When the kids are bickering with each other non-stop from the second they step into the van, it can get really irritating.
When the house still looks messy, even though you pushed through your sleep-deprivation, and did chores anyway, it's really frustrating.
When your child tries to "help" but wrecks the laundry you just spent hours folding, it's the worst.
Sometimes the sacrifices in motherhood are just too hard. It's not really one thing in particular, but the thousands of little irritations adding up over time that can lead a mama's soul to a gloomy place.
The mental fogginess, the isolation, the lack of feeling accomplished, the never ending "to do" list that runs through your mind, the giving until exhaustion.
Sometimes it's motherhood itself that just sucks the joy out of motherhood. It's a reality, moms can get in a funk.
Since I am literally an expert at falling into the funk, I know exactly how it happens. But even better. I know the real secret to getting out.
Take Care of Your Own Heart
I always thought that being a virtuous wife and mom meant to keep giving and giving to everyone in my family and putting myself last. At the end of the day, I felt like the Giving Tree, just a stump of a person (and yes, my kids still sat on top of me regardless.) I mean, that's what "love" does.
Except, it's not.
Would you ever give someone a burnt-out candle for a gift? No. You buy a new one that looks and feels beautiful and gives off an aroma that fills the whole house with good vibes.
Before I was a mom, I used to take good care of myself, and fill my day with fun things that I loved to do. My light and happy mood was inspiring and attractive. And then....I had kids!
Attending to all my kids' needs was overwhelming and rarely did I do anything nice for myself. People would talk about self-care as getting good rest and exercise, and I'm like, seriously? That's completely impossible as a mom with lots of littles. So I completely gave up trying.
Honestly, I was happy if my kids would let me eat my breakfast in peace without pining after the food on my plate, even though I gave them the exact same thing!
But then I learned that true self-care means caring for your EMOTIONAL life. It means doing things you love to do that make you FEEL really good.
It's only when I started putting a little time into doing things I personally love to do that really lifted my spirits. I started feeling, joyful, happy, and fun. It felt great!
And it turns out that everyone in my family just loves it when I'm smiling and happy instead of feeling cranky, irritable, and dreary all the time. (Imagine that!)
It's vital to take good care of your own heart first, because your heart is what your husband fell madly in love with. So it follows that if you want a great marriage, you have to take good care of your heart.
Your Distinctly Feminine Need for Tenderness
Sometimes love doesn't live by sacrifice. Sometimes you need to take care of your own emotional life first. At least, that's what John Paul II thought: "If a woman wants to give peace, she must first cultivate peace within herself." Yup. He pretty much nailed it.
Because JP II is such a careful thinker, he values the role of the emotions in marriage. He's not like many Christian writers who respond to the divorce crisis by saying, "Love is not a feeling; it's an act of the will" as if it's normal to say, "Here's your breakfast honey, but I feel nothing towards you."
Of course it's true that love is an act of the will, but we're not sheer emotionless beings either. JP II rightly recognized that "emotional experiences also have a rhythm of their own: they serve to create those positive moods in which a feeling of closeness to the beloved, or spontaneous understanding can flourish."
So it turns out that giving YOURSELF a little more self-love goes a long way to inspiring that sweet affection and bonding with your man.
In fact, JP II goes on to say that one of the reasons why women have a special need for tenderness is because our emotional life is much "richer" than men's.
So the first step to getting the tenderness you crave in your marriage is to treat yourself tenderly. What do you LOVE to do? (When was the last time you even asked yourself this question?) Put time into that.
More Self-Sacrifice? Or More Self-Love?
Some Christian counselors argue that the main reason marriages fail is that spouses are "addicted to their own comfort." I cannot even begin to tell you how grossly out of touch that is with the reality of a mom's life.
Comfort? What IS that? As if moms are just sitting around drinking mimosas and ignoring everyone's needs. No. Quite the contrary.
Moms are often are OVER-GIVING and then they feel tired and resentful. Too much comfort, eh? That's like telling an anorexic that she needs to go on a diet.
The truth is, as a mom, you likely need WAY more comfort in your life than you're likely giving yourself. Moms are so busy caring for everyone else, that they often neglect to take care of their own hearts, and then their marriages suffer.
When your man sees that you are happy and smiling, he's MUCH more likely to pile on the physical affection because he sees that you're pleas-able and inviting.
When you are flustered, angry, and stressed out all the time, your man's interior radar goes off: "Danger, danger! She's likely going to attack and blame me" and he withdraws.
So the key to banishing burn-out and revving up the romance is to INCREASE your own personal comforts. Go ahead. Get addicted to giving yourself MORE comfort. Boost your positive vibes. No more burnt-out candle. Because I can tell you one thing...
Your man would just LOVE to see you SMILE.
Three Ways Which Self-Care Saves Your Marriage
There are three reasons why it's vital that you take care of your emotional life, by doing things you love.
1. Proper self-care prevents needless drama. If I'm honest with myself, I know that nearly every time I started an argument with my husband or accused him of not meeting my needs, I was in a state where I was seriously deprived of adequate self-care (esp. sleep!).
So my "here's why I'm upset with you" speech was often the result of feeling like a drowning person. I just grabbed onto whoever happened to be closest (hubby), and pulled him down. It wasn't malicious, just a survival thing. But drowning is drowning no matter who intended what.
The truth is, I'm far more likely to initiate needless drama when I'm feeling down. It's easily preventable and adding more fun gets you out of the funk!
2. My positive mood creates spontaneous bonding! When I fill up on doing things I love, something amazing automatically happens in my marriage. My mood sets the right climate for bonding and emotional intimacy. (Not surprisingly, emotional intimacy follows from cultivating positive emotions. Tell that to the "love is not a feeling" people.)
Seeing my smile invites my husband to give me even more tender love. So taking good care of my own emotional life very naturally arouses his attractive masculine response.
Tending to my OWN comfort makes us BOTH very happy. The sweetness of my femininity arouses and attracts his masculinity. How's that for complementarity! Have you ever heard a marriage talk on that? ("Ladies, did you do what you love today?") Never!
3. Sans-self care, I'm totally unpleasable. When I'm running on empty, I hardly ever notice anything my husband does for me, much less thank him for it because I'm just drowning in depletion.
JP II recognizes the unique situation of moms. He says, "when a woman gives herself to a man, she goes through such difficult experiences such as pregnancy, childbirth, and all that goes with them."
All of a sudden that child for whom I literally spilled pints of my blood irritates me non-stop and I'm getting dragged into the depleted zone. No bueno. If I don't tend to my own heart first, all my relationships suffer.
Happy moms aren't martyrs, nor are they super-women. They know when to say no, and find their peace in knowing that the peace of their households depends on preserving their own interior peace. Even JP II thinks so.
So go ahead. Give yourself a little more love today, mama! Guard the softness and beauty of your precious feminine heart.
You'll FEEL great and trust me, your husband will thank you. ;)