If you’re reading this in real time, it’s Monday. But I’m writing this on a Saturday, which is when I do almost all of my writing. The house is empty (minus Arlo, curled in a ball at my feet), as it is most Saturdays. Luke and the kids are at his parents’ house, where he takes them several Saturdays per month. And I’m experiencing that same feeling I get every Saturday I’m home alone: a sense of relief, yes, but also of guilt. Guilt about not being with my family for the day. Guilt in knowing that Luke is on his own with the various parenting challenges that will inevitably arise today. Guilt about taking this time to do something that’s just for me, something that does not directly benefit my family in any way, that does not bring in any income, that is little more than a hobby (albeit a highly fulfilling one that doubles as my personal ministry). Guilt over how much I cherish this time alone.
Contrast these current feelings with how I was feeling mid-morning yesterday, when Luke was at work. Lunch time was still hours away, but the kids had already met their daily quota for tantrums and squabbles, and I was completely spent. There was no guilt in that moment, only resentment and frustration over the chaos in my home and the fact that I was “having” to handle it all on my own.
Resentment yesterday. Guilt today. Both valid feelings, though neither especially productive, and neither capturing the entirety of that day’s experience.
Yesterday was challenging, true, but there were lovely times sprinkled in too: a tickle pile-on with all three kids; the thirty minutes of Independent Reading Time during which all four of us cozied up in our blanket fort to silently read our books; Charleston thoughtfully helping his siblings trace their names on a worksheet, and Sully consoling Kali when she fell off the couch, and Kali beaming with pride as she singlehandedly cleaned the playroom in her Cinderella heels. Those were moments I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t waded through the day’s pain points. And they are moments I would never get to see if Luke did not work hard for our family, making it possible for me to stay home with the kids. Those joyous times would be lost to a different lifetime altogether if I had to go into an office each day, leaving the precious vignettes to be witnessed by an indifferent caretaker.
When I zoom back the lens from yesterday’s burdensome moments that threatened to dominate the frame of my day, I can see the prominent blessings all around the crummy bits. And I can find a sense of accomplishment, of purpose, and of joy in the knowledge that I tended to our home and cared for our children well on this day.
As for today, this solo Saturday with its accompanied sense of shame: it’s true that Luke is on his own with the kiddos today, and that I’m missing out on family time. It’s also true that he and the kids all love their time together at Grandma and Grandpa’s, that it’s a nice change of pace for all of us, that this is a gift he has given me—this gift of weekly solitude—because we all experience more peace and stability throughout the week when Mom has experienced some time alone to do something beyond the usual mothering duties. From this perspective, guilt over my assumed selfishness is replaced with gratitude for a husband who willingly plays Super Dad on the weekends, for kids who are emotionally and physically healthy enough to spend a day away from Mom, for in-laws who understand this time that I keep to myself, and for a family schedule that makes it all possible.
And there we have it, two totally new ways of seeing things: Feelings of being burdened are replaced with an awareness of my blessings. Guilt is traded out for gratitude.
These mental reframes, these psychological and emotional “trade outs” as I like to call them, are not new. I’ve considered them before, likely even written about them. (I’m sure you’d discover a number of similar blog posts if you felt the inclination to comb through past archives to find them.) But these shifted perspectives are something I need to keep returning to, if only because those negative feelings and thought patterns continue to recur.
My feelings matter, but so do my thoughts. And the way I think about my feelings and experiences matters most of all. A quick mental shift from negative to positive has the power to totally alter the tone of my day and my mood. It takes the focus off of me and my shortcomings (that’s shame) or martyred moments (when my pride makes an ugly appearance) and shifts my gaze towards truths that are good, beautiful, and much more honoring to God. Changing the way I view my circumstances enables me to make the most of my time, be it blissful or overwhelming.
With that, I think I’ll go make the most of this empty house to finish up the book that is waiting for me on my Kindle. Then I will probably take a nap. My rest will no doubt be laced with twinges of guilt, but when Luke and the kids get home, I’ll be sure to smother my people in hugs and let them all know how grateful I am for them, their sacrifices, and the blessings they are to me.