I’ve spent the last 7+ years figuring out this stay-at-home mom thing, and due to personalities and depression, a lot of that has been just under our little roof. I always wanted to be a mother. And a stay-at-home mom seemed like the epitome of motherhood to me, but I soon discovered that just being with my kids didn’t really scratch the surface of motherhood or of who I intended to be. In the last 3 years I’ve made some incredible changes that have entirely changed my motherhood and my joy. I’ve been thinking about how much we will all be with our kids this winter, and I thought my experience of the last few years might help some other moms who are anxious about the upcoming winter and the stay-at-home advice and orders we may be faced with. Or maybe our own anxiety won’t let us go out no matter what. I’ve collected some ideas to help us all. Here’s how moms can promote mental health and avoid boredom this winter.
*Let it be known that I have never been diagnosed with Depression by a health professional. My experience with depression has not been so severe. If your depression interferes with your ability to live your life normally please seek the help of medical professionals.*
Four years into my motherhood, a light came into my life and I felt true joy. Over the next few months the light increased, and I discovered a joy and a fulfillment in motherhood which I had never known. It was like taking off sunglasses or putting down an umbrella and I was finally seeing our family in a Godly light.
Rewind . . . my oldest was born at 34 weeks in the wintertime. The NICU nurses (bless them) had me completely terrified of taking him outside or to any social situation. The only visitors we had were family members, all of whom lived 1.5 hours away. My husband was a busy student, and I had taken a semester off. Suddenly my days were full of nothing but baby.
While I wouldn’t take back that time, I also have some advice for my younger self. It was hard. And I didn’t realize until four years later that the HARD, didn’t have to be like that. There were definitely some bright spots in those four years, months of bright spots even, but I made so many choices that made it hard for that happiness to last. So much of my joy was blocked by fear and misconception. I hope that by sharing it with you, you can find your way to the absolute joy that parenting can be.
Here’s what I would tell myself during that first winter of motherhood, when I was at home all day, everyday with only a baby for company–a pretty similar situation to a COVID-19 winter.
Prayer at All Times
I would tell myself and every other winter pandemic mother that in order to promote mental health and avoid boredom you need to pray daily. Please, please, take the time to pray daily. Multiple times a day, whenever you feel distance between who you are and who you want to be. Cry out to the Lord. He will help you. And with Him, all things are possible.
In quoting the Lord’s prayer, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “This focused, beautiful prayer, repeated often throughout Christianity, makes it clear that it is appropriate to directly petition “Our Father which art in heaven” for answers to what is troubling us. Therefore, let us pray for divine guidance” (Watch Ye Therefore, and Pray Always).
Prayer has been my lifeblood through years of discovering my purpose as a mother. Through prayer I have been able to connect with my Heavenly Parents, Savior, and the Holy Ghost. Only through recognizing their guidance have I been able to find the joy that I have now.
If you gain anything from this post, please let it be this one thing: we cannot do this without the Lord. No matter what else we learn from other sources, if we do not ask God, we will not receive the help of our Savior, the only ONE who truly, honestly, incredibly, knows exactly how you feel and what you are facing. I always make a point to ask God first, and He has never led me astray.
One Step at a Time
I would say to myself and other pandemic moms that in order to promote mental health and avoid boredom you need to act. Forward progress is the beginning of happiness. Take little steps in the right direction and don’t worry if you don’t know where it leads.
The Lord said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). He wants to help us, but we have got to take those first steps. We cannot dwell in our darkness, we must step toward His light.
Even though He will help us, I’ve realized that in our limited capacities, he will not do all things FOR us. Though He can do all things, He helps us one step at a time. I have experienced a vast change in my motherhood, but it has come in the course of many little changes.
A few months before I felt the light come into my motherhood, I felt innumerable promptings from the Spirit to be grateful. I couldn’t see how gratitude would help me in my circumstances, but I did my best to practice it. And I truly believe gratitude is a first step toward happiness.
When I was stressed about how I would have time to homeschool my kids and take care of a new baby, I felt inspired to improve my meal planning and nutrition. It wasn’t what I wanted to focus on at the time when I wanted to find a curriculum and make a schedule, but it was exactly what our family needed to run smoothly.
I’ve learned to trust the Lord. As I’ve listened to the guidance He’s given me through His Spirit to change one small thing, even those things that have seemed unrelated or insignificant, I have been led to more happiness and love than I could have imagined.
More Posts Coming
In order for anything to have effect in our lives, I truly believe we need to be centered on Christ. I would tell myself and other pandemic moms that in order to promote mental health and avoid boredom you need to center yourself first. No practical ideas will really get to the core of your wellness if you are not centered on Christ.
But I realize we all crave everyday ideas. The next post in this series is all about feeling fulfilled in motherhood, and I’m sharing a few things I’ve learned to do that have helped me through some long days with little ones. You can find the second post in this series here.