From time to time every mother ends up there.
Maybe you've just had a new baby; perhaps you are struggling with morning sickness or other pregnancy ailments. It could be something unexpected and terrible that hits you out of nowhere, or perhaps it is the relentlessness of extreme sleep deprivation. You could go there for a weekend trip, or you may end up having a rather long stay.
Regardless, we have all been there: survival mode.
I've been living in that space for the past two months for a variety of reasons, although I am hoping that a few of those pressures will soon ease, but in the mean-time- how do you live with it?
And more importantly, how can you thrive through it?
First things first.
Keep your priorities in mind.
I am talking of practicalities here. Every mother on a day to day basis needs to prioritise her relationship with her children over a clean house, or an orderly schedule. She needs to prioritise parenting over house-keeping. She needs to prioritise her spiritual needs over her fleshly wants.
However, for the times when you watch you husband head out the door to work, or wake up in the morning and wonder, 'Am I going to drown today? Will dinner get made? Will we have clean underwear tomorrow? Etc etc'.
The place I start is to discuss my husband's priorities with him. I may find that he doesn't care if he has to wash his own socks for awhile. Or he may not mind bulk cooking and simple meals. Perhaps he cares about those things, but doesn't mind general untidiness for a season. I find out.
Then I make sure I don't ever get stuck on 'auto-pilot'. In stressful times I default to robo-house-cleaner Mum. If the kids come and talk to me, I can get completely tunnel-visioned: 'I can't talk now Sweetie, this floor NEEDS CLEANING OR THE SKY WILL FALL.'
Always- people before things.
Of course, that's a principle we all know, but it's the one I always forget when I am brutally tired.
Have a plan.
Do not allow yourself to be at the mercy of your feelings and passing whims.
This will of course be different for everyone. My plan goes like this:
-Do a family tidy after breakfast. Corral the littlies and have everyone actively participating and out of mischief.
-Then play. Put laundry on if it seems achievable, but if not, just be with the little ones and don't worry about anything else.
I have an actual list of meals I can make in 5 minutes that I always keep ingredients on hand for. This is a written list, just in case my brain is too dead to think of those meals.
I have several very easy lunches and breakfasts that I keep ingredients for also.
I always have disposable nappies around just in case laundry is getting out of hand and I can't manage cloth (although my cloth nappy washing routine is so ingrained in me I haven't had to use the disposables often, but I excuse myself from using them if I need to.)
I always rotate toys and books as a habit, but some I keep hidden away for longer. These I keep especially for times when I really really need a sit down.
As a rule for normal times, my children do not watch television, but for survival mode, I have a few dvd's we approve of ready on a shelf for us to sit down to if needed.
And finally, if I am so tired I can't stand up, here is my emergency plan: When Josiah has a nap, I shut myself and the big kids into our spare room with a few special toys and ask them to play quietly while mama has a quick nap on the floor. I have only needed to do this once, but they were happy with it and I was very refreshed.
When you are depleted and struggling, you must make good choices about what you are consuming.
You may think I am talking about food here, but I am not.
Of course, we all need to be good stewards of our bodies, and when you have many demands of you, you need to be equal to them. (I myself am trying to resolve some ongoing health issues through diet at the moment.)
However, more important than this (and usually way more neglected) is what we consume mentally.
If I am in a season of serious stretching, I know (and this is the first time I've been in survival mode and having actually been hitting the target) that I cannot be in front of a screen.
Television and aimless net-surfing are OUT. For me, they do not relax and give back, they add burdens. I don't think I am alone there either.
I can't tell you how many mothers I have spoken to who have complained of how little sleep they are getting due to baby's sleep issues, then later reveal that they are staying up late every night watching this or that television show or hanging about in front of the computer.
I need to feed my brain on good things. If I manage to finish basic chores before 8pm (my curfew is 8.30 as Josiah wakes frequently at the moment and my day begins at 4.30-5am) that half an hour of down time is much better invested in prayer, or talking with my husband or even knitting and listening to a sermon from my computer. Real activities that actually reap peace.
Whatever benefits television and net-surfing may otherwise boast (and I of course, do not condemn them outright), peace-giving is not really among their virtues.
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
Of course, I would be nothing, even on my good days, without the faithful care of Almighty God.
Ceaseless prayer is a habit I am cultivating generally, but it is even more important at these times.
One other thing I have invested a small amount of time in is learning old hymns to sing. (I have not grown up in traditions that use hymns)
The hymnal that I have been learning from even has an entire section devoted to hymns for times of spiritual battles etc.
Just singing all day long has a tremendous effect on my attitude! The added bonus is that Cassandra has been picking them up, and often either sings them, or requests for me to sing, which always lifts my heart.
And that is it!
That is how I am quite successfully managed being in survival mode in this season of motherhood. I've been tired and pressed on all sides, but cheerfully managing my house and enjoying my children.
So share with me please- how do YOU do it?