You Are the Sunshine

Have you ever noticed that when something’s not quite right with the mother of a family, the rest of the family gets thrown off balance as well?

I noticed this only to degrees over the past two years, but through my own observation at home and reading various pieces of developmental literature, the ‘If Mama ain’t Happy’ theory is stronger and more present than I ever imagined.

That’s a big burden for a mama, isn’t it? There’s a lot of pressure not to have a down day, not to overlook the third child in a row, attempting to deplete your resources, not to be distracted by the Pottery Barn catalog or a Macy’s One Day sale. It’s a lot to ask.

I’ve seen this phenomenon manifest itself, not only with my children, but also with my husband and cats. Everyone’s behavior seems to settle a little left of center when mama’s mind (heart, body, or soul) is somewhere else.

My husband and I have been on a grueling (and, thus far, fruitless) journey to find a new home for the past few months. In that time frame, we’ve had our son regress in his potty behavior, our daughter regress in general, her twin brother stop napping altogether, and one of our cats begin anxiety-scratching in the middle of the night.

Once I picked my head up long enough to actually notice all that was happening around me, I could feel the trickle-down effect of our own anxiety and mental absence from our home. I awoke one morning, after deciding to spend nearly all of the previous day just playing and being with the kids, only to realize that the defiant, attention-seeking behavior had stopped, everyone had slept according to our normal routine, and Matthew had circled back around to exceed his previous potty success.

I sat up in bed and thought, It was me. A huge wave of guilt washed over me. I felt absolutely awful, and I couldn’t tell you whether I felt more awful because I had done this to our family, or because I had no idea I had done this to my family. I was shocked. The first thing I said to my husband that morning was, “We need to hug those kids all the time, and play with them, sit with them, and give them all the love they can stand. Every day. From now on. That’s what makes everyone better.”

At that point, we decided that, no matter what, we needed to be present.  We’d play with the kids in the family room instead of helplessly poring through real estate listings. We’d take the kids outside instead of circumnavigating the globe with Google Earth or pecking at a calculator to figure out closing costs. We’d be there. And, that’s when everything changed for good. Maggie again lay down to sleep at night without issue, Michael returned to Champion Napper status, and Matthew became the responsible big brother he had been just a short few months before.

I walk heavily now, in the weight of my responsibility. I tread carefully around my kids. I no longer cry, and I don’t yell. I don’t allow them to witness or experience anything that could upset the delicate system of balance in our small, but very important, universe.

I’ve developed a new level of self-restraint, both within the house and managing outside issues and projects. When we’re bummed or receive bad news, if it warrants explanation, we explain, but otherwise we remain devoted, doting parents, who have, against some odds and over a great span of time, somehow learned to avoid being pulled under by life’s riptides.

If you ever feel there’s no sun in your sky as a wife or a mother, my greatest advice to you is to remember that you’re it. The young planets you’ve created revolve solely around you, and react directly to your heat and the pull of your gravity. This is your universe. You are a literal force of nature. Your breath creates the winds and your tears create the seas. You are a goddess. You are the sun. You are the medicine.

If you have not yet, one day, not so far in the future, you will become aware of the power of your touch, your love, and your presence. And when you do, your life will never be the same.


20 Comments Add yours

  1. p says:

    i feel like this all the time. I feel like if I am not delegating what everyone should be doing, or the one initiating play/bedtime/etc. everything is just chaos. It is a big burden to know that everything falls on you, even with a husband who sometimes does my own share of work in the house in addition to his, and is a great father. If I’m tired, then that’s what the mood of the house is. If I’m ready to go, then everybody is ready to go. Hard to be the driving force of the household, but when you realize how important of a role you carry, it makes you feel special.


  2. Got a two year old and I can attest to this.To say the least its exhausting. Just two days ago I texted my husband this ” I pretend to be happy most time for you and ” . *sigh. That was in my down moment, after I felt better it came back to the feeling of ” I am so frustuated because I can’t even be myself”.


  3. Kacy says:

    Do you mind if I print and post that second-to-last paragraph? It is inspiring. It made me cry.


    1. Not at all. If you post it online, I just ask that you attribute it properly.


  4. Jo Eberhardt says:

    So true. My child’s preschool teacher gives a talk at the beginning of each year where she talks about the “etheric bond” between mother and child. Honestly, it sounds like a heap of tree-hugging hippy stuff. The first time I heard it, I paid zero attention. (Because that’s just how I roll.)

    But over time, I’ve come to see the sense of what she’s saying, hippy stuff or not. If I’m in a bad mood, if I’m cranky or anxious or nervous or tired or whatever, my children are more difficult, more demanding, and more likely to throw giant tantrums. It seems to happen even when I’m not in the room — when I know I’m in a bad mood, and I hide in another room and let me husband look after them. Whatever I’m feeling, they’re feeling.

    If there was ever a good reason to make sure us Mums look after ourselves, follow our dreams, live a fulfilled life, and take the occasional time out for ourselves, this is it.


    1. So true! And I used to work with an Early Intervention program, so, intellectually, I know this.


  5. I struggle with this because I’m also trying to teach my kids to be authentic about their feelings and that adults have the right to be authentic about their feelings, too. My kids are 13, 6 and 2, though. I find myself labeling a lot of expressions for the girls: “I’m feeling frustrated.” “I’m feeling annoyed.” I grew up in one of those “wipe that frown off your face, young lady” kinds of families and I don’t remember us EVER talking about feelings!


  6. Jessie says:

    Glad things are on the upswing… But don’t beat yourself up! in addition to being the sunshine of the family, you are also a human being who will not be perfect all the time.


  7. I don’t know about you but the only way I can be all these things and not completely melt down with pent up stress/worries is with the support of the husband. No matter what we make sure we talk things over, laugh and ensure one of us is the fun, happy one!


  8. I don’t remember at what point I realized this, but when I did it hit home pretty hard. Sometimes I get locked inside of my own mind and feel myself doing what I need to do, but not feeling it. I notice that trickle down, and it sucks. Sometimes what we need is that reminder- of our impact, importance and role- we’re much more important than we think we are! Hope you guys get it all settled out soon!


  9. Bonnie says:

    Beautiful, Stephanie. So well put, and we have to remember to keep doing the best we can.

    But PLEASE…Do try to sneak away and gloss over the Pottery Barn magazine, even if it’s just in the bathroom for 5 minutes, before the whole family realizes you’re there and pushes through the door.


  10. djrelat7 says:

    Wow! I’m not a mom yet but I have noticed that change when I’m momentarily upset with my boyfriend. If things are off with me then they are off with him. What a powerful role wife and mother play. Can’t wait!


  11. Winding road says:

    Oh, just beautiful! I may have to print that 2nd to last paragraph! absolutely perfect..gave me goosebumps.


    1. Thank you, and thanks for stopping by!


  12. michellebrennan123 says:

    Love the ethereal bond. Sometimes I forget it exists on my end. Thanks


  13. abeams says:

    It did not click till I read your post. Thank you for these words.


    1. And thanks for stopping by!


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