The start of this year brought with it our 4th child. In my five years as a stay-at-home-mom, this is the most demanding phase of my motherhood (yet, strangely, not personally the hardest emotionally – but that’s another story). I’ve come face to face with a new level of constant need. The demands persist day and night. Someone needs something at virtually every waking moment (and lots of sleeping ones too). Most days I wake to a baby’s insistence and fall asleep in similar fashion with possibly no time during the day in which I’ve been alone with my thoughts.
I can easily hop onto a tired, negative, no-good, very-bad train of thought. Certain that my precious children are in cahoots to never sleep and instead elicit all the discipline and diapers mom can dole out. I can be quick with a woe is me sentiment and slow to check those thoughts. And in the midst of it, I’m positive that this moment is never. going. to. end. I will be right here – juggling two teething babies, navigating the emotional mine-field of negotiating with a three-year-old, and insisting the five year old stops climbing on the refrigerator – forever.
Recently, I came across the twenty-minute rule and found it incredibly helpful in putting those never-ending moments into perspective.
As the mother of now 6 young children (including a set of twins), Rachel Jankovic said:
“If things started seeming really out of control, I would look at the clock and note the time. Then I would tell myself that in twenty minutes this would all be over. If I just kept my head down and did the work, twenty minutes was all I needed…And that moment. What was it? A moment. It passes. But when it passes you will be very glad if all you did was work right through it. No self-pity, no-tears, no getting worked into a dither. Look at the clock, look at the work you need to do, and bear down. That super intensity will almost always be over in twenty minutes.” Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches, 43-44.
Stop. Breathe. Collect my thoughts. Come up with a plan. And get the job done. It is amazing how much I can accomplish in 5, 10, let alone TWENTY whole minutes when I am consciously using them and consciously overcoming that first minute of utter distress.
Now, to be honest, I’m still hit and miss with this rule. When I’m exhausted, the kids are cranky, and everyone needs something at the same time, it is challenging to not to just give in and throw my hands up (and call my husband in tears). But as Jankovic writes, “I’m still frequently in over my head…but deciding not to wallow in that fact has removed one of the biggest obstacles to my work – my own calculations of how hard the job is” (42).
It’s not that it’s not unceasingly demanding, rather when chaos swirls, I can move forward with the work at hand with confidence the moment will indeed end. And as soon as I move through the challenge, I can get back to enjoying these blessings entrusted to my care.
I just need to give it twenty minutes.