This stage of life is hard. It’s overwhelming at times and if we’re honest, it can feel exhausting.

I’m talking to those of you who are in your late 20’s – 30’s. You probably have babies, toddlers and maybe a child or two. You might even have a tween or teen.

In this stage of life, you are mentally, physically and emotionally spent.

You are constantly dealing with tantrums, snotty noses, and sibling conflicts. You are running to soccer and cheer practice, piano and swim lessons. Your calendar is full of reminders for projects that are due and birthday parties to attend.

You feel the constant tension between the roles that you have … what is urgent and what is important. You are juggling so many balls and one is constantly being dropped. You wonder if that’s ok. You know that’s the only way to do it all. But should you do it all?

You feel guilty. You feel guilty that you don’t spend enough time with your kids, have enough dinners fixed or have the energy to be intimate with your spouse at night. You feel guilty the house is a mess and laundry not done because you worked all day or spent extra time with the kids. You fee guilty you took the time to clean. You feel guilty that you have a job and get distracted, or can’t make the field trip and school party or you miss your baby’s first step.

You feel guilty that you don’t work. You wonder if all that you do at home is of any value or significance. You feel bad that you don’t contribute financially and often believe the lie that you are “just a mom”. You feel so guilty.

In this stage of life you are dealing with decisions and you constantly feel torn. Should I breast or bottle-feed, allow my kids to play Fortnight, Minecraft and for how long? Should I let my kids do sleepovers and at what age? How do I protect my kids best? Do I vaccinate? And school … would they be better off at a private, public or (*gasp*) homeschool? Should I buy organic or tend to the budget? Should I make the kids apologize or wait until their hearts are ready? Am I firm enough or too firm? So many decisions. And so much pressure to know the right answer.

In this stage of life, you go to less weddings and baby showers, but have more friends struggling in marriage or getting divorced. You realize that marriage takes work and effort. You understand that love isn’t just a fluttery feeling, but sacrificial action. You realize how selfish you can be and you constantly fight the urge to put everything before your spouse.

But you also grow an appreciation for your partner. They are in it with you. They’ve seen you at your worst and they’ve been a part of some amazing and difficult seasons. They’ve walked the journey of pregnancy and bringing home your first child – scared to death and full of hope. They’ve held your hand and helped guide you through miscarriage or infertility, postpartum depression or maybe adoption. They’ve seen you sicker than a dog and all “dolled up”, maybe within the same week. They are your person. And you are grateful, even when you sometimes want them to drive away and never come back. In this stage of life, you have to fight for your marriage. The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.

In this stage of life, your body feels alien. You have housed those precious babies, helped nurture them inside and outside of the womb. Your hormones have changed more than Michael Jackson’s nose. All those changes might’ve brought on a host of physical problems, autoimmune or anxiety disorders. You used to run or workout everyday, stay up late and go on little sleep. Now you need 3 cups of coffee just to look at your kids and smile. And what happen to those rockin’ abs? I’m guessing you totally LOOK like a mom now and sometimes feel like a grandma. It’s hard.

In this stage of life, you are overwhelmed. You are overwhelmed with your schedule, all the practices and those constant needs. Your kids need you, your dogs need you, your job needs you and the school needs you. You are overwhelmed with all the touching and grabbing and physical interaction. Someone is always needing to be held and hugged or wants to hang on to you. You feel like a living jungle gym amongst a room full of monkeys.

You are overwhelmed with all the stuff … the clutter. There are too many toys, papers, socks and water bottles everywhere. You go from one mess to another. You overwhelmed with all the expectations you place on yourself, the thoughts that run around in your head, the deep, vulnerable “feels” in your heart. You’re overwhelmed with the great responsibility of raising little souls, paying the bills and making sure you are doing all the things that your perfect neighbor and friend on FAKEbook seems to be doing so well. Maybe your even overwhelmed with trying not to be so overwhelmed. *sigh*

You need you a friend…and your mom. More than ever. You probably feel alone.

You need someone that can walk alongside you and tell you that it’s all worth it, that you aren’t going to do it all perfectly, or mess it up too bad. It’s going to work out, your kids are going to forget most of the bad stuff and remember the good. Grace is like that.

You need people that are willing to encourage you when your kid is melting down in Target and the baby won’t stop crying, not scowl and judge. You need to surround yourself with those who will not only give you advice, but will get messy with you, watch your kids for a date night and volunteer to stay with your colicky baby so you can get an hour of sleep.

You need to lower your expectations. And then do it again.

You need to minimize and simplify. Remove the things that aren’t necessary – the friends that bring you down, the activities that consume too much of your time and clutter your space.

You need to learn to say NO. Make a “not to to” list. It’s ok not to volunteer for room mom or sign up to bring snacks. Know your margin.

You need to find time to be alone and have quiet. It’s ok to feel excited for your baby’s nap-time or anxious for your kids to go to school so you can workout, read a book or DO NOTHING.

You need to practice being content. Stop comparing to others when it leads to jealousy, frustration or anxiety. Maybe you need to break from social media or unsubscribe from that email that keeps popping up, showing you that cute fall shirt that you didn’t know you needed so badly.

You need to drink that coffee, take that walk and soak in the bubble bath. Don’t be afraid to take a few minutes to re-charge in whatever way fills you up.

And mostly, you need to pray. Pray hard. Pray that you make good decisions and that when you don’t, God will cover them. Pray that you have wisdom and courage. Pray that your kids will be protected by the One who caused their hearts to beat and their lungs to breath. Pray for His strength when your will fail. Pray that you understand the depths of His love for you, even at your worst. And then pray you can do the same for your people.

This stage of life is hard, but it’s amazing. You’ve heard your mama tell you to enjoy every season and try not to blink, they will be grown before you know it. And even though you sometimes feel like blinking really hard, deep down, you know it’s true.

This is the stage that they don’t care if anyone knows, they will scream to the world how much they love you when you drop them off for school. They want you close. They still want to crawl up in your lap and let you read them a book. They love you more than anyone and still think you’re pretty cool.

This is the stage that you see love in a different way, you understand the selflessness required to make marriage work and parenting work. You learn to let go and enjoy the moment.

In this stage you see the world through the eyes of your children – the magic of Christmas, the make-believe and the innocent freedom and spirit they radiate. It’s a season of tooth fairies and first steps, happy meals and zoo trips. Its a season of tiny giggles, wet-puddle-jumping and Thanksgiving programs. It’s a season to kiss boo-boos and hug hurting hearts.

It’s a season to embrace imperfection.

It’s a stage of life when you are still young enough to run around with your kids and yet wise enough to speak a little common sense.

It’s such a GREAT season.

But let me tell you, sister, it’s hard.

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