Treading Water

Tread water, get pulled under, push to surface, gasp for air, tread water, get pulled under, push to surface, gasp for air. Slowly drowning has become my way of life. There is a rhythm to it, one that is familiar. A pattern that should probably feel scary or dangerous instead feels like home. So even though I know this isn’t ideal, it is known and it is predictable. I’m not sure what I would do in wide open space, in wide open air. I’m not sure I can breathe deeply anymore. But I want to.

Life with littles feels like a never-ending hamster wheel of care taking, planning, carting to and from various activities and appointments, laundry (so much laundry), cleaning, cooking, comforting, diapering, play dates, school projects, homework assignments, meetings with teachers, birthday parties, conflict resolutions, “Mom, what’s for dinner?”, snuggles, early mornings, late nights, and bad dreams.  

So, how do I, how do we moms of littles, survive? How do we push to the surface?

How do we avoid drowning when we are pulled under for the millionth time?

We create buoys. We ask for life jackets. We even occasionally escape to an island for a day or two. 

I need buoys every single day, usually multiple times a day. Buoys for me look like a warm bubble bath with lots of candles; a really good book and a cup of hot tea; a phone call with a dear friend; journaling; a walk in my neighborhood without any kids; a good workout; a healthy, hot lunch; a trip to the store (again without kids). These are the choices that I actively make to create space for myself. To grab onto something that makes the treading of the water easier, at least for the moment. 

The life jackets come from authenticity and boundaries with others. This looks like saying yes to help and even asking for it. It looks like admitting that the water has become too much. That we are tired. That we don’t have it altogether all the time. It’s “Yes, please come bring my family dinner because I can’t possibly think about cooking one more thing.” It’s hiring a babysitter so you and your person can escape to dinner. It’s also saying no. No, we can’t come to that birthday party, but thank you for inviting us. No, we’re not going to help in the children’s ministry on Sundays because we have 3,905,384,509,834 children of our own and we need to sit in the service to be able to survive the week. 

The island escapes are my favorite, but they are the rarest. These are when we leave the water. We go somewhere else. We leave our children at home or drop them off at a friend or the in-laws. It may be for a night or if we’re really lucky a week or longer, but there is no treading water here. Here on the island we rest. We play. We hope. We dream. We create. We remember how to breathe deeply. We remember that we are more than water-treaders. We are beautiful, uniquely created, purposeful human beings with real imaginations and real thoughts and real inspiration. 

Lyndsey Amen Ribble lives in San Antonio with her husband and three sons (aged 5,4, and 1). She loves reading, writing, traveling, food (cooking it, eating it, taking pictures of it…), wine, hole in the wall anything, and forming community in unexpected places. She has a heart for bringing restoration to broken people and loving the unloved. She writes about all of these things and attempting to find balance at