Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Don't Know How She Does It

I'm a busy girl.  This is a photo of one month on my dayplanner.  Scary, isn't it?  My husband calls it "scheduling in tongues" because it looks completely incomprehensible without supernatural interpretation.  We do use online scheduling tools and calendars as well but I still can't part with my trusty paper dayplanner to be the central management center for all of my miscellaneous appointments, to dos, and events.  And there are many.  Many.  Many.

For instance, in the month of March, Josh had 5 doctors appointments, 8 autism therapy appointments, 5 adaptive swim lessons, 2 med adjustments, 3 blood draws, 3 special consultations and 24 hours of respite care divided up into 5 sessions.  Many of these appointments were scheduled then rescheduled several times.  This doesn't include appointments and activities for my two other children.  But I did it because it had to be done.

Recently, several people who know how complicated my life is, especially because of Josh, have commented "I don't know how you do it!"

This reminded me of an excellent novel I read a few years ago about the complexity of motherhood by Allison Pearson called I Don't Know How She Does It.  It made me laugh and cry. I really related to the central character who lives an incredibly busy life juggling marriage, kids and job (getting very little sleep) and squeezing a million demanding things into 24 hours (and she doesn't even have a child with special needs!)

I've been thinking about the question, "How do I do it?"  How do I manage all of the really complicated demands, details and dramas of my life?  There are probably many answers to that question but, today, one thing comes to mind.  A crucial part of how I can handle my crazy, "mom of a multi-disabled child" life is that I have to have a a few places in my life where I allow myself to be totally weak and needy.

For example, every once in a while, I make my husband listen to me vent about how frustrated I am with dealing with dysfunctional organizations and systems that are involved in getting proper services for my son.  This conversation usually involves me expressing anger, critical thoughts and despair.  I cry.  My husband listens empathetically without trying to problem solve.  This usually helps me a lot.

I experienced another example of being weak this past Sunday at church.  At our church, we have something called, "prayer ministry".  This means that at the end of every service the pastor invites anyone who has a need for prayer to come up and stand at the front of the church.  You stand there facing the front, with your eyes closed and with your hands held out open in front of you and you wait for a person who is trained in prayer ministry to stand with you.  When the pastor closes the service, you sit down with that person who will listen to you for a few minutes then pray for you.

This week had been particularly difficult so I just knew in my heart that I really needed to get prayer.  I even arranged ahead of time for someone else to go pick up my kids from their Sunday school class so I could have a few good minutes to get prayed for.  I was ready.  But, wouldn't you know it?  This time, when the pastor invited people who wanted to get prayer to come forward, no one went up.  The whole congregation sat in the "one and half minutes that feels like an hour" time of waiting to see what would happen.  No one likes to be the first or only person who goes up front to get prayer-- all eyes being on you.  It feels like you might as well wear a sign on your back that says, "I'm the neediest person in this whole room!"  Plus, I happen to be the wife of the pastor of our church who happened to be leading this prayer ministry time so there's the extra feeling of a spotlight on me.

But you know what?  I just might have been the neediest person in the whole room.  I don't know what's going on in anyone else's life but I do know that there are burdens in my life that I just can't carry alone.  I decided to embrace the reality of my weakness.   I walked up to the front of the room and stood there declaring my need to God, to myself, and to anyone who might have been watching.  Thankfully, many other people followed.  Even more thankfully, I felt that God met me in a deeply comforting way as another woman from our church prayed for me.

I have realized that I have to spend a lot of my day being competent, organized, and strong.  Sometimes I can be in that mode for days on end.  Sometimes I can fool myself into thinking that I have to be like that all the time for the sake of my kids.  However, I am finding that the best way to be a strong person is to find the right, safe places to be a weak person.

When do you allow yourself to be weak?  Do you have places where you can take a risk to declare your need to yourself, to others and to God?


  1. Finding the right places to be weak. That's good. Right now well, I'm keeping my being weak to at home, but not sure if it's always the right time.

  2. Oh Susan I very much resonate with what you've said here. In this time as we face Rich's cancer (not the same as having a son with special needs) I am finding that to remain sane I have to make time to cry, to get prayer, to see my spiritual director among other things. If I don't I am a MESS! Thank you for putting words to so many things I've been feeling. And thank you for sharing your reflections as you are on this journey with Josh. It is good for my soul on so many levels as a mom, a wife, an OT and as a believer.

    1. You're so welcome! May you be met by God in the midst of this season of being a Holy mess!

  3. Loved the honesty and reality of this post, Susan. Such a good reminder and resonated with me deeply. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. One of the things that I do is find someone outside of my husband's congregation to whom I can be "real" and vent if I have to. My best friend Abra is one of those people and my massage therapist is the other in this particular parish.

    I also refuse to let people think that I am incredibly strong and can do everything with no problems. My son Daniel had a febrile seizure on Good Friday last year and it meant that I had people telling me how strong I was on Easter Sunday... despite the fact that I was in tears as I was talking to the 911 operator and cried part of the way to the hospital. I think we have to admit to people that we aren't superheroes and that pastor's wives have scary times too.

  5. Amen, amen! So glad you took the step to express your neediness to God no matter who is watching. And you've certainly been a safe place to be anger/needy/overwhelmed. May we always have the freedom to be needy with Jesus and each other. Love you.