on the other hand do not have that luxury....yes you are the mother and are the primary care-giver, which means you are on call 24/7....but that doesn't and shouldn't take the place of Jason caring and playing with his children....he needs to develop a "dad" relationship with them.....anyone can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a dad.....I have never known you to be selfish in any way....and wanting or needing help from the father of your children doesn not imply that in any way.....I am sorry that you have shed many tears because of the WRONG counsel that your dad gave you....I do think it is a good idea to have a schedule...not only for you, but for your children....but please don't put extra pressure on you in trying to keep to it...and if you are not able to complete everything on your's ok....I never thought I would get out of the diapers, bottles, naps, etc scene, but believe me it goes faster than what you can even imagine....enjoy your babies, play with them, love them.....don't get me wrong - I love your dad(my brother) but he was too quick to judge and speak.

The Coons Family said...

Hey Tiff, I completely agree with my mom. I was so blown away at the counsel your dad gave you I couldn't even put into words how to comment my feelings. However, she said it perfectly. We are equals! I would not have the relationship I do with my dad if all he was in my life was "the money" to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. While GREATLY appreciated how hard he's always worked, I know my dad has always showed a great example by coming home, taking some time for himself (30 mins), then helping my mom with dinner and jumping in with whatever we as kids needed... homework, dad-time, etc. My husband too! He took on extra responsibility at work as a Emergency Response Mgr to bring in more money. This takes him out sometimes all hours of the night, especially during monsoons. If this is the case I try to be sensitive to his needs. However, if he can see I'm exhausted from lack of sleep or whatever he will take over so I can rest too. I hope this helps. I'm sorry to ramble on I just know this was strong in my heart for you to hear.


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